Samuel Willets (June 15, 1795 - February 6, 1883)

Samuel Willets, a successful New York businessman, was active in gathering financial support for the establishment of Swarthmore College. Also involved in charitable institutions in New York City, Willets was one of the members of New York Yearly Meeting to serve on the Board of Managers of the College. He also served as speaker at both the ground-breaking ceremony and the first Swarthmore graduation.

Samuel Willets was born in 1795 in Westbury, Long Island to Mary and Robert Willets, members of a prominent New York Quaker family. As a young man, he moved to New York City to work with his uncle Willet Robbins, a flour merchant. By 1815 Willets began a hardware business with his brother Amos, and later developed businesses within the whaling industry and the trades of hides, wool, and grains. He retired in 1867.
Active in charitable institutions of New York City, Willets served as one of the early directors and as president of the Board of Trustees of the New York Infirmatory for Women and Children and Women's Medical College. Founded by Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D., the first female medical doctor in the United States, the Womens Medical College was the first institution established in New York City for the education of women in the medical profession. In addition, Willets was active in the antislavery movement, and, as written in a memorandum by his nephew John T. Willets in 1909, "...he was an active member of the Monthly Meeting of Friends of New York, serving on many important Committees, and was particularly interested in the Friends' School [Swarthmore College] and active as one of its trustees for several years." He continued to support Swarthmore College through his time and generous financial gifts.

Text prepared by Beth Bartle
Last update: 6/9/02