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1865 First President Edward Parrish

Edward Parrish (1821-1872), elected Swarthmore's first president in 1865, traveled for months by horseback to raise money for the school.  Under Parrish, Swarthmore was distinctive in its coeducation, curriculum, and emphasis on Quaker simplicity. Trained as a pharmacist, he saw the value of making higher education available to all people and spoke of "parting with the aristocratic idea of an educated class."

In addition to president, Parrish served as professor of ethics, chemistry, and the physical sciences. Despite his commitment to the school, the Board of Managers forced Parrish to resign in 1870, largely due to disagreements over his permissive (for the time) views on student behavior and interaction.  Shortly after, he was commissioned by President Ulysses S. Grant to take part in a Quaker effort to peaceably settle the disputes between Plains Indian tribes and the United States.  While in what is now Oklahoma, he contracted malaria and died at Fort Sill.

In 1866, Parrish spoke at the laying of the cornerstone of the College's first building, later named Parrish Hall in his honor. "We claim a higher mission for Swarthmore College than that of fitting men and women for business," he said.  "It should fit them for life, with all its possibilities."