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April 6, 1852

Beyond Vassar

By charter, the New York State Legislature authorized the Ingham sisters’ Le Roy Female Seminary to become Ingham Collegiate Institute. The institute consisted of a normal school, a seminary and a collegiate department, empowered to appoint professors and teachers and to award diplomas. Guided by a 24-member board of trustees—half Presbyterian clergy and half layman, generally of the same denomination—the collegiate institute offered three years, called the Junior, Middle and Senior years, of three terms each and a curriculum which reached trigonometry in mathematics and elements of criticism in literature, and which included a term each of botany, natural philosophy, astronomy, geology, mineralogy, chemistry, electricity, and technology.

The institute was granted a charter as Ingham University in 1857—the first full university charter to a female college—and it averaged 17 graduates each year until it closed, due to lack of funds, in 1892. The Synod of Genesee had withdrawn its support in 1883.

Roger L. Wing, “Requiem for a Pioneer of Women’s Higher Education,” History of Higher Education Annual, 1991

Among the institution’s some 6,000 alumnae was Sarah Frances Whiting, Wellesley College’s first professor of physics, who founded the college’s departments of physics and astronomy and helped establish its Whitin Observatory, of which she was the first director.

The Years