Reverend Doctor Robert Bruce is often regarded as the first chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, then called the Western University of Pennsylvania, serving from 1819 to 1835 and again from 1836 to 1843.
Bruce, Robert was born on February 20, 1778 in Scone, Perthshire, Scotland.
During this time the heads of the university held the title of "Principal", a holdover from the institution's academy days, and there were also several Principals prior to Bruce that headed the forerunner to the Western Unieversity of Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Academy. In 1819 the Pennsylvania legislature modified the 1787 charter of the Pittsburgh Academy to confer university status on the school. This initiated the selection of Reverend Bruce to be Principal of the University from 1819 and he served in that capacity until 1835 when Gilbert Morgan was selected as President.
Upon Morgan's departure in 1836, Bruce was reinstated to his former position. Bruce was born in the parish of Scone, Perthshire, Scotland, February 20, 1778, was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. Bruce's tenure in leading the university was noted for his decision to allow the admission of the first Black student in 1829.
Bruce was known to be one of the leading abolitionists in the Pittsburgh region. Bruce withdrew from the University in 1843 because of perceived criticism by reform-minded trustees. Before his death, the misunderstanding with the University was cleared up and the charter of College Duquesne was allowed to lapse by 1849.
Meanwhile, the Western University of Pennsylvania graduated its own students and, almost thirty years later, the seceding students were officially recognized as University alumni and nineteen survivors were awarded honorary master of arts degrees.
He then rented some rooms and set up a school, College Duquesne, and a number of Western University students who were members of the Tilghman Literary Society followed him.