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William Harris Edit Profile

docent , cleric , President of Columbia University

William Harris , an Episcopal priest, was the sixth president of Columbia College, serving from 1811 to 1829.


William Harris was born at Springfield, Massachusetts, April 29, 1765. His mother was Sarah, a granddaughter of Wm. Pynchon, the founder of Springfield, and his father Daniel was a deacon in the Congregational Church.


Harris graduated from Harvard College in 1786, and he began as a minister, but soon retired due to health issues.


He turned to the study of medicine and during that time converted to the Episcopalian Church. His health recovered and he rejoined the ministry. After rectoring in Marblehead, Massachusetts, he was made a deacon on October i6th, 1791, in Trinity Church, New York, and advanced to the priesthood on the following Sunday in St. George's Chapel.

They had seven children. Mr. Harris continued to officiate both as teacher and preacher until 1801, when he received a unanimous call to St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the Rev. Mr. Callahan. On February 2, 1802 he was inducted as rector.

In 1811 Mr. Harris was elected president of Columbia College and received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Harvard and Columbia. This lightening of the president's work enabled Dr. Harris to retain the rectorship of St. Mark's until 1816, when the resignation of Dr. Mason gave Harris all the duties of president. Harris died at Columbia College, on October 18, 1829, and was buried in a vault at St. Mark's.


He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1814.


Married Martha Clark, November 3, 1791.

Daniel Harris

Sarah (Pynchon) Harris

Martha Clark