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Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)

Irrmann, Robert H.
A Harvard graduate goes west: Robert Adams Coker and the Highland School in the 1830's,   pp. 91-107 ff. PDF (6.5 MB)


Page 91

 91A HARVARD GRADUATE GOES WEST: ROBERT ADAMS 
COKER AND THE HIGHLAND SCHOOL IN THE 1830's 
ROBERT H. IRRMANN 
Associate Professor of History, Archivist of the College, 
Be~oit College 
 Robert Adams Coker of West Newbury, Massachusetts, born March 19, 1807,
was a member of the Harvard College Class of 1831, one of the lesser lights
who flickered briefly and then "went out" to an early grave in March of 1833.
The Class of 1831 fostered some of the greatest names in the mid-l9th century,
among them Thomas Gold Appleton, Francis Gardner Jr., John Hopkins Morison,
John Lothrop Motley, and perhaps above all, Wendell Phillips. Robert Coker
was not of their calibre; his brief life, post-Harvard, might well be termed
the "short and simple annals of the poor in health". Suffering from consumption
while in Harvard College, he was dead within little more than eighteen months
of his graduation. 
 A mathematics major in college, Coker did what so many scholars were forced
to do to make their way through college: 
he "kept school" at intervals, in accord with the agreement of the Government
of Harvard College. On November 3, 1828, early in his sophomore year, Coker
with many others in his class was given leave "to keep school agreeably to
the regulations voted October 26th . . ."~ Upon his graduation, he pursued
his profession as a teacher of mathematics, and for a time taught in an academy
in Francestown, New Hampshire, in the winter and 
 lHarvard College: Records of the Immediate Governni ext of Harvard College,
Volume X (Septr. 1822). (Manuscript records, Harvard College Archives, Cambridge,
Massachusetts), October 28, 1828: "Application for leave to keep school to
be made on or before Monday, Nov. 3 & notice to this purpose to be given
to the several classes tomorrow morning . 
 "It was voted, that the following directions be printed, and a copy put
into the hands of each student who has to keep school, viz. 
 "Students, who are entitled to the privilege by their diligence and good
conduct, and whose circumstances are such as to require it, are allowed to
keep school for a time not exceeding ten weeks, including the winter vacation.
 "Those to whom this privilege is granted, are required to report themselves
to the presiding officer on the day of theIr return to college, with a certificate,
stating the time during which they were emp'oyed In the School; also to be
prepared to pass an examination in all those studies, which their class shall
have gone over, which are necessary to their proceeding on with them in their
future studies. 
 "If any student shall exceed the term of ten weeks, he is requIred to be
examined In all the studies of his class during the who1~ time of his absence,
and if he fail to pass a satisfactory examination, his connexion with the
college shall cease." Faculty Records, X. pp. 189—190. 
 Coker was granted leave to teach, November 3, 1828. Ibid., X, 191. He "kept
school" at Lexington, Massachusetts. 


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