Freshmen Who Changed Yale

Freshmen Who Changed Yale

Over the years, thousands of freshmen have come to Yale. They have studied four years, graduated, and passed into obscurity. But others have left an indelible mark on the university. One of the first of these was David Brainerd, a sophomore who stirred Yale during the 1740 Great Awakening, confronting each student with the Gospel. In 1802, freshmen prayed and initiated a revival that converted one-third of the campus, setting the stage for a series of revivals equaled in no other university in the world.

Other students left their impact on Yale in the revivals of 1820, 1821, 1822, 1823 and 1824. A single freshman shook the campus by starting the 1825 revival, followed by another awakening in 1827 and the great revival of 1831, “the most far-reaching and permanent in its effect of any that Yale has witnessed.” During the 20th century, Tracy Pitkin inspired men by his death as a martyr in China. Before he left Yale, Pitkin had “raised up a dozen of the strongest men in Yale, many of whom followed him to China.” Yale’s missionary movement swelled and became the largest among all the Eastern colleges.

Yale today needs a revival. In spite of all its intellectual prestige, there is something lacking underneath. Students acquire the “Yale cool” but still find themselves painfully isolated. They try to “relate” to other students by a forced cheerfulness or nonchalance, but it does not work.

The answer is simple honesty—honesty with God and with your neighbor. A revival began a few years ago at Wheaton College when a number of students simply confessed their personal failures and renewed their commitment to Christ as their Savior. Several frankly admitted resentments and were reconciled. Lost and lonely young men and women found new purpose, and many students found lasting answers to nagging problems.

Such revivals come when students ask for them. Often in the past, a few freshmen have agreed to meet together regularly and pray for Yale. Over and over again in the university’s history, God has answered by bringing large numbers of Yalies to their knees. He has brought unsaved students to conversion and lukewarm Christians back to life.

Any student who enters Yale has a choice: he can “just get by,” joining an activity here and there, or he can join God’s purpose to totally transform Yale. If you take the first course, you will accomplish nothing worth being remembered, as Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” If you choose God’s way, you will get involved in His business of changing men’s lives. You can continue the work of students who molded Yale with the force of their lives and are known all over the world for it. You can be among those remembered by men and remembered by God. “He who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17)

“We are God’s remembrancers: we will take no rest and we will give Him no rest until He establish and make Yale a praise in the earth.” (H.B. Wright, Yale Professor of Classics and Divinity, 1877-1923)