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ss College (18th century)
ss College was chartered on June 6, 1787, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on the site of a former brewery. It was named for Benjamin ss, who donated £200 to the new institution. Founded by four prominent ministers from the German Reformed Church and the Lutheran Church, in conjunction with numerous Philadelphians, the school was established as a German college whose goal was "to preserve our present republican system of government," and "to promote those improvements in the arts and sciences which alone render nations respectable, great and happy." Its first trustees included five signers of the Declaration of Independence, two members of the Constitutional Convention and seven officers of the Revolutionary War.
The school's first courses were taught on July 16, 1787, with instruction taking place in both English and German, making it the first bilingual college in the United States.
ss College was also America's first coeducational institution, with its first class of students composed of 78 men and 36 women. Among the latter was Rebecca Gratz, the first Jewish female college student in the United States. However, the coed policy was soon abandoned and it would take 182 years before women were again permitted to enroll in the school.
In July 1789, ss College ran into financial difficulty as its annual tuition of four pounds was not enough to cover operating costs. Enrollment began to dwindle to just a few students and eventually the college existed as nothing more than an annual meeting of the Board of Trustees. In an effort to help the ailing school, an academy was established in 1807. For the next three decades, ss College and ss Academy managed to limp along financially, with instructors supplementing their income with private tutoring.
In 1835, the school's Debating Society was renamed Diagnothian Literary Society at the suggestion of seminary student Samuel Reed Fisher. In June of that year, Diagnothian was divided into two friendly rivals to encourage debate. Diagnothian retained its original name, while the new society was named Goethean, in honor of German philosopher and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The two organizations sponsored orations and debated politics, philosophy and literature. They merged in 1955, but became separate entities again in 1989. The Diagnothian Society is the oldest student organization on campus.