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The First Degree

last look

By tradition, Yale’s first graduate was Nathaniel Chauncey, who received in 1702 this piece of parchment certifying that the Collegiate School in Say-Brooke, Connecticut—the school that later became Yale—had conferred on him the degree of Master of Liberal Arts. Chauncey never enrolled at the school, which had been founded only the year before. But tradition has it that he studied briefly with rector Abraham Pierson.

Four other master’s degrees were awarded on the same day to men who, like Chauncey, had been examined by, but not educated at, the Collegiate School. Yale considers Chauncey its first graduate partly because of the Pierson connection and partly because he had no previous degree: he had been privately schooled, whereas his fellow graduates had all earned BAs at another institution. That institution, incidentally, was Harvard.


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