Fun Facts: College and University
"To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you too may one day be president of the United States."
—George W. Bush
The worst college campus riot until relatively recently erupted at
mediaeval Oxford—the "town and gown" battle of 1354.
Escalating from a tavern quarrel, the violence lasted for three days, involved
dozens of townsmen and students, and ended with several dead and
Prior to their game against Holy Cross on the afternoon of November 28, 1942,
the Boston College Eagles football team made reservations for the entire
squad to hold a victory party at the Terrace Room of the Cocoanut Grove
nightclub that evening.
Boston College, the best U.S. college football team that year, had an 8-0 record and had outscored their opponents 249-19. At the Cocoanut Grove that
night, some satin decorations ignited, causing the worst nightclub fire
in the history of the United States. A total of 491 people died, including
everyone in the Terrace Room. However, none of the Eagles were there.
The game should have been an
easy win for Boston College, but they lost, 55-12,
in one of the biggest upsets of modern times. The Eagles, defeated and
depressed, cancelled their reservation,
thus saving the lives of everyone on the team.
Since 970 A.D., students of philosophy, Islamic law, history, and
Arabic have gathered at Al Azhar, the beautiful and distinguished
university in Cairo's old city. For many years it was the largest
college in the world. Candidates for admission have traditionally
faced a very challenging qualifying exam; entering students are required
to recite the entire Koran (which is nearly as long as the New Testament).
Oxford University once had rules forbidding
students from bringing bows and arrows to class.
Around the end of the fifteenth century, the University of Paris
had fifty colleges and 20,000 students.
Between the 12th and 16th centuries, perhaps the greatest university
in the world was located in Timbuktu, in what is now Mali. Attendance at
the university was as large as 25,000, and science, mathematics, and medicine
were studied; the medical centre attracted the ill from great distances.
Timbuktu's university was famous throughout Africa and Europe.
The word "dunce", meaning a dull-witted or ignorant person, comes
from the name of John Duns Scotus (1265-1308), one of the greatest
minds of his time. Scotus, born in Scotland, wrote treatises on
grammar, logic, metaphysics, and theology. He was educated at
Cambridge and Oxford and pursued his master's degree in theology at
the University of Paris where, in 1303, he became embroiled in one
of the most heated disputes of the day. France's King Philip IV had
moved to tax the Church in order to finance his war with England; in
response, Pope Boniface VIII threatened to excommunicate him. For
supporting the pope, Duns Scotus was banished from France. He later
assumed a university professorship in Cologne.
The term "dunce" was coined two centuries later by people who disagreed
with Scotus' teachings and his defence of the papacy. To them,
any of his followers (a "Duns man" or "Dunce") was dull-witted, "incapable of scholarship and stupid".
When Harvard University (called New College at the time) first opened
in 1636, it was surrounded by a stockade for protection against wild
animals and Native Americans.
Yale University, one of the top universities in the United States,
is named after Elihu Yale, who never set foot in America after the age
of three. In 1718, Cotton Mather, the ambassador for the college known
at the time as the Collegiate School of Connecticut, approached Yale,
then the retired governor of the East India Company, for a donation.
Yale sent them religious books, a portrait of King George I, money, and
goods that were sold for a significant sum, and, in gratitude for his
donation, the college was re-named in his honour.
In 1905 Albert Einstein wrote his famous Special Theory of
Relativity. It was published in a scientific journal that
same year, but took many years to gain general acceptance.
In fact, it was not verified by actual experiment until 25 years later.
Two years after that paper was published, Einstein
wanted a job as assistant professor of mathematics. This job
required the applicant to submit a thesis paper, so Einstein
submitted his Special Theory of Relativity. The university rejected it.
Lord Byron kept a pet bear at Cambridge University because
dogs were not allowed.
In 1987, Mike Hayes, of Rochelle, Illinois, came up with a novel
idea to finance his college education. He wrote to
Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, asking him to request
that each of his readers send a penny to Hayes.
In under a month, Hayes had managed to raise over $23,000, much of it
In the United States, 55% of college students do not eventually
In the 2011–12 school year, 19.7 million students attended American universities and colleges. Out of those students, there were 11.2 million females, compared with only 8.5 million males.
In the United States there are 1,655 community colleges,
comprising 415 private institutions and 1,047 public institutions.
By 1826, both Amherst College in Massachusetts and Bowdoin College
in Maine had graduated a black man. The first black woman to graduate
from a college in the United States graduated in 1862, from Oberlin
College in Ohio.
John Dalton, the discoverer of modern atomic theory, received a
doctorate from Oxford University in 1832 and was presented to King William IV.
For the occasion he was required to wear a scarlet robe. Wearing such a
robe would be forbidden by Dalton's Quaker faith, but Dalton could not
offend the King either. Fortunately Dalton was colourblind, and when
the cloak was presented to him, he truthfully stated that it appeared
grey to him.
Before Isaac Newton could become Lucasian Professor of Mathematics
at Cambridge, a special ruling by the Crown was required; the monarch
was head of the Church of England and Cambridge was a church school.
It was ruled that Newton did not have to become a church member to assume
the position. He delivered about eight lectures a year that were
deemed to be rather poor.
Gene Tunney, former heavyweight boxing champion, once lectured
on Shakespeare at Yale.
The first graduate student in what is now the United States was
James Madison, who remained at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton)
for a year after graduating to study Hebrew in 1771.
Madison later became President of the United States.
In 1939, George Bernard Dantzig, a graduate student at the University
of California, Berkeley, arrived late for a statistics class. He copied
down the two problems on the board, assuming that they were the homework,
and handed the problems in a few days later. Several weeks later, Dantzig was
awakened by his statistics professor excitedly knocking at the door. It turned out
that the two "homework" problems were in fact hitherto unsolved problems
in statistics that he had managed to prove.
The university in the United States with the largest number of students
is the online campus of the University of Phoenix, with 380,232 students
in 2009. The university with the largest enrolment worldwide is the
Indira Gandhi National Open University, with 3.5 million students.