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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Nathan S.S. Beman

Rensselaer President

1845 – 1865

Nathan S.S. Beman

Nathan Sidney Smith Beman, D.D., was born in Canaan, N.Y. on November 26, 1785. He was a son of Samuel and Silence (Douglass) Beman, and when he was four or five years of age his parents moved to Hampton, Washington County, N.Y., which was then called Greenfield. Beman commenced his preparation for college – in company with the late Hon. Rolin C. Mallory – in Poultney, VT. in 1801 with Mr. Bolles, an eminent teacher and graduate of the University of Dublin.

Beman studied with a private instructor at Williamstown, Mass. in 1802 and entered Williams College in 1803, but the following year took leave to teach in Fairhaven, Vt. In the summer of 1804, he entered Middlebury College, graduating in the class of 1807.

After graduating, in the autumn of 1807 Beman became preceptor of Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, ME, where he remained more than two years.  He was pursuing the study of theology at the same time, and was licensed to preach June 14, 1809 by the Lincoln and Kennebec Association. About the same time he was appointed tutor at Middlebury, but received an earnest call from the Third Presbyterian Church in Portland, ME. As a result, he resigned the tutorship and was ordained pastor on March 14, 1810.

Rev. Beman’s health failed in a year or two, with decided symptoms of consumption, and in October, 1812, he was dismissed. He immediately went south and took up his residence in Hancock County, Georgia, at a place afterward called Mount Zion, where he organized a Presbyterian Church and established an academy. Under his superintendence, which continued about ten years, the academy acquired a high reputation and attracted a large number of students. In 1818, Beman was elected President of Franklin College in Athens, GA and although he accepted the office, he held it for only one year and then returned to his academy at Mount Zion.

In the summer of 1822, Beman preached on the first Sunday in September in the First Presbyterian Church in Troy, N.Y., and, by invitation of the officers, continued until the following November, when he was called to the pastorate. He accepted the call, and was installed June 14, 1823. He continued in this pastorate for forty years, during which time he received into the church 1,840 members, of which twenty-six became clergymen. Beman was dismissed June 17, 1863 at his own request, and the church voted him a life annuity of $1,000.

In 1824, he was elected a trustee of Middlebury College, and continued so until his death. In 1846, he was elected president of the college, but declined the office. He received the degree of doctor of divinity, from Williams College in 1824, and doctor of laws from Middlebury College in 1852. Dr. Beman was one of the vice presidents of Rensselaer from 1842 to 1845, and was president from 1845 to 1865.

Beman died in Carbondale, Ill. on August 6, 1871.

Excerpt from Nason, Henry B., ed. Biographical Record of the Officers and Graduates of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1824-1886. Troy, NY: William H. Young, 1887, pp. 30-33.

Nathan S.S. Beman