Moment #010: The First Diplomas

POSTED ON: May 20, 2019


Cooper Union issues its first diplomas, awarded to students that complete five years of study. The institution continues to award certificates representing one year of study. [See Cooper Moment #006.] The 1864 Annual Report reads, in part,

"Of those who entered five years ago, about 1,500 in number, five pupils have passed through the full course of instruction with honor to themselves and credit to the Institution. They are therefore entitled to the diploma of the 'Cooper Union,' and the high honor of being its first 'graduates.' The names and occupations of these young men are as follows:

Robert Scott, Clerk.
Geo. Haitzen, Engraver.
Wm. L. Taylor, Clerk.
Wm. Forbes, Machinist.
Eugene Corbett, Coachmaker.

"When they look back upon the five years of diligent labor through which they have passed, earning their daily bread by honorable daily labor, and giving up their nights to honorable self-culture, they have as much right to be proud of their present position as the Institution is proud of them. Such young men will never disgrace its diploma, and the Trustees introduce them to you as graduates who are sure to fill positions of honor and use­fulness in the world, if they but persevere in the good course which they have commenced. The Trustees have decided to pre­pare and present to each graduate a 'Cooper Union Medal,' which they trust will be as prized and as honorable as the Frank­lin Medal, which in Boston is a sure guarantee of success to the boy who wins it."

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.