Our Namesake: Henry David Thoreau
On August 31, 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered his famous address on “The American Scholar” to an audience at Harvard, calling for a new kind of thinking person, a new type of scholar better suited to the spiritual conditions of the New World. In what has been called “America’s Intellectual Declaration of Independence,” Emerson described his American scholar as a thinking person whose life and thought was informed and nourished by Nature, by the Past in the form of books, and by Action in the world, sharply distinguishing him from his narrowly cerebral European counterparts. As fate would have it, one student was in the audience that day who would become the clearest embodiment of this ideal, as well as a close friend and collaborator of Emerson. That man was Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Thoreau College draws inspiration from the life and thought of this quintessential American scholar, a man as passionately engaged with classical literature and philosophy as he was with the natural world surrounding Concord and Walden Pond. In Thoreau’s life, we find a balance of study, practical work, and contemplation, as well as values of simplicity, integrity, and commitment to ethical principles. Thoreau, Emerson, and the Concord circle to which they belonged form a crucial node in the spiritual biography of the United States and we seek to locate Thoreau College firmly in this stream of our culture.