Horace Mann, class of 1819
Father of American public school education
Born in 1796, Horace Mann spent his youth in poverty on his family's farm. Although his schooling was limited to about three months a year, he supplemented his learning through religious studies and tutoring. He entered Brown University as a sophomore, graduated in 1819, and went on to earn a law degree.
Mann served as a state representative and, later, as a senator in the Massachusetts legislature. He helped pass legislation to create the nation's first state board of education, and from 1837 to 1848, served as the board's first secretary, creating a system of public schools in Massachusetts that would become a model for public education across the country. Mann's statue and that of Daniel Webster still flank the entrance to the Massachusetts State House.
In 1848, Mann was elected to Congress, where he fought vigorously against slavery. In 1854, he was named president of Antioch College in Ohio, where he remained until 1859. A few weeks before his death, he urged Antioch's graduating class, "Be ashamed to die before you have won some battle for humanity." Mann is buried at North Burial Ground in Providence.