Elihu Yale (April 5, 1649 – July 8, 1721) was a British merchant, philanthropist, governor of the British East India Company, and a benefactor of Collegiate School of Connecticut, which in 1718 was named Yale College in his honor.
Yale died on July 8, 1721 in London, England, but was buried in the churchyard of the parish church of St. Giles in Wrexham, Wales. His tomb is inscribed with these lines:
- Born in America, in Europe bred
- In Africa travell'd and in Asia wed
- Where long he liv'd and thriv'd; In London dead
- Much good, some ill, he did; so hope all's even
- And that his soul thro' mercy's gone to Heaven
- You that survive and read this tale, take care
- For this most certain exit to prepare
- Where blest in peace, the actions of the just
- Smell sweet and blossom in silent dust.
Wrexham Tower, part of Saybrook College, Yale, is a replica of that of St. Giles' Church, Wrexham. [Saybrook was my residential college, and Wrexham, my favorite tower at Yale; more so, than the better known carillon Harkness Tower.]
In her article for Atlantic Monthly about Skull and Bones, Alexandra Robbins alleges that the gravestone of Elihu Yale was stolen years ago from its proper setting in Wrexham, and is displayed in a glass case, in a room with purple walls, which belongs to a building called the Tomb of the Skull and Bones at Yale University. [I would hesitate to believe any published articles about Skull and Bones. My good friend Stan was a member.]
In 1999, American Heritage magazine rated Elihu Yale the "most overrated philanthropist" in American history, arguing that the college that would later bear his name (Yale University) was successful largely because of the generosity of a man named Jeremiah Dummer, but that the trustees of the school did not want it known by the name "Dummer College".
On April 5, 1999, Yale University recognized the 350th anniversary of Elihu Yale's birthday.