So reports a Yale library Web page:
In , [Rev. Ezra] Stiles was called to Yale to become its president; a year later, he became the school's first Semitics professor.... A Yale student wrote in 1788, "The President insisted that the whole class should undertake the study of Hebrew ... For the Hebrew he possessed a high veneration." As it turns out, Stiles's prescription was not popular and by 1790, he modified his edict: "From my first accession to the Presidency ... I have obliged all the Freshmen to study Hebrew. This has proved very disagreeable to a Number of the Students. This year I have determined to instruct only those who offer themselves voluntarily." While enrollment in his courses dropped, the valedictorians of the classes of 1785 and 1792 did deliver their orations in Hebrew.