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Henry Coppée
Born October 13, 1821 (1821-10-13)
Savannah, Georgia, U.S.
Died March 22, 1895 (1895-03-23) (aged 73)
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality United States
Occupation Educator, Author

Henry Coppée (13 October 1821 – 22 March 1895) was an American educator and author.


Henry Coppée was born in Savannah, Georgia, to a family of French extraction that had formerly settled in Haiti. He studied at Yale University for two years, worked as a civil engineer, and finally graduated from the West Point in 1845. He served in the Mexican–American War as a lieutenant and was brevetted captain for gallantry at the battles of Contreras and Churubusco.[1] During the American Civil War, he edited the United States Service Magazine.

Coppée was Assistant Professor of French at West Point from 1848 to 1849, and then Principal Assistant Professor of Geography, History, and Ethics from 1850 to 1855.[2] After resigning from the army, he was the Professor of English literature and History at the University of Pennsylvania from 1855 to 1866. He was selected by Asa Packer as the first president of Lehigh University, an office he filled from 1866 to 1875. He also served as the university's president pro tempore twice: for a few months following the resignation of Lehigh's second President John M. Leavitt (1880), and again, at the passing of Robert A. Lamberton in September 1893 to his own death in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on March 22, 1895.[3][4]

Lehigh University's Coppee Hall (built in 1883) was named for him; it was first a gymnasium, later the home of the Department of Arts and Science, and now is home to the Journalism and Communication program. During Coppée's tenure, much building was done on the new campus. A Moravian church on Packer Avenue was remodeled into Christmas Hall, a house for the president was erected, and Packer Hall, the university center, was built. Coppée lectured in history, logic, rhetoric, political economy and Shakespeare.

Selected works[]


  1. Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence (1901). Universities and Their Sons: University of Pennsylvania. Boston: R. Herndon Company. pp. 334–335. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  2. Rosengarten, J.G. (December 1895). "Obituary Notice of Henry Coppée, LL. D.". pp. 357–361. 
  3. Yates, Willard Ross (1992). Lehigh University: A History of Education in Engineering, Business, and the Human Condition. Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press. pp. 31–32. ISBN 9780934223171. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  4. Yates, W.Ross (1992). Lehigh University. p. 57,89. 


  •  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911) "Coppée, Henry" Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press 

External links[]

Preceded by
1st President of Lehigh University
Succeeded by
John McDowell Leavitt

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