Alborz College: The Early Years

Alborz College: The Early Years

Samuel Jordan, Class of 1895. Photo courtesy Lafayette College Archives.

The Lafayette-Iran alliance began in 1898 when Rev. Samuel Jordan, Class of 1895, a Presbyterian minister, became principal of the American School of Tehran for boys.

During the next 42 years, Jordan expanded the school, supervising the construction of academic buildings with American amenities and Persian elements. He introduced football to Tehran, and helped grade a football field as an exercise in charitable humility.

He also formed Tehran’s first troop of Boy Scouts. He taught his Scouts to do good deeds— including helping victims of the 1918 famine— in a summer camp he established in the Alborz Mountains. It was there that a National Geographic photographer portrayed Jordan leading a hike in a pith helmet and Lafayette letter sweater.

Jordan’s chief scout was his wife, Mary, whom he met in Easton. Her official subjects in Tehran were music and English; her unofficial subject was feminism. She instructed students to write papers about her favorite slogan: “No country rises higher than the level of the women of that country.”

Jordan had his own mantra: “Knowledge to someone without ethics is like a lamp in the hands of a thief!” He lit a righteous path for a prospective student named Abu’l Qasem Baktiar, refusing to admit him until he promised to stop smoking opium. Baktiar, a private tutor in his 40s, not only quit opium, he completed the school’s 12-year program in 6 years. He further rewarded Jordan’s faith by earning a medical degree in America and chairing Tehran University’s medical school.

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