Study that family tree chart closely. If you are a direct descendant of any of 340 specific men, you, your children, grandchildren, and even later generations may be able to obtain free tuition to Northwestern University. That is a present value of more than $134,000 over four years.
Founded in 1851 by Methodists from Chicago (including John Evans, after whom Evanston is named), Northwestern opened in 1855 with two faculty members and ten students. The school apparently had financial concerns in its early years and sent salesmen throughout the Midwest offering perpetual scholarships, a tactic used by many universities at the time.
Here is a partial text of the perpetual scholarship agreement purchased by Richard Rounsavell on Dec. 31, 1866, for $100:
"Whereas Richard C. Rounsavell of Chicago has paid the sum of $100 to the Northwestern University, located at Evanston in Cook County in the State of Illinois, now therefore the said Northwestern University guarantees to the said Richard C. Rounsavell for himself, his sons and legally adopted sons and grandsons and the legatees of this scholarship as hereinafter provided forever the right of perpetual free tuition in either the literary or scientific department of said university in all the studies that are or may be necessary to graduation."
Of course, Northwestern was an all-male school in those days; so, the phrase "his sons and legally adopted sons and grandsons” was appropriate at the time. The school has since gone coed, and Northwestern today interprets the original agreement to include daughters.
At least ten descendants of Richard C. Rounsavell have used the scholarship. When he purchased the perpetual scholarship in 1866, tuition was $45 a year. That price has now escalated to $33,500 per year. Rounsavell's investment of $100 seems to have produced a rather good rate of return for his ten descendants.
In all, the school sold 340 of these scholarships between 1853 and 1867, said Patrick Quinn, university archivist. The school cannot say how many have been redeemed.