Founded in 1770, the College of Charleston is the oldest educational institution south of Virginia, and the 13th oldest in the United States. During the colonial period, wealthy families sent their sons abroad for higher education. By the mid-18th century, many leading citizens supported the idea of establishing an institution of higher learning within the colony. Bell tower The Pi Kappa Phi Bell Tower On January 30, 1770, Lieutenant Governor William Bull recommended to the colony's general assembly the establishment of a provincial college. However, internal disagreements, political rivalries and the American Revolution delayed progress on this front. After the war, South Carolinians returned their attention to establishing a college. On March 19, 1785, the College of Charleston was chartered to "encourage and institute youth in the several branches of liberal education." Several of the College's founders played key roles in the American Revolution and in the creation of the new republic. Three were signers of the Declaration of Independence and another three were framers of the U.S. Constitution. Other founders were or became federal and state lawmakers and judges, state governors, diplomats and Charleston councilmen and mayors. Robert Smith served as the College's first president. Educated in England, he was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church and relocated to Charleston, where he served as rector of St. Philip's Church. During the American Revolution, he supported the patriot cause and even served as a soldier during the siege of the city. He later became the first Episcopal bishop of South Carolina.