Its first president was Samuel Johnson (1696–1772), a clergyman, who held classes in the schoolhouse of Trinity Church. The administration of his successor, Myles Cooper, was interrupted by the American Revolution; the college was closed but was reopened as Columbia College (1784) in a building in lower Manhattan. Title was first vested in the regents of the Univ. of the State of New York but in 1787 it was transferred to the trustees of the college, who elected William Samuel Johnson president. In 1857, under Charles King (1789–1867), the college moved to a site at Madison Ave. and 49th St.; in 1897, under Seth Low, the move was made to Morningside Heights. The gradual addition of professional and graduate schools resulted in the assumption of the name Columbia Univ. in 1896; in 1912 the name became Columbia Univ. in the City of New York. Columbia College remained the undergraduate school and in 1919 originated the modern Contemporary Civilizations Core Curriculum requirements, for which it is still well known.
Notable presidents of Columbia include F. A. P. Barnard, Nicholas Murray Butler, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Grayson Kirk was president from 1953 to 1968 and was succeeded by Andrew Cordier. In 1970, William J. McGill was appointed president; his successor, Michael I. Sovern, was president from 1980 to 1993. George E. Rupp succeeded Sovern in 1993, and Lee C. Bollinger followed Rupp in 2002.