Tufts University says
In the 1840s, the Universalist Church wanted to open a college in New England. Boston businessman Charles Tufts gave the church a gift of 20 acres of land, valued at $20,000, on the condition it be used for establishing a college. With that, the location was decided. Tufts' land, which he inherited, was located on one of the highest hills in the Boston area, Walnut Hill, straddling Medford and Somerville.
As local lore has it, when a relative asked Charles Tufts what he would do with his land, and more specifically with "that bleak hill over in Medford," Tufts replied, "I will put a light on it." In 1855, a toast to the new Tufts College was offered at a Universalist gathering in Faneuil Hall. Hosea Ballou 2nd, a Universalist clergyman and the college's first president, remarked, "For if Tufts College is to be a source of illumination, as a beacon standing on a hill, where its light cannot be hidden, its influence will naturally work like all light; it will be diffusive."
Hosea BallouWhen the Commonwealth of Massachusetts chartered Tufts College in 1852, the original act of incorporation noted the college should promote "virtue and piety and learning in such of the languages and liberal and useful arts as shall be recommended." The official college seal, bearing the motto Pax et Lux (Peace and Light) was adopted in 1857, and the student body picked the school colors of brown and blue in 1876. (The colors were not made official, however, until a 1960 vote of the Board of Trustees.)
Ballou HallIn Tufts' early days, the main college building that would eventually bear Ballou's name served as both home and classroom for seven students, who were taught by four professors. By the time of Ballou's death in 1861, Tufts had 36 alumni, and 53 students enrolled.
To learn more about the history of the university, Tufts Digital Collections and Archives has compiled a selection of resources, including the online-only Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History; Light on the Hill: A History of Tufts College, 1852-1952 (Beacon Press) and Light on the Hill: A History of Tufts University Since 1852 (MassMarket Books), both by the Tufts historian Russell E. Miller, in addition to historical photographs.