Zeng Laishun - The first Chinese to enroll at an American College

From the Hong 曾 Family's American Diaspora Files:

ZENG Laishun 曾來順 was the first Chinese to attend an American college. Laishun attended Bloomfield Academy, a boy's boarding school in New Jersey for three years. He then enrolled at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York in 1846. The women from the First Presbyterian Church in Utica, NY, were Laishun's sole source of support and refused to extend his funding beyond their initial two-year agreement. In May 1848, Laishun left New York and set sail for Hong Kong.

According to historian Edward J.M. Rhoads, “he was a pioneer in Western studies, an early and lifelong convert to Christianity, one of the first Chinese in the United States, a leading second-echelon figure in China’s self-strengthening movement, and, during his CEM [Chinese Educational Mission] days in the United States, a diplomatic representative of the Qing government as well as an explicator of things Chinese to the American public.”

The pioneering achievements of Zeng Laishun, America's first Chinese college student, have often been overshadowed by Yung Wing 容閎 (November 17, 1928 - April 21, 1912), who followed Laishun's footsteps by four years and is forever remembered as the first Chinese student to graduate from an American university, Yale College in 1854.

Zeng Laisun late in his career. From the Smithsonian Institution, United States National Museum,
Department of Anthropology, Division of Ethnology.

The Smithsonian misidentifies this photo as “Portrait of Li Hung Chang, Viceroy of Chilhli in Costume with Fur Cost n.d.” Researchers have asserted that the photo is of Zeng Laisun and not the Viceroy. Moreover, the photo is signed “Tseng Laisun” (which is the way Zeng spelled his name in his later years). The Smithsonian has declined to correct its catalog.