He first attended Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, which was later renamed Hiram College. He then transferred to Williams College in 1854, where he excelled. He learned Latin and Greek. He was the school’s debating champion and also excelled in athletics. He edited the Williams Quarterly, the school’s newspaper, and was president of a student literary society. At Williams, he heard a speech by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a leading intellectual of the time. Emerson’s speech moved Garfield to pursue excellence in education and beyond. He graduated with honors in 1856, and delivered a speech at graduation.