Founder and first president of the Syrian Protestant College, Daniel L. Bliss was born on August 17, 1823. He was an ambitious young boy who worked his way through school and later to college. He graduated from Amherst College at the age of 29, spent two years at Andover Seminary, and then ordained minister. He joined the Foreign Mission and came to teach at the American Academy of 'Abeih, and later at Souk el Gharb. For four years he was not only a teacher, but also a student of Arabic.

It was during those years that the idea of establishing a college came into being. He was selected to be in charge of the project, having been one of its prime movers; he returned to the United States, arriving in New York in September 1862. He met with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions where he spoke in support of the resolutions adopted in Beirut; he met The Hon. William E. Dodge who was impressed by Bliss's presentation, who helped him form a Board of Trustees. A certificate of incorporation was drafted on April 18, 1863, and on April 24, 1863 a charter for establishing a college was granted by the legislature of the State of New York.

This was followed by a long tour in the US and UK to raise the funds needed to start the college. They arrived in Beirut on March 2, 1866. The Syrian Protestant College (SPC) opened its doors on the 3rd of December, 1866.  It was a modest beginning with Daniel Bliss both president and teacher. He finally retired in 1902, when his son Howard became president. However, he remained living on campus until his death in 1916.