Philander Chase was born on December 14, 1775, in Cornish, New Hampshire. In 1795, Philander Chase graduated from Dartmouth College. He became a minister in the Episcopal Church in 1799. In subsequent years, Chase traveled throughout the American frontier, establishing numerous parishes.
Chase first came to Ohio in 1817. He continued to expand the Episcopal Church's influence in the state. In 1818, the Episcopal Church united the various parishes in Ohio into a diocese, the first Episcopalian diocese west of the Appalachian Mountains. Chase served as the first bishop of the new diocese.
Chase realized that the Episcopalians needed to establish a seminary in Ohio if the Church hoped to grow further. In 1823, the Bishop sailed for Britain, hoping to secure funding for his seminary from Episcopalians in Europe. He secured twenty thousand dollars for his venture as well as numerous books and religious articles for the school's library. Upon his return in 1824, Chase used the funds to purchase eight thousand acres of land in Knox County at Gambier. In 1829, the first building of what became known as Kenyon College was completed, making Chase's vision a reality. He served as the institution's first president.
Chase found college administration tiring. He was an authoritarian and ruled his diocese and college with an iron fist. He angered many of Kenyon College's faculty members and students as well as many of his parishioners. Many Ohio residents had willingly left the more structured social system of the Eastern United States behind. The large amounts of available land resulted in a less deferential class system on the American frontier. Many Ohioans rejected Chase's governance due to his unwillingness to listen to others. In 1831, Chase resigned as as Kenyon's president and as bishop of his diocese. He continued to serve the Episcopal Church, becoming the bishop of the Illinois diocese in 1835. In 1843, Chase became the presiding bishop of the entire Episcopal Church. He remained in this position until his death on September 20, 1852.