Before technology granted us the convenience of information on demand, spreading awareness and knowledge of events, even locally, relied upon many individual efforts. For over 50 years, our student newspaper, Spilled Ink, reported on the comings and goings of daily life at Centenary and offered students a chance to remain well-informed about the campus as well as showcase their own writing efforts.

Spilled Ink, run and written by students, was first published around 1932 and began as a modest four-page publication with a column layout typical of newspapers at the time.

1933 page one

Most issues covered upcoming college activities and events, student/faculty achievements, and local advertising. Early issues dedicated a lot of space to creative writing contributions from students, usually short stories or poetry. Indeed, issues leading up to World War II resemble a literary magazine much more than a newspaper. Although this focus would wane later on in the life of the paper, it helped pave the way later for a separate publication featuring the works of students called the Prism. (You can now view issues of Prism online here)



In the early 1940s, the onset of war marked a shift in the tone and focus of the paper to a more traditional form, both in content and style.





new buildings

By the 1950s, Spilled Ink had refocused its emphasis to student activities and involvement on campus and that is where it would stay. It was also a time of growth for the college and this was featured prominently. New buildings, programs, and efforts underway were covered with great enthusiasm as the length of the paper expanded along with Centenary.  From theater to sorority events to fashion shows to guest speakers to awards to commencement:  At the heart of every campus lies the student news beat.


1933 1943 1946 1948 1949 1949 1954 1956  1963 1976 1977

You can now view and search Spilled Ink of the 1960s:

Check out our new digital collection here!


Commencement is fast approaching and we’re all sad to have to say goodbye to our seniors. Graduation at Centenary has changed a lot in 140 commencements, most noticeably the number of graduates. 426 students will be graduating at Centenary College’s May 2015 commencement, a far cry from the 26 that graduated at Centenary Collegiate Institute’s June 1876 commencement!

Commencement Program 18761876 commencement2

Top: Cover of the 1876 Commencement Program

Right: The inside of the 1876 Commencement Program. This program is interesting because it folds in half at the top, not at the left.

Centenary’s early commencements consisted of several dramatic performances by the graduates. In 1876, for example, eighteen graduates presented essays and orations, the last being the Valedictory Speech.

The last week of college has always been planned to hold some memorable events for graduating seniors. In the early years the students held Class Day, where their senior year was commemorated in speech and song.

Class Day program, 1878 The class song of 1878


Top: Class Day program, 1878

Right:The Class Song of 1878

Seniors would present a class history, prophecy, resolutions, class mementos, and sing the class song (every class had its own song, written by its students). Class Day evolved into a  talent show with less emphasis on Centenary history.

In the mid 1900s students held a ceremony called “Song on the Steps”. There was a tradition that stated only seniors were supposed to use the front steps of the Main Building, so the ceremony was intended to ‘give’ the steps to the freshmen, as they became the next class of seniors (Centenary College was a two year school then). Seniors would congregate on the steps and sing a few songs, including their class song, and then file off the steps to make way for the freshmen, who would take their place on the steps and sing their class song. There was more singing by the two classes to end the ceremony.

Songs on the Steps May 31 1965_2

Songs on the Steps, May 31, 1965. The Seniors are in line on the left side of the driveway, freshmen on the right.

Songs on the Steps May 31 1965

Another view of the students during the May 31, 1965 Songs on the Steps. Students are lined up on the driveway in front of the Seay Building, which used to be a real driveway used by the college.

One event that has continued into the present day is the President’s Ball. It’s a dance now, but 75 years ago it was the President’s reception and President’s dance. Today’s commencements combine a lot of the activities students in years past would have held over two or three days, so the reception might have been merged with commencement over the years.

Graduating class of 1936

Graduating class of 1936

The Valedictory Address of 1886 begins with these words:

“To-day there is a sadder task to perform than here-tofore. Welcome brings with it joy and greeting- farewell sorrow and parting.”

Although commencement is a time to say goodbye, it’s also a time to look back fondly at the time spent at your Alma Mater, and look forward at what’s to come. Although we are sad to see our seniors go, we are excited for them as they take on whatever comes next.


literary societies header

Literary societies are one of the oldest student organizations in America, and are considered the forerunners of modern-day fraternities and sororities. Traditional literary societies were founded to promote scholarship through literary exercises and debate. Modern fraternities and sororities focus on the personal development of their members, often promoting social growth above scholarship.

societies 1909 skull b

from the 1908 Hack Yearbook

Centenary College is no exception to this age-old tradition. When the college first opened, its students created four literary societies, one within the institute’s first week! Students named it the Whitney Lyceum in honor of President Whitney. His Friday afternoon declamation exercises challenged students to improve their public speaking skills, which inspired the society. Within months came another society, the Philomathean Society, which merged into the Zeta Chapter of the Alpha Phi Fraternity in 1885. Both were gentlemen only. The ladies had their own societies: Diokosophian was in 1875, and the Evergreen Society (later called Peithosophian) in 1880. Dr. Whitney’s ideas of social training were quickly adopted by all four societies. Utmost in importance to all societies was the inclusion of earnest, purposeful young men and women.


literary society program header

Societies met every Saturday night in their respective meeting room to carry out literary exercises and read their society paper, which contained both serious and humorous articles. They hosted Anniversary Programs, or “Ann’s”, events that consisted of musical numbers, speeches, debates, and dramatic performances. Ann’s were open to the public, and were attended by students, faculty, Hackettstown residents, and alumni! After chapel the audience would visit each society hall to enjoy their presentations and have discussion until dinner was announced. In a way, these programs were informal class reunions. Each society created a motto for itself that was fiercely guarded by its members – other societies could know only the initial letter of each word. Even 50 years after graduating, members refused to divulge their society’s motto.

Amazingly, these societies were completely student controlled. They were not under the direct supervision of the President, nor did they request support from faculty or staff members, yet each ran like a well-oiled machine. Members were expected to behave in an appropriate manner at all times, and could be punished or expelled from their society for irresponsible or foolish behavior. They were respectful of faculty, and earned the respect of the faculty through their professionalism and enthusiasm for learning.

Eventually, students started to spend more time on their societies, Ann’s in particular. Ann’s became such a diversion that in one instance students asked their professors to make exams as light as possible. To alleviate cost and stress, Ann’s were merged – Whitney Lyceum with Diokosophian, and Peithosophian with Alpha Phi. By 1907 all four societies held one combined Ann. In 1910, the college said goodbye to the men and their societies, and hello to a new girl’s society: Callilogian Society. Over the next few decades the objectives of the societies transformed from academic to social. By the time the fourth society, Kappa Psi Delta, was created in 1961, traditional literary societies were almost completely phased out. The trophy contest, in which societies wrote essays in competition for the right to display a statue called “The Lady”, was possibly one of the last traditional academic events held by the societies.


diok-whit ann

from the 1904 Hack Yearbook

Keep an eye out for upcoming posts to learn more about each literary society!


The importance of President Whitney’s influence on Centenary can best be expressed through testimonials by those who knew him and his work:

“The discipline of the Institute is peculiar and striking. It is a system of directed and guarded self-government…We are not surprised at the success it has won here. As a result of this system we notice the manly and womanly bearing of the pupils, and the development of self-control in their characters…Somehow Dr. Whitney seems to love every student and every student to love him.”

1885 report by the Committee of Examiners, a scholarly group which audited schools

“Dr. Whitney, to whose wise direction and executive ability much of this is due, has made Centenary Collegiate Institute his monument.”

                    The Hackettstown Gazette, June 1891

President Whitney and the Class of 1891

President Whitney, top row right of center, and the Class of 1891. There seemed to be an old tradition that students posed for their class photo with an item, purpose unknown. 

“We were all proud of Dr. Whitney, and his influence as a deep thinking and spiritual leader has remained with us through the years.”

                   Flora Green, the first girl to register at C.C.I.

“The outstanding memory of my three years at C.C.I. is Doctor Whitney. What a man! Every student was uplifted by his splendid leadership and his patient willing service. He inspired the highest and best in us.”

                                          The class of 1884

“The clear consenting voices of all who speak or write, express appreciation of Dr. Whitney.”

            Leila Roberta Custard, author of Through Golden Years


Portrait of President Whitney

“…The most remarkable single fact about [Centenary Collegiate Institute] was its extraordinary success from the beginning of its career. This was due in large measure to the magnetic personality of its president, the Rev. Dr. George H. Whitney, who gave distinguished and meritorious service to the school through a large period of years…it may be said without hesitation that no man ever did richer and truer service in the cause of Christian education and good citizenship than the greatly beloved and successful president of the Institute…”

                                                              1904 Hack Yearbook


“Enough cannot be said of Dr. Whitney’s president – his oft-expressed ‘Indomitable Will’ proved what he expected of his students in behavior, in studies, in strict observance of rules, and all that was uplifting. He was a grand man.”

                                                                                          Through Golden Years, p 198


President Whitney, top row, center and male C.C.I. students. Taken between 1874 and 1900.

When Dr. Whitney accepted the presidency of Centenary Collegiate Institute (C.C.I.) in August 1869, he ‘enter[ed] upon work which would appeal to his varied interests and call for all his abilities’ (9). Until the college opened in 1874, he worked as a Financial Agent for the Newark Conference, raising funds to build the institute (10). During the building’s construction, he was in high demand from other organizations: schools and universities invited him to be their president, and missions elected him to establish churches overseas. All these and more he declined in the interest of the fledgling institute (21). Even after C.C.I. opened, Dr. Whitney was pursued for other positions, but always turned them away. He felt that his attention should be solely focused on helping his new institute flourish. From 1869 until his death in 1913, Whitney committed himself fully to the success of Centenary.

“Education ought to do more for a man than to make him a mere encyclopedia”

President Whitney, top row, second from left at the 1898 C. C. I. reunion. This is four years after he retired from his presidency.

President Whitney, top row, second from left at the 1898 C. C. I. reunion. This is four years after he retired from his presidency.

The first students at Centenary received a well-rounded education, focusing on academics, religion, and expression. Whitney resolved to set the highest standard possible for his students, and adopted the motto “all done, and all well done.” He remained at the school for the entirety of its first year even though he received many speaking invitations off campus. He also took on the task of teaching five classes daily, when he should have had no more than two (29). President Whitney established a lecture series to introduce new topics and different styles of presentation and created Friday afternoon exercises to give students a chance to improve their presentational skills through vocal and instrumental performances as well as public speaking drills. Students engaged in both practiced and impromptu speeches. Any opportunity to hone their rhetorical skills was greatly appreciated, and students who wanted even more practice organized Centenary’s first literary societies.

Centenary’s early years were filled with both anxieties and joys. Whitney said in his journals, “many times I wanted Job to come to teach me patience and courage…It had been a year of marvelous work and of great success and of great joy to us all…I learned much that [first] year! (50-1). He focused all his energy on the Institute year after year, but let his own health suffer. In 1889 his health was so poor that he ran the school confined to a chair until he could undergo surgery. His health somewhat renewed, Dr. Whitney returned to his presidency. By 1894 his pain was so intense that he was unable to attend to his duties. Delegating authority to others led to a drop in the college’s standing, and he made the difficult decision to resign.


The Chapel, now called the Whitney Chapel in honor of President Whitney.

After spending years recuperating, Dr. Whitney joined C.C.I. again as a Trustee where he did as much work as if he were President, being a lover in general of the great cause. After the fire that destroyed the old Main Building, he helped raise funds for a new institute, and furnished the largest room in that building – the chapel – himself. He also accepted an interim presidency in 1902 while the college was between presidents, and witnessed the graduation of the first class in the new building. In his journals he wrote, “It was a great honor! A great coincidence, strange indeed!” Dr. Whitney was Centenary’s most devoted advocate, and we are all indebted to him.

As Dr. Whitney would say, “All done, and all well done.”

Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 – 1943. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1947. Print.


Centenary College’s first president, George H. Whitney, is well-represented in material from our archives. So much information about his time at Centenary exists that it cannot, for practical reasons, be summed up in one post. Therefore, the information on Whitney has been split into three (slightly) briefer posts: his life, his presidency, and his impact.

Dr. Whitney was one of the most important people in Centenary’s long history. Had he not become president of Centenary Collegiate Institute (C.C.I.), there might not be a Centenary College today!

Reverend Doctor George Henry Whitney

Reverend Doctor George Henry Whitney

George Henry Whitney was born in 1830, and spent his early years in Washington, D.C. At 14, he was a bookkeeper and at 17, a reporter and editor for the Daily National Whig. In 1848 he began teaching and preparing himself for college. He opened his own ‘select’ school before becoming a student at Wesleyan Institute and later Wesleyan University. Whitney graduated from Wesleyan in 1858. The following year he was president of Macedon Academy and for two years after that, principal of Oneida Seminary.

In 1861 he entered the Newark Conference and for several years filled pastorates in and around New Jersey. Whitney accepted the presidency of Centenary Collegiate Institute in August 1869 and spent the next five years raising funds to build the school. In 1873, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was bestowed upon him by Wesleyan University. Centenary Collegiate Institute opened in September 1874, with Whitney at the helm. He held the title of president for twenty-six years, five years spent bringing the school into existence, and twenty-one years to actual administration. During his time as president, he inspired his students to strive for greatness in both academics and social graces. More will be said on this subject in a later post.

Dr. Whitney around 1874, when Centenary Collegiate Institute first opened.

Dr. Whitney around 1874, when Centenary Collegiate Institute first opened.

Dr. Whitney also organized the first C.C.I. reunion in 1878, four years after the school’s dedication. He chose Ocean Grove, his own yearly vacation spot, as the location for the reunion. This marked the first seaside reunion ever held in America by any Educational Institution. The reunion was a huge success and the school began holding reunions every five years.

The reunion of 1883

The reunion of 1883

In the 1880s Dr. Whitney’s health began to deteriorate, and by February of 1889 he was confined to a chair, where he ran the school while suffering excruciating pain. A serious operation three months later improved his health enough to continue on as president, but he would never fully recover. As his suffering intensified, he became unable to attend to his duties, and in March 1895 he resigned as president of C.C.I.

After taking time off to recuperate, Dr. Whitney accepted a place on C.C.I.’s Board of Trustees in March of 1900. One of his tasks was to help the Board build a new Main Building following the fire that destroyed the original building. In April of 1900 he was elected President Emeritus of Centenary Collegiate Institute by the Newark Conference. After the resignation of President McCormick in 1902, Dr. Whitney was honored to return to C.C.I. as interim president until newly appointed President Noble could join the administration. Dr. Whitney has the distinct privilege of graduating the first class of students in the Old Main Building AND the New Main Building.


Reverend Dr. Whitney, center top row, with a group of students.

Dr. Whitney “felt that his work was finished and hastened to his rest,” passing away on June 6th, 1913 (Custard, 135).

Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 – 1943. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1947. Print.


Ruth Ellen Scarborough was the first director of the Taylor Memorial Library after it opened in 1954. She worked at Centenary College from 1946 to 1982, nearly four decades! Her planning and guidance helped shape the library into what it is today.

Ruth Ellen Scarborough

Ruth Ellen Scarborough

Ruth Scarborough came to Centenary College in 1946, when it was an all-girls school called Centenary Junior College. She brought with her a B.S. in Education from Marywood College and a B.L.S. from Syracuse University, and earned her M.L.S. from Rutgers University while at Centenary.

Before Taylor Memorial Library was built, the college library was located in the Main Building, what is now called the Seay Administration Building. Shortly after Scarborough joined the staff at Centenary, the college administrators decided to update the library. Preliminary plans called for an addition to the existing library, but that idea evolved into the decision to build a new library, separate from the main building.

The college chose New York architect Jan Hird Pokorny to design the new building. After the initial plans were proposed, dozens of blueprints were suggested, altered, and discarded in favor of newer and better designs. Scarborough and Pokorny corresponded for over three years, exchanging letters filled with ideas and suggestions about the most suitable library design for Centenary Junior College. Miss Scarborough had well-defined ideas for the library and offered the architect input on everything from the building’s layout to the materials used for library furnishings. Her diligence ensured that the new library would meet Centenary’s needs.


Ruth Scarborough left her mark on the college through more than just the new library. Thanks to Miss Scarborough, Centenary Junior College’s library had its shelf list published in 1953 as an example of a model collection in the “Standard Catalogue for Junior College Libraries” (Remembering…). This was quite an achievement; only three libraries in the country were chosen for the catalogue. Ruth Scarborough was also class advisor for the classes of 1959 and 1966, and the 1959 Yearbook was dedicated to her.

Outside of Centenary College, she was an active member of statewide and national library committees and educational evaluation teams. The following is a partial list of her accomplishments:

  • The American Library Association (ALA): Secretary (1949-50), Vice Chairman (1951-52), Chairman (1952-53), and Director (1954-57) of the Junior College Libraries Section
  • The Association of College & Research Libraries: Executive Board (1964-68)
  • The New Jersey Library Association: two-time President (1951-52 and 1962-63) for the College and University section
  • Junior College Library Standards: member of an ad hoc committee which prepared guidelines for two-year college libraries
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools: served on numerous evaluating teams
  • consultant to several two-year colleges and the American Library Association

ruth posed2

Miss Scarborough remained at the college thirty-six years, retiring in 1982 as director of the Taylor Memorial Library Learning Resource Center. She was honored as Professor Emerita in library science upon retirement. She received the Van Winkle Award for her service to the college in 1991 and an honorary doctor of letters degree in 1996.

Ruth Scarborough with her nephew, journalist and author Chuck Scarborough.

Ruth Scarborough with her nephew, journalist and author Chuck Scarborough.

Scarborough was also active in the Hackettstown community. She “held prominent roles in several civic groups in the Hackettstown area” (Remembering…). She was also a volunteer librarian at the Hackettstown Community Hospital, a member of the hospital auxiliary, a founder of the Hackettstown Historical Society, and a member of the Panther Valley Ecumenical Ministry. In 1988 she was inducted into the Hackettstown Senior Hall of Fame, an organization established by the Hackettstown Regional Medical Center to recognize senior citizens who have made a “significant impact on the lives of others…through volunteerism” (HRMC Seniors).

She loved reading and traveling, and took a world tour by airplane in 1960. She visited “Hawaii, Japan, Formosa (Taiwan), Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Vietnam (Vietnam), Cambodia, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Burma (Myanmar), India, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Italy”(Returns). Ruth Scarborough passed away on December 12, 2001, but will always be in the “hearts and minds of the members of the Centenary community who were fortunate enough to know her” (Remembering…).


“HRMC Seniors.” Hackettstown Regional Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan 2015.<    


“Remembering Librarian and Professor Emerita Ruth Ellen Scarborough.” Centenary College AlumniUpdate Spring 2002: 7.


“Returns From World Tour.” Tribune [Scranton, PA] 21 Sept. 1960, sec. D: 34. Print.