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.

pres res Birthday Tea010


The President's House

The house in the early 2000s.

One week ago, a fire of indeterminate cause consumed this building, known to the Centenary College community as “The President’s House”. Many nearby fire departments and agencies responded to the 4:45 pm call, and battled flames until well after midnight.  Their hard work and tenacity could not prevent the house from being severely damaged, but undoubtedly prevented the fire from spreading to neighboring homes – not a small feat when you consider the obstacles they had to overcome: intense winds threatened to carry flames to close-by structures and bitter cold caused some of their equipment to freeze!

There has been no decision yet as to the future of this house. It’s been such an important part of Centenary’s history and actually has a very interesting history of its own! The building that Centenary College knows as “The President’s House” was originally part of a much larger home called “Brightstowe”, built in the 1890s by Wheeler Hazard Peckham. The mansion, located in the wealthy Normandy Park section of Morristown, had been sold to railroad baron William M.V. Thorne in the early 1900s. Thorne intended to destroy the building and build an even bigger mansion in its place. Before the Peckhams signed over the title to Thorne, Mrs. Peckham hired carpenters to restore and repair Brightstowe – even though she knew Thorne was going to flatten it!

October 1945

The house in 1945, looking from Moore Street towards Centenary College. You can see the main building peeking out through the trees on the right.

The Hoffman family learned of the mansion’s impending demolition and had Brightstowe dismantled and parts of it shipped to Hackettstown, where it was reconstructed as 407 Moore Street. Hoffman had enough leftover materials to build a house next door for his mother. Other parts of Brightstowe went elsewhere; the center doors were said to have gone to a funeral home on Speedwell Avenue.

February 19, 1964

One of the front doors of The President’s House. The house’s address is 407 Moore Street. Centenary College uses 401 Jefferson Street as its address.

401 Jefferson Street

The Jefferson Street entrance, c. early 2000s.

According to an alumni publication from August 1945, Centenary College – then known as Centenary Junior College – purchased the house from the Hoffman family in 1945. The Hoffman family had built the house facing Moore Street but Centenary College considered the main entrance of the President’s House to be on Jefferson Street, facing the campus.

The three-floor home boasted 17 rooms and five fireplaces. The foyer of the house featured an enormous mural painted by Maria Haydon-Buttner, a Centenary art major from the Class of 1985. The mural depicts local scenes of the school and its students.

Jefferson Street Entrance Hall

The Jefferson Street Foyer in May 28, 1987

pres res Jefferson St Entranceway, mural

Looking into the house from the Jefferson Street Foyer. 1990s

pres res closeup of mural

A close-up of part of the mural.

In the dining room there was Indonesian wood paneling, and the rugs there and in the two parlors were made especially for the house.

Dining Room

The dining room as it looked in 1945.

pres res Dining Room1

The dining room as it looked in the 1990s.

Beyond the kitchen, the breakfast room included a pressed tin ceiling.

pres res Kitchen

Looking from the kitchen into another room (possibly the breakfast room?). 1990s

pres res kitchen2

Another portion of the kitchen, a long narrow room that stored kitchenware. 1990s

The back parlor of the home had beautiful woodwork trim and an open stairway dominated by a stained glass window.

pres res Birthday Tea14

A photo of students in the back parlor. 1955

pres res Birthday Tea010

President and Mrs. Seay with students in the back parlor in 1959

pres res Back Parlor1

The back parlor as it looked in the 1990s

Back Parlor, stairwell

The back parlor and stairwell of the President’s House in the 1990s.

pres res Back Parlor, stairwell2

The staircase from the back parlor in May 28 1987

pres res Second Floor Landing

The second floor landing, looking at stained glass windows. 1990s

pres res Front Parlor1

The Front Parlor in 1945

pres res Front Parlor3

The Front Parlor. May 28 1987

Seven presidents used the house, although not every president chose to live in it. The first president to live in the house was President Hurst R. Anderson, who resided there between 1945-1948. The list that follows contains the name of each president and their years of residence/use: Edward W. Seay, 1948-1976; Charles H. Dick, 1976-1984; Stephanie Bennett-Smith, 1984 – 2001; Kenneth Hoyt, 2001-2008; and the current President, Barbara-Jayne Lewthwaite, 2008-present (President Lewthwaite did not use the President’s House as a primary residence, so there was no one inside when the fire started).

Here follows several pictures of students at the President’s House. President Seay held a monthly Birthday Tea for all students and faculty who celebrated birthdays that month. Often guests of the college would also attend. Many former students have fond memories of their time in the President’s House.

pres res Birthday Tea001

President and Mrs. Seay welcoming guests, 1959.

Birthday Tea

Students waiting in line for tea in 1960

pres res Miss Forbes and Midori Iaoki

October 23, 1960: Miss Forbes hands a cup of tea to Midori Iaoki during the first birthday tea of the school year.

First student birthday gathering of the year

October 21, 1961: President and Mrs. Edward W. Seay entertain students, faculty, and guests at tea. Standing from left to right: Martin Bry-Nildsen, Mrs. Seay, Mrs. Norman Grayson, mezzo-soprano Miss Doris Okerson (Mrs. Martin Bry-Nildsen) President Seay, and Norman W. Grayson, chairman of Centenary Junior College’s fine arts division.

pres res 1962, 12,12 freshmans Grace Helden, Norman Cousins, Virginia Dando, Ann Crissman

November 11, 1962: Guest of honor, Norman Cousins, editor of the “Saturday Review” talking to freshman Grace Helden at the first birthday gathering of the school year. Looking on are freshmen Virginia Dando and Ann Crissman.

pres res Dayna Kinley, Mrs. Seay, and Joan Thompson

November 11, 1962: Mrs. Edward W. Seay, makes a hostess check with freshmen Dayna Kinley and Joan Thompson.

The Bulletin of Centenary Junior College, August 1945, pgs 6, 8.


For over 40 years, the students of Centenary College have published an annual literary magazine known as Prism, featuring poetry and artwork by Centenary students.

Beginning in the spring of 1968 as Through the Prism, a group of students sought to foster more creativity on campus and provide a printed platform for students to freely express their artistic voice. They collected poems and drawing and distributed them on their own using mimeographed copies. Support for the publication was lackluster at best. Fortunately, some members of the faculty recognized this as a positive exercise in creative thinking and under the auspices of the English department, Prism began to operate on a larger scale, aiming toward a true publication.‘  (Spilled Ink, 3/5/1969). At one point, enough works were submitted (many anonymously) that selection committees had to meet twice a week to vet and choose submissions for the magazine (Spilled Ink, 3/27/68, 3/5/69).

Pages from 1968.03.27 Pages from 1968 hi qual ytyd69

left, Spilled Ink, 3/27/1968

right, Through the Prism, 2/16/1968

“Prism does an excellent job of portraying different facets of contemporary life and thought in free verse. The poems and artworks are so typical of today, some abstract, some vividly real.”Spilled Ink, 3/5/69


The design and format of Prism has taken various forms over the years.  With volumes in all sizes, shapes, and colors, the magazine leaves behind an impressive and often surreal collection of drawings, paintings, poems, and short stories that offer a window into the hearts and minds of Centenary students spanning almost half a century.

Pages from 1970 winter Pages from 1973 april

Pages from 1974 december   75 prism

Pages from 1975 may     prism76

prism1980   Pages from 1987

left-to-right: Prism: Winter 1970, April 1973, April 1974, December 1974, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1987


With the continuing support of the English department, Prism is still published annually and now accepts submissions from alumni and faculty as well as students of Warren County College (Spilled Ink, 2012)Poetry slams, open mic nights, and other events are held to promote awareness and involvement in the magazine.   Such longstanding opportunities for creativity give students a chance to explore their ideas and collaborate with others, further enriching their time here as well as their education. To quote an article appearing in the student newspaper:

“To the student the poetry of Prism expresses thoughts on love, national concern, life –as a depressing, weary, lonely time and as a beautiful and cheerful experience. It sweeps the mind causing room for contemplation and application. Prism does indeed have something to offer everyone.” – Spilled Ink, 3/5/1969


Taylor Memorial Library recently created an Irish Studies Collection, and to help distinguish these books from the books in our regular collection, we created a bookplate and classification sticker for each item.

bookplate 2010s

Our Irish Studies Collection bookplate.

Our library has used several bookplates over the years to designate ownership of the books. Assembled here are some of the bookplates we’ve found in our collection.

We know these bookplates were used before 1954, because that was the year Taylor Memorial Library was named. We approximate their dates as: Top left: 1870s, top right: 1930s. Bottom left: 1940s, bottom right, unknown.

The dates are approximated as follows: Top left: 1890 – 1915, top right: 1920 – 40s. Bottom left: 1930 – 1940s, bottom right, 1910- 20s.

When the Taylor Memorial Library opened in 1954, a new bookplate had to be created to include the library’s new name. In order to choose a new bookplate, students were invited to participate in a design contest. This design would be place in every new book the library received. Students submitted original designs no larger than 3 x 4 inches, using only India Ink and white paper. Each entry had to contain the phrase “Taylor Memorial Library, Centenary Junior College, Hackettstown, New Jersey.”

These are some of the submitted designs.

Some entries have no name. They are denoted with a line of dashes. Top Row: 1. ——- 2. Karen Colthup 3. ——- Middle Row: 1. ——- 2 Sue Frankel 3. ——- Bottom Row: 1. Doris Houston 2. Anita Brunner 3. ——-

entries 2

Top Row and Middle Row: 1 – 6. Judith Yokell Bottom Row: 1. Carol Ann Brooks 2. & 3. Lois Petersen

entries 3

Top Row: 1. ——- 2. Cynthea Halvorsen Bottom Row: 1. Dorothy Lowry 2. Patricia Sloate

Judging the contest were librarian Ruth Scarborough, art teacher Gilberta Goodwin, commercial art teacher Howard Knapp, and senior Patrician Robinson. A second senior, Pamela Hasting, was originally on the judging committee, but resigned in order to enter the contest herself. The contest began in February of 1954 and ended on April 4, 1954, just before Centenary’s Easter vacation. The winner received a book of their choosing. Freshman Ellen Friedman won the contest with a design of the library done in white on black paper.

CCI library 1950s

This is the bookplate that first adorned Taylor Memorial Library books. The black background of the entry design was replaced with a friendlier blue.

When the college name changed from Centenary Junior College to Centenary College for Women, the bookplate was adapted to fit.

CCI library 1970s

The bookplate during the 1950s-70s.

The college changed names again in the 1980s after it reverted back to a co-ed institution. We don’t know if the library had any bookplates after that. Later on, Taylor Memorial Library switched to a stamp, and just this year we created an embosser to replace the stamp. Who knows, maybe we’ll go back to using a bookplate in the future!