The library archival staff has been hard at work preparing a display on the President’s House, which was lost in a fire in January 2015. The display was exhibited in the library’s circulation area, along with several items recovered from the house before it was demolished. The display has temporarily been moved to the Lackland Center for the 2015 Scholarship Gala.

Staff members researched a detailed history of the house, from its start in the 1890s to its loss earlier this year. Two staff members took a trip to Morristown to learn about the history of the Gilded Age, an era marked by stark social contrasts, when the house that would become the President’s House was built. [A history of the President’s House can be found here]

The display board has 12 panels that track the history of the house. Panels are dedicated to different periods of the house’s life.

display board full

The first side of the display board chronicles the ‘pre-history’ of the house, starting with the Gilded Age and the wealthy residents of Morristown. Brightstowe, the house that would become the President’s House, was originally located in Normandy Heights and was disassembled in 1911 to make way for Thorne Oaks, a mansion that still stands today under the name Gateways.

The next side of the display focuses on the years between 1911 and 1945, after the Hoffman family rebuilt the house in Hackettstown, and until the college purchased the home. As Centenary’s enrollment grew, more student rooms were needed, and the president and various faculty members who had lived in the Main Building moved to Hackettstown houses and apartments.

display board side 2

The third side of the display recounts the heyday of the house – when it was used for parties and other college functions. President Seay held a monthly Birthday Tea for students, and often visiting guests would be hosted in receptions at the house. The house was also part of a historic walking tour of Hackettstown.

The final side of the display board focuses on the fire that destroyed the house and plans for the future of the property. At the moment the college is hoping to build on the same footprint and will need to submit plans for a new structure to the Zoning Board and the Historic Commission. ­

display board side 3display board side 4Although some items are quite damaged from the fire, others are in excellent condition. Facilities employees took care to clean several items before delivering things to the library. These items will be stored along with other pieces of Centenary history in the Taylor Memorial Library Archives.

regina music box plate close-up

This plate came from a Regina music box rescued from the fire. Listen to it play here

charred dish and knife

A plate and knife. Other dishes from this set have been cleaned.

tableware from pres. house

Dishes and a teacup from another set of plateware.

historical property plate

This plaque used to adorn the house.

Hundreds of hours of hard work were poured into this exhibit, and the Taylor Memorial Library is very pleased to be able to make it available to the Centenary community.

Whitney Lyceum

A History of the Whits from 1904

A History of the Whitney Lyceum

Whit Pin

The Whits Pin

Whits Title Page



The Whits' meeting room, 5th floor of "Old Main"

The Whits’ meeting room, 5th floor of “Old Main”

Created by: W. M. Trumbower, J. H. Stitzer, C.S. Benedict, H. H. Rusby & A. C. Van Syckle

Year Introduced: September 1874

Colors: Royal Purple and Gold

Secret Letters: V.N.A.F

Society Paper: The Lancet

Nickname: The Whits

The Whits of 1904

The Whits of 1904

Whitney Lyceum’s first Inauguration Programme was also the first public performance for the Institute! In the 1890s, Whitney Lyceum and Diokosophian combined Ann’s to decrease the time and money each society spent for their program.


In 1910, the school graduated its last coed class and the Whitney Lyceum held its last meeting after being in existence for 36 years.

A history of all Literary Societies of Centenary College can be found here


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.