“And NOW that the new great splendid building was at the end of its first year of history, behold I was the President, and graduating the first class in the NEW building! It was a great honor! A great coincidence, strange indeed!”
These were the words of Centenary’s first president, the Rev. George H. Whitney, who was re-elected to serve as interim president in 1902 after the previous president, President Charles McCormick, resigned to return to the ministry. While the next president had already been selected, he could not begin his duties until July. Therefore, Whitney only held the office for 3 months, from April to July.
That next president was Dr. Eugene Allen Noble, a graduate of Centenary Collegiate Institute, class of 1885, married to his Centenary sweetheart, Lillian Osborne, class of 1887, and a member of her Board of Trustees from 1898 to 1902. Dr. Noble was very devoted to his Alma Mater and entered his presidency with great enthusiasm. He chose not to make sweeping changes of Centenary’s curriculum or communities; rather, he decided to develop and expand existing programs and interests.
Of the many enhancements made under President Noble, the most long-lasting and impressive were the expansion of the athletics program, social and academic clubs, and the literal expansion of the campus.
The introduction of Professor Denman as director of athletics brought with it a greater interest in sports and recreation. This led to the development of an athletic annual, the Hack Yearbook, which was first published in 1904. Football, Baseball, and Track were Centenary’s three major sports, and the earliest yearbooks dedicated many pages to the exploits of The Athletic Association. Shortly after this, girls’ basketball was introduced.
SOCIAL AND ACADEMIC CLUBS:
Though the literary associations at Centenary were already well established by this point, they continued to flourish. Their yearly “Ann’s”, anniversary programs with theatrical performances and refreshments, became so elaborate they went from being individual programs, to brother/sister programs (one fraternity and one sorority), to being one combined program. Other clubs that flourished at this time were the YMCA, YWCA, Current Topics Club, and a group of mysterious secret clubs called Dormitory Societies (examples include ‘Spook and Spectre‘ and ‘Knife, Fork and Spoon’). At one point, students had so many diversions with their clubs that they asked their professors to ‘make the examinations as light as possible!” (Custard, p115).
The institution purchased 120 acres of land in two plots (a 118 acre plot located 500 yards from campus, and a 2 acre plot adjoining campus). This gave the school more space for a School Farm as well as land for athletic fields. They also constructed a dam to give the school its own lake.
President Noble did quite a lot in the 6 years he was president, and all with a cheerful heart. The institution expanded in size and standing, and his abilities as a financier brought the school out of serious debt. In 1908, he was offered the presidency of the Woman’s College of Baltimore and felt that it was his time to move on. Though he left Centenary as President, he remained a devoted student and member of Centenary’s community.
Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 – 1943. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1947. Print.