John E. Andrus, the son of a Methodist minister, was an American businessman and investor who made a fortune in chemicals, minerals, and land deals. His nickname, the “Millionaire Straphanger”, came from his habit of riding the subway when he had business in New York, part of a lifelong habit of thrift. He served as mayor of Yonkers, New York and in the U.S. Congress.
Three of Andrus’ children (he had eight or nine altogether – – depending on which source one uses) attended Centenary College: May D., William L., and John E. Andrus. May Andrus met William H. Taylor at Centenary where they became interested in each other in their second year, sat opposite one another in the dining hall, and were ”steadies” socially. May and William both graduated in the Class of 1890 and were wed in 1895.
In 1917 John E. Andrus established the SURDNA Foundation (Andrus, spelled backward). The Surdna Foundation made a gift of $125,000 for a new library – – at the time it was the largest single gift ever presented to Centenary College. This donation, along with others, made possible the building of the Taylor Memorial Library, named for both May and her husband, William, who also bequeathed a portion of his estate to the college – – having expressed his wish that Centenary build a memorial building in the name of his wife.
The library’s construction began in 1953 and was completed in 1954. Dr. William P. Tolley, Chancellor of Syracuse University was the speaker at the formal dedication exercises and stated that the Taylor Memorial Library would be “the heart of the College . . . where intellectual curiosity is aroused.”
The Surdna Foundation is still in existence today.