Opening Day for Centenary Collegiate Institute was quite an event for Hackettstown. For five years, residents watched an impressive building rise into the sky, half-believing it would ever be filled with students or even finished. On September 9, 1874, however, the residents of the town and thousands more would celebrate the opening of the school, and over one hundred students would be admitted for the first year of classes.
Very early on that day, President Whitney sat in the new building composing his inaugural address. He had been so busy in the preceding weeks that he had not found time to finish writing his speech. As the morning continued, people arrived from all over to witness the dedication ceremony. There was so much anticipation over the event that the President of the Morris and Essex Railroad furnished special excursion tickets and extra coaches were added to the existing rail schedule. President Whitney estimated an audience of five thousand people.
At 10 am, the ceremony commenced. The audience, seated under a giant circus tent on the school’s front lawn, listened to speeches by the Reverend Charles N. Sims and the Honorable Joel Parker, Governor of New Jersey. Newspapers wrote that the most distinguished body of people ever met in Warren County attended the ceremony. Afterwards, a great dinner was held, with the two rival bakers of Hackettstown each providing a cake. Nine hundred people were seated for dinner. Then an audience of seven hundred moved to the chapel to hear President Whitney’s address. Of the many points he mentioned, he stated that the school would be a place of sound learning, comprehensive education, and refinement. He suggested a motto for the new institute: “All done, and all well done”. To borrow a phrase from Leila Custard, “Centenary Collegiate Institute was off to an auspicious start.” (Custard, 51)
Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 -1943. New York: Lewis
Historical Publishing Company, Inc, 1947. 11- 51. Print.
Centenary Collegiate Institute. (April 28, 2014). 1874 – 1885 Catalogs.