THE FIRST STUDENTS OF CENTENARY

Our fall semester started about a month ago, and our new freshman have settled into new routines with ease. Just as our new students are looking forward to the next chapter of their lives, the first students at Centenary Collegiate Institute were also filled with anticipation about their futures. There were few schools in New Jersey in the 1870s, so many students were younger or older than traditional college students. On opening day, 108 students registered as boarders, and many others registered as ‘day students’. The first student to write her name in the original record book was a high school student from Orange, New Jersey named Flora Green.

A day student's tuition

Here is a bill from one of the first day students at CCI. According to this, ‘commuter’ tuition for the first term was seventeen dollars!

As they were registered, each student was asked his or her ‘aim’ in life. Female students expressed interest in becoming teachers, missionaries, and journalists. Some desired to ‘be good and do good’, and some were ‘undeclared’. The male students sought to become ministers, businessmen, farmers, physicians, teachers, and bankers. One student wanted to become an undertaker. Registrants also listed their ages; of the female students, the youngest was thirteen and the oldest, twenty-two. The male students ranged in age from only ten years old to thirty-two.

Summary of student population

A breakdown of the student population. Latin and Music were the most popular courses of study.

The first and only issue of the first student newspaper. The editor, Thomas J. Bass, was expelled during the first year.

The first student newspaper. Articles were devoted to President Whitney’s inaugural speech, the music program, and looking towards the future.

[ A quick aside: Students “were apparently very much impressed with the work of the music department for they devoted to it a very large proportion of space in the first publication called ‘The Scroll'” (Through Golden Years p. 34). The music program steadily grew and remained a popular course of study at Centenary for decades; The Scroll, however, fizzled out after one semester. The editor-in-chief was expelled before the year was out.]

After the students had all been registered, they were shown to their rooms. Students were in such awe of President George H. Whitney that he had to personally escort nearly every student to his or her own room. With all the students situated, the school year began and Centenary entered her first year as a functioning school.

Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 -1943. New York: Lewis
Historical Publishing Company, Inc, 1947. Print.

Centenary Collegiate Institute. (April 28, 2014). 1874 – 1885 Catalogs.

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