Month: February 2015


Centenary College’s first president, George H. Whitney, is well-represented in material from our archives. So much information about his time at Centenary exists that it cannot, for practical reasons, be summed up in one post. Therefore, the information on Whitney has been split into three (slightly) briefer posts: his life, his presidency, and his impact.

Dr. Whitney was one of the most important people in Centenary’s long history. Had he not become president of Centenary Collegiate Institute (C.C.I.), there might not be a Centenary College today!

Reverend Doctor George Henry Whitney

Reverend Doctor George Henry Whitney

George Henry Whitney was born in 1830, and spent his early years in Washington, D.C. At 14, he was a bookkeeper and at 17, a reporter and editor for the Daily National Whig. In 1848 he began teaching and preparing himself for college. He opened his own ‘select’ school before becoming a student at Wesleyan Institute and later Wesleyan University. Whitney graduated from Wesleyan in 1858. The following year he was president of Macedon Academy and for two years after that, principal of Oneida Seminary.

In 1861 he entered the Newark Conference and for several years filled pastorates in and around New Jersey. Whitney accepted the presidency of Centenary Collegiate Institute in August 1869 and spent the next five years raising funds to build the school. In 1873, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was bestowed upon him by Wesleyan University. Centenary Collegiate Institute opened in September 1874, with Whitney at the helm. He held the title of president for twenty-six years, five years spent bringing the school into existence, and twenty-one years to actual administration. During his time as president, he inspired his students to strive for greatness in both academics and social graces. More will be said on this subject in a later post.

Dr. Whitney around 1874, when Centenary Collegiate Institute first opened.

Dr. Whitney around 1874, when Centenary Collegiate Institute first opened.

Dr. Whitney also organized the first C.C.I. reunion in 1878, four years after the school’s dedication. He chose Ocean Grove, his own yearly vacation spot, as the location for the reunion. This marked the first seaside reunion ever held in America by any Educational Institution. The reunion was a huge success and the school began holding reunions every five years.

The reunion of 1883

The reunion of 1883

In the 1880s Dr. Whitney’s health began to deteriorate, and by February of 1889 he was confined to a chair, where he ran the school while suffering excruciating pain. A serious operation three months later improved his health enough to continue on as president, but he would never fully recover. As his suffering intensified, he became unable to attend to his duties, and in March 1895 he resigned as president of C.C.I.

After taking time off to recuperate, Dr. Whitney accepted a place on C.C.I.’s Board of Trustees in March of 1900. One of his tasks was to help the Board build a new Main Building following the fire that destroyed the original building. In April of 1900 he was elected President Emeritus of Centenary Collegiate Institute by the Newark Conference. After the resignation of President McCormick in 1902, Dr. Whitney was honored to return to C.C.I. as interim president until newly appointed President Noble could join the administration. Dr. Whitney has the distinct privilege of graduating the first class of students in the Old Main Building AND the New Main Building.


Reverend Dr. Whitney, center top row, with a group of students.

Dr. Whitney “felt that his work was finished and hastened to his rest,” passing away on June 6th, 1913 (Custard, 135).

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


Ruth Ellen Scarborough was the first director of the Taylor Memorial Library after it opened in 1954. She worked at Centenary College from 1946 to 1982, nearly four decades! Her planning and guidance helped shape the library into what it is today.

Ruth Ellen Scarborough

Ruth Ellen Scarborough

Ruth Scarborough came to Centenary College in 1946, when it was an all-girls school called Centenary Junior College. She brought with her a B.S. in Education from Marywood College and a B.L.S. from Syracuse University, and earned her M.L.S. from Rutgers University while at Centenary.

Before Taylor Memorial Library was built, the college library was located in the Main Building, what is now called the Seay Administration Building. Shortly after Scarborough joined the staff at Centenary, the college administrators decided to update the library. Preliminary plans called for an addition to the existing library, but that idea evolved into the decision to build a new library, separate from the main building.

The college chose New York architect Jan Hird Pokorny to design the new building. After the initial plans were proposed, dozens of blueprints were suggested, altered, and discarded in favor of newer and better designs. Scarborough and Pokorny corresponded for over three years, exchanging letters filled with ideas and suggestions about the most suitable library design for Centenary Junior College. Miss Scarborough had well-defined ideas for the library and offered the architect input on everything from the building’s layout to the materials used for library furnishings. Her diligence ensured that the new library would meet Centenary’s needs.


Ruth Scarborough left her mark on the college through more than just the new library. Thanks to Miss Scarborough, Centenary Junior College’s library had its shelf list published in 1953 as an example of a model collection in the “Standard Catalogue for Junior College Libraries” (Remembering…). This was quite an achievement; only three libraries in the country were chosen for the catalogue. Ruth Scarborough was also class advisor for the classes of 1959 and 1966, and the 1959 Yearbook was dedicated to her.

Outside of Centenary College, she was an active member of statewide and national library committees and educational evaluation teams. The following is a partial list of her accomplishments:

  • The American Library Association (ALA): Secretary (1949-50), Vice Chairman (1951-52), Chairman (1952-53), and Director (1954-57) of the Junior College Libraries Section
  • The Association of College & Research Libraries: Executive Board (1964-68)
  • The New Jersey Library Association: two-time President (1951-52 and 1962-63) for the College and University section
  • Junior College Library Standards: member of an ad hoc committee which prepared guidelines for two-year college libraries
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools: served on numerous evaluating teams
  • consultant to several two-year colleges and the American Library Association

ruth posed2

Miss Scarborough remained at the college thirty-six years, retiring in 1982 as director of the Taylor Memorial Library Learning Resource Center. She was honored as Professor Emerita in library science upon retirement. She received the Van Winkle Award for her service to the college in 1991 and an honorary doctor of letters degree in 1996.

Ruth Scarborough with her nephew, journalist and author Chuck Scarborough.

Ruth Scarborough with her nephew, journalist and author Chuck Scarborough.

Scarborough was also active in the Hackettstown community. She “held prominent roles in several civic groups in the Hackettstown area” (Remembering…). She was also a volunteer librarian at the Hackettstown Community Hospital, a member of the hospital auxiliary, a founder of the Hackettstown Historical Society, and a member of the Panther Valley Ecumenical Ministry. In 1988 she was inducted into the Hackettstown Senior Hall of Fame, an organization established by the Hackettstown Regional Medical Center to recognize senior citizens who have made a “significant impact on the lives of others…through volunteerism” (HRMC Seniors).

She loved reading and traveling, and took a world tour by airplane in 1960. She visited “Hawaii, Japan, Formosa (Taiwan), Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Vietnam (Vietnam), Cambodia, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Burma (Myanmar), India, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Italy”(Returns). Ruth Scarborough passed away on December 12, 2001, but will always be in the “hearts and minds of the members of the Centenary community who were fortunate enough to know her” (Remembering…).


“HRMC Seniors.” Hackettstown Regional Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan 2015.<    


“Remembering Librarian and Professor Emerita Ruth Ellen Scarborough.” Centenary College AlumniUpdate Spring 2002: 7.


“Returns From World Tour.” Tribune [Scranton, PA] 21 Sept. 1960, sec. D: 34. Print.