Month: February 2016


When Centenary College opened in 1874, it didn’t have an Athletic Department. It didn’t even use the term ‘athletics’. In those days, the students called it ‘physical advancement’ and later, ‘gymnastics’. There were no gym classes, no gymnasium, and no sports. While the Board of Trustees raised money to build a gymnasium, the students kept themselves active with several clubs. The ladies played croquet while the gentlemen created a Cricket Club and a Base Ball Club. Within a year the gentlemen had their own gymnasium, and the ladies enjoyed ‘light gymnastics in a suitable apartment’. The ladies gymnasium was built in 1885. Athletic GymnasiumCCI Girl's Gym

CCI football team 1898-99

The 1898-99 C.C.I. Football Team

In the mid-1890s, President Ferguson made athletics a notable feature of Centenary Collegiate Institute life. In June of 1896, a “Director of the Young Men’s Gymnasium” was added to the faculty. The school laid out a running track, baseball diamond, football field, 11 tennis courts, and croquet and quoit grounds. The men’s athletic teams included baseball, track, tennis, and football. Although women played basketball and tennis, their teams were not always included in the school’s Athletic Association. Professor Denman, the Athletic Coach from 1903 – 1910, revolutionized men’s athletic. He also supported the idea that the Athletic Association should create an annual publication to record and preserve Centenary’s athletic achievements. The result was the Hack: Centenary’s first yearbook.

After 1910, the school became a women’s college and a new Athletic Association was formed. This organization started off with 3 basketball teams, a field hockey team, a swimming team, and a track team. From the tradition Athletic Association came the Women’s Athletic Association, whose goal was to promote an interest in all recreational activities. The W.A.A. sponsored competitions, clubs, and events to encourage physical education. In 1989, the school became coed again and men’s sports were welcomed back. Another addition to athletics was a mascot! Centenary’s sports hadn’t had a mascot for several years but in 1990 the school chose the Cyclone as our mascot.

Today the Athletic Department is thriving, offering several sports for men and women.


Centenary College used to hold dances all the time. One dance that used to be very popular was the Sweetheart Ball, the yearly Valentine’s Day dance.

Feb 18 1950

The Sweetheart Ball of 1950

The first mention of a Valentine’s dance was in 1939, but it appears to earn the name Sweetheart Ball sometime after that. The name Sweetheart Ball is first found in a 1943 issue of the student newspaper. The Freshmen class hosted the dance, where girls danced until 1:00 and then enjoyed a midnight snack in the Little Theatre.

Feb 14 1953_1

Two Sweethearts in 1953

The next year, the Sweetheart Ball was given by a committee of girls from all the Centenary sororities and called the Inter-Sorority Sweetheart Ball. Many of the girls went to the dance with blind dates – boys who came from surrounding colleges and stayed in Hackettstown hotels for the weekend. There was a joint vocal concert by the boys from nearby Stevens College and the girls of Centenary, followed by some skating and sledding. The group then ate dinner and went to the Sweetheart Ball, where one of the girls was crowned the “Queen of Hearts”. Over the next few years, a group of three to five girls called the Valentine’s Court was also crowned.

Sweetheart 6.jpg

President Seay dancing with that year’s Queen

Starting in the 1950s, the Sweetheart Ball was no longer the feature of Inter-Sorority Weekend. There are fewer references to it in the student newspaper, only printing a picture of Centenary’s President Seay crowning that year’s queen. The dance was no longer the Valentine’s celebration it was, but and eventually stopped being called the Sweetheart Ball. Fewer references still exist in the 1970s newspapers, and in 1989 the Inter-Sorority Ball was canceled due to lack of interest. There were no further references to Inter-sorority Weekend or the Sweetheart Ball. Centenary has just recently introduced a new sorority – maybe they might consider starting this up again!

Sweetheart 2

A group of merrymakers at the Sweetheart Ball