Centenary College, like many other institutions, has gone through times of both success and struggle. Its first 25 years can be counted as a time of great success. It was a source of great pride for everyone who had a hand in its creation.
Because the college was a member of a religious conference, yearly evaluations were administered to assess its progress. A committee of members of other conferences and churches would evaluate the college. Year after year Centenary received shining commendations for the high quality of its students, staff, and facilities.
The school received praise from other observers, too. From a June 1891 edition of The Hackettstown Gazette: “The school has been a success from its opening…The faculty is stronger, its standard is higher, its accommodations greater, [and] its facilities better than they have even been, and its graduates are taking rank in the higher educational institutions that reflects only credit upon their alma mater. It has won for itself a prominent place among the education institutions of the land, and holds that place by deserving it.” Everyone who visited the campus came to the same conclusion: the instructors were superior, the students high achieving, and the campus beautiful.
Centenary was made greater by the support of her friends. Alumni and other supporters offered the school gifts that outfitted a library and an infirmary. Monetary donations were also abundant; From 1885 to 1891, the school built (in order) a Ladies’ Gym, Lab Science Building, a new Laundry, ice-house, two summer houses, and a Men’s Gym.
Centenary was quickly filled to capacity and even had several ‘refusing’ years, where there were so many students applying that many had to be turned away. The only complaint about the Institute was that it was too small. Dr. Whitney always refused to expand the building; even though the school was prospering, he knew it wasn’t the right time to grow, and the end of the 1800’s proved him right. In 1893, America was thrust into a financial crisis, culminating in a severe economic depression. Two years later, Dr. Whitney was forced to resign after years of failing health. Finally, in 1899, a fire of unknown origin destroyed the Institute Building.
A weaker institution might have crumbled under these circumstances, but not Centenary. Her spirit was dampened but not extinguished. The early decades of the 1900’s tested the Institute’s perseverance and adaptability, but as always the school overcame its obstacles to enter another era of good times.