Month: June 2016



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.

Smooth Course Class of 1886.jpg

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.



Swim Meet vs Fairleigh Feb 10, 1964

Swim Meet, 1964

Swimming was once a popular pastime for the students of Centenary College. From swim classes to the Aquatic Club, there were plenty of opportunities for our students to get in the pool!

old swimming pool

The original swimming pool

The original swimming pool was built in the Autumn of 1908 and opened in November of the same year. The pool was a gift of George J. Ferry, President of the Centenary Collegiate Institute Board of Trustees. It was attached to the gymnasium, later remodeled into the Ferry Arts and Music Building. In 1961 a new swimming pool was built adjoining the Student Union Building, which was located on the site where the John M. Reeves Student Recreation Center now stands. Named the George J. Ferry Natatorium, that swimming pool is still in use today.

The pool was just used for swim classes and life-saving courses until the 1930s, when the school starting hosting a yearly interclass swim meet. Each class of girls elected several of their best swimmers to compete in fun events including the egg and spoon race and ‘swimming with arms alone’.


Not exactly synchronized yet, but they’re working on it

The 1940s marked the beginning of the Aquatic Club, which promoted interest in swimming, life-saving, and water fun. The Aquatic Club’s first show, called “The Aqua Rhythms of 1946”, featured several original acts and costumes created by the performers themselves. The shows gained a reputation for greatness and quickly became a delightful yearly event.

Aquatic Club Water Show May 14-6, 1969

The Aquatic Show, 1969

 Professor of Physical Education Bette Rhoads, herself a holder of several state American Athletic Union swimming and diving titles and former National Junior High Board Diving Champion, coached the swim teams and synchronized swimming team from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The Aquatic Club disappeared sometime between 1977 and 1981, and the swim team disappeared about a decade later. The swimming pool still gets plenty of use, though – Centenary offers pool hours for our students as well as swimming lessons and open programs for members of the local community.