This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

Centenary University is lucky to have so many people devoted to its success – this is as true now as it was 150 years ago. Several of these people have been profiled in this blog, and here are a few that you might want to revisit!

150-03-the-peoplePresident George Whitney – Here was a man who devoted his whole life to the institute; he campaigned tirelessly for the school to be opened, was its first president (and served the school for 26 years in that capacity!) and even after retiring he still maintained a close relationship with the Centenary community. He was a member of the Board of Trustees and was also appointed interim president in 1902 after the resignation of President McCormick. As the Class of 1884 said about him, “Every student was uplifted by his splendid leadership and his patient willing service. He inspired the highest and best in us.” Learn about him here, here, and here.

George Denman – “His life is gentle, and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might arise, and say to all the world: This is a man.” He was Director of Athletics, Latin Professor, House Master of the Boys’ Dormitory, and advisor for the dormitory society Delta Lambda Pi. He can also be credited with helping start Centenary’s yearbook in 1904. Professor Denman had a short tenure at Centenary – from 1903 to 1910. The school became all-girls in 1910, but had the school remained co-ed it’s certain he would have been a devoted employee and friend for years to come.  Hear more about his accomplishments here.

Ruth Scarborough – The first director of the Taylor Memorial Library, she worked at Centenary College from 1946 to 1982, nearly four decades! She was instrumental in the planning and design of Centenary’s library, tailoring it (no pun intended) to exactly fit the school’s needs. Ruth Scarborough was also Class Advisor for the classes of 1959 and 1966, and the 1959 yearbook was dedicated to her. Learn more about her here.

Professor Lewis Parrish –  Parrish came to Centenary in 1959 and was a member of the school’s faculty for more than 3 decades. He was professor/department chair of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for several years and spearheaded a publication listing all the plantings on campus called “Trees of Centenary”. He was head of the Science Club and received grants to continue studying genetics and biology while at the college (it was still called Centenary Junior College then). He was also very active in student affairs, participating in Faculty vs. Student sports like bowling and softball and advising one of the sororities. “Trees of Centenary” is a current archival project – learn more about it here and here!


After the fire of 1899, Centenary was in need of a new administration building. Members of the Board of Trustees were determined to rebuild and asked several architects to prepare plans and bids.

The man who was eventually awarded the contract was Oscar S. Teale, a prominent architect of churches and homes in the New Jersey and New York area. To limit the damage fire might pose in the future, he separated the north and south dormitories (for young men and women, respectively) from the main administration building, which still stands on the same footprint as the original school. From Jefferson Street the optical illusion is of a single, massive structure taking up an entire block.


Oscar Teale was also very interested in magic and was a good friend of Harry Houdini. Teale has written books about magic, one of which is in the collection of Centenary’s Taylor Memorial Library. When Houdini died, Oscar Teale served as one of his pallbearers and also designed Houdini’s cemetery monument in Queens, New York.



Above: Oscar Teale, Harry Houdini, and fellow magician Julius Zancig.

Left: Oscar Teale, Harry Houdini, and Harry’s wife Bess Houdini exposing a practice known as slate writing. Mediums used this method to allegedly receive messages from the dead.


On December 1, 1900 the cornerstone of the new building was laid by Dr. Whitney himself. The old cornerstone of the original building was placed beside it, so today one can visit the structure and see not one but two cornerstones, one dated 1869 and the other 1900.

2 cornerstones close up.jpg

By September 1901 the new buildings were put into use, even though not all construction had been completed. Years later the main building would be named in honor of Dr. Edward Seay who served as eighth president of Centenary from 1948 until 1976. Today the Seay Building is included in the National Register and The NJ Registry of Historic Places. – CBB

Cox, John. (2014). Haversat & Ewing Galleries auction starts January 25. Wild about Harry.

King, Robert R. (2006). Houdini & Bess w/ Oscar Teale exposing slate writing fraud. Houdini Tribute.





This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

When Reverend Vancleve proposed the location for the new school he also predicted his friend would be the first president – and the friend turned him down! The friend was Reverend Dr. George H. Whitney, who did accept the presidency a few years later and became one of Centenary’s most dedicated agents. Whitney and the Board of Trustees worked tirelessly to raise funds for the institution and looked forward to seeing it on its opening day.

150-02-the-dedicationThe dedication ceremony was held September 9th, 1874 and brought an estimated 5000 people to Hackettstown. After the dedication, lunch, and President Whitney’s inaugural address, the new students were registered for classes. Then came dinner and the first chapel service. Then came the time for the students to dedicate themselves to learning, and the staff to dedicate themselves to encouraging learning.

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

Welcome back! After a long winter break, the spring semester is now underway and this January, albeit cold, is just not the quite the same as years gone by here at Centenary.  One major difference this winter: not much snow!

Over the years, Centenary has always been a place to embrace the spirit of the current season, and winter has never been the exception.  For all those of you missing the snowy weather this year…here is a tribute to the winters of Centenary past!

Snow sculptures were also a common winter activity on campus and contests were often held to choose the best. Pictured below are some of the winners over the years:


Spilled Ink, January 1954


Spilled Ink, April 1960


Has anyone taken any snowy pictures of Centenary this winter?   Share your winter pics with us on Instagram!    @taylormemoriallibrary


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

150-01-the-dreamThe first major year for Centenary University was 1865. At the time, it was nothing more than a dream conceived by Reverend Crook S. Vancleve while taking a walk through a cornfield with Reverend George H. Whitney. Vancleve envisioned an institution at that very spot. It took nine long years and a lot of hard work to take the Institute from dream to reality. The school, which was named Centenary Collegiate Institute in 1866, received its charter in 1867 from the New Jersey Legislature and laid its cornerstone in 1869. Construction slowed as money became scarce, but the Board of Trustees remained dedicated to seeing the school finished. The school was finished and opened in 1874, five years to the day after the cornerstone was laid. To borrow a phrase from Leila Custard, “Centenary Collegiate Institute was off to an auspicious start.” (Custard, 51)

Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 -1943. New York: Lewis
Historical Publishing Company, Inc, 1947. 11- 51. Print.





Clubs come and go at Centenary – the same can be said at any educational institution. During Centenary Collegiate Institute’s early years, clubs fell into one of three categories: academics, sport, and fellowship. Of the first and second there is much written, but the third is perhaps the most mysterious. There is not much in the archives about these clubs – they were smaller and more intimate, and unfortunately each tended to last only a few years.

delta-lambda-pi-thumbnail“In the year nineteen hundred, a few kindred spirits, for the sake of obtaining a closer fellowship, organized themselves into the Delta Lambda Pi. The initiation of John Day and his contemporaries has been crowned with success. The torch of fellowship they lit has burned from year to year, warming many a heart brought within the scope of its cheery influence. The keynote of the society is brotherhood; not athletics, which belongs to the school in general, nor literary merit, cherished by the literary societies, but good fellowship.” (TGY)

The second boys’ society, established around 1904, was called “Spook and Spectre”.spook and spectre.jpg

The ladies also organized several dormitory societies for themselves. “Delta Nu Gamma” may have been the first ladies dorm society. Other ladies’ dorm societies included “Alpha Epsilon” and “Phi Delta Delta”.


Delta Nu Gamma


Alpha Epsilon

By 1911 the yearbook stopped including dormitory societies – in fact only a few clubs or societies were included and they were mostly academic. Now, dormitory societies as they originally existed live on only in Centenary’s memory.


Centenary University has always welcomed students from faraway lands. One of our first international students was Tsuna Akira Kuchiki, who went by Daniel. Kuchiki, of Tokyo, Japan, was present for the dedication of Centenary Collegiate Institute’s building in 1874 and graduated from the College Preparatory Classical Course in 1877. Since then hundreds of international students have furthered or completed their post-secondary education here.

A series of newspaper articles called “Personality Profiles” were written by the student newspaper, Spilled Ink, to introduce students to the rest of the Centenary community. Students would be interviewed and asked about themselves and what they thought of Centenary. Many of those students were international students. Here are some of their answers:

elga-hilferding-2Elga Hilferding, 1942

“Who doesn’t know our petite and cute little Rumanina girl? She has a lot of interesting things to tell us about her country. Yes, she was born in Rumania…Did I tell you Elga lived in Bucharest? She says it’s very modern, too, and they even get our movies there as soon as we do…Elga says the average American likes an easy life, going to parties, eating, and not working too hard. Doesn’t that sound just like us…Elga likes American schools, too, because we don’t have to wear an awful uniform as Rumanians do…Goodbye to you all for now from Elga. In Rumanian, it would be “La Revedere.”

Dora and Erna Oskardottir, 1943


Erna Oskardottir

“Dora and Erna were born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1924 and 1925, respectively…Upon their arrival at Centenary, Dora and Erna felt rather timid, but they soon learned that Centenary had many good friends awaiting them. Though it was only last week they started taking English lessons, they have made great strides in learning our language. Both girls intend to come back to Centenary next fall…Centenary welcomes you, Dora and Erna, and we hope you will enjoy your stay with us, as much as we are enjoying having you.”

genevieve-diazGenevieve Diaz, 1943

“In June, 1941, five feet two inches and ninety-six pounds of Genevieve Diaz (plus luggage) came to the United States from her native land, Puerto Rico…Jenny is very fond of American music, but she says she missed the ‘real’ South American rhumba…Reading is one of [her] favorite hobbies along with the music and horse-back riding, but she professes no great liking for ice skating and other winter sports. This is undoubtedly due to Puerto Rico’s milder climate…Genevieve is enjoying her stay at Centenary, but she is also looking forward to attending a larger institution. Centenary offers Genevieve best wishes for her continued success.”

Thorunn Thorsheimson and Josephian Johannessen, 1944


Thorunn Thorsheimson

“These girls left their home in Reyhjavik [sic], the capital of Iceland, on July 14th…Prior to their arrival in this country, Jossa and Thorunn had never had occasion to speak English…They certainly are doing well since they came here…Quite by chance it was discovered that both Thorunn and Jossa are greatly interested in our America music, both popular and classical. They never heard much of this music until our American soldiers arrived in Iceland…The girls are rapidly acquiring a taste for our American dishes. The diet in Iceland consists chiefly of meat and potatoes. Fruit and vegetables are available only when a ship from our country carries such to them. Neither Jossa nor Thorunn expect to return home until they have completed their education here at Centenary. Let’s all hope that their college career in the United States is a most successful and happy experience.”

Foreign Exchange Students, 1945

personality profile triptych.jpg‘ “Martica Urrutia is a vivacious brunette from Cuba. She and Ninita Wood [sic] usually drive us mad at the dinner table by a confusing code they use. It goes something like this – ‘Pancho’. ‘Carl.’ Ninita has been here in school since she was ten years old and quite proudly says, ‘I am an American!’ From Holland we have with us Yvonne Goetz. She had lived in South America – principally Brazil and Venezuela – for the past ten years and is definitely an accomplished linguist, speaking English, Dutch, German, French, Portuguese and Spanish fluently. Personally, I think Yvonne’s heart really lies in Venezuela...And then there is Alyce ‘Sissie’ Robertson from Brooklyn. We are all learning to understand her dialect.” ’

So there are a few of our students from other lands! Let’s hope they enjoyed being at Centenary, as much as we enjoyed having them. Centenary will learn to appreciate lives lived in different parts of the world, especially with the presence of our foreign neighbors.’

*Ninita Wood is spelled Nenita Wood in the 1947 Yearbook.

“Personality Profiles: Elga Hilferding.” Spilled Ink 1942: 12. print.

“Personality Profiles: Icelandic Girls enjoying C.J.C.” Spilled Ink 20 February 1943: 1. print.

“Student from Puerto Rico enjoying stay at C.J.C.” Spilled Ink 15 December 1943: 1. print.

“Icelandic Students.” Spilled Ink 30 September 1944: 2. print.

“Four Foreign Students here.” Spilled Ink 1 November 1945: 3. print.