Centenary College

THE CONFLAGRATION(S)

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 has faced many trials throughout its 150 years, including two fires that occurred over a century apart. Both fires were of unknown origin.

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THE GREAT FIRE OF 1899

The first fire broke out in the original Main Building on October 31st, 1899. The Main Building was one of only a few buildings on campus and housed all of Centenary Collegiate Institute’s dormitories and most of its classrooms and meeting areas. It was built between 1869 and 1874.

Shortly after midnight, a night watchman discovered a fire in the basement and, being unable to fight the flames himself, awoke the institute’s bookkeeper. The two men, joined by three professors roused by the smell of smoke, found the basement fully engulfed. They quickly set out to awaken the building’s occupants, and within minutes, all were awake and exiting the building.

Although the building was destroyed, there were no casualties or injuries. Centenary created an interim program to allow students to finish the school year, and ran a day school while a new building was being constructed.

THE PRESIDENT’S HOUSE

On January 7th, 2015, Centenary University (then Centenary College) suffered another great loss – the President’s House. The President’s House was actually assembled from pieces of an earlier house, an 1890s mansion that originally stood in Morristown. It was moved in the early 1900s by the Hoffman Family, who rebuilt it and lived there for the next thirty-five years. Centenary (Centenary Junior College) purchased the house in August 1945, and turned it into the president’s residence and working space.

Fire departments were alerted to the fire at 4:45 PM, and over 22 different agencies responded to offer their help. Responders to the scene were plagued by bitterly cold temperatures and intense winds that thwarted their rescue efforts. They battled the flames until well after midnight, but the house was a total loss. The president at the time, President Barbara-Jayne Lewthwaite, did not use the house as a residence, so it was unoccupied when the fire started and there were no casualties. Immediately afterwards, plans were made to rebuild the house, and construction is underway. Centenary looks forward to using the new house once it is completed.

THE PROGRAM

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.

The school has evolved greatly since it started in 1867. Centenary Collegiate Institute, as it was known in the beginning, taught high school and college preparatory courses. There were two college programs – one for men and one for women. When the school opened in 1874, there were ten basic departments of instruction:

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Read more about the original classes here!

After the Fire of 1899 destroyed the main building, Centenary ran a day school focusing on college preparatory classes while a new building was being constructed. The institute became an all-girls’ school in 1910, and in 1929 introduced a two-year college degree program. During that time, the College Preparatory School offered programs in general academics, Home Economics, and Music, and the Centenary Junior College was equivalent to the first two years of a standard college course. CJC did so well that in 1940 the Preparatory School was discontinued. The school remained a junior college until 1956, when it adopted the name Centenary College for Women. CCW offered a number of ‘pre-‘ college programs (pre-nursing, pre-occupational therapy) that would give students an introduction to a four-year degree. By the 1970s, the school offered a number of Associate degrees, as well as Bachelor degrees in early childhood and elementary education (B.A.), general studies (B.A.), performing arts (B.F.A.), and medical technology (B.S.).

The school changed its name to Centenary College and started admitting men. It also started increasing its four-year degree programs and introduced graduate degrees. The College is now a University and continues to expand its degree programs.

 

 

PROFESSOR GEORGE E DENMAN

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Denman in 1905

“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.”

These words of appreciation were said about a man who came to Centenary Collegiate Institute (C.C.I.) in 1903 and quickly earned the admiration and respect of every student. He was a teacher of Latin, Director of Athletics, House Master of the Boys’ Dormitory, and a friend to all who knew him.

George Edward Denman’s dedication to his athletes led ‘green’ teams to victory year after year. Although his specialty was football, having played for Williams College and Columbia University before becoming an athletics coach, his indomitable spirit commanded Centenary’s sports teams to greatness. Football, basketball, baseball, track – every sport excelled under his instruction.

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Professor Denman, Togo the mascot, and the 1907 Football Team

Denman can also be credited with helping start Centenary’s yearbook. The Athletic Association’s success created a need to produce a yearly historical record intended to emphasize the “prowess of C.C.I.” (Custard, 113). Student Harry H. Runyon suggested creating a school annual and, with the support of Professor Denman, the Athletic Association created the 1904 Hack, the college’s first yearbook. Had it not been for the accomplishments of the Athletic Association (guided by Denman), the yearbook would not have been established so early in Centenary’s history.

Professor Denman stayed at Centenary only 7 years but did enough for the school in those few years to fill a lifetime. He was remembered fondly by his students and will always be remembered by those who treasure Centenary’s past.

THE ART PRIZE

Few details are known about the Art Prize at Centenary College, but what is known is that each year a distinguished piece of student artwork was awarded with the title of Art Prize Winner.

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Art Prize of 1959 – Barbara Candell, “Metrepole”

This painting also won fourth place at the Fifth New Jersey College Art Exhibit at Hunterdon County Art Center in 1959.

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Art Prize of 1927 – Deborah May Lloyd, “Chinese Horse”

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Art Prize of 1927 – signed “deb”

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Art Prize of 1962 – Barbara Joan Weingard, “Dancing Figures”

Many of the winning paintings used to hang in the entrance hall to the President’s House. Now several of them are housed in the Taylor Memorial Library Archives.

 

TO MRS. MONTELL

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Facsimile of Oscar Wilde Photograph

“To Mrs. Montell, my uncle’s old and loved friend from Oscar Wilde, January 26, 1882, Baltimore, Thursday.”

Many items have been donated to the Taylor Memorial Library over the years but not all of them seem directly related to telling Centenary College’s history. A number of items in the archives were donated by faculty, alumni, or other members of the Centenary community, so there are many objects that once held personal significance to the donor, or were donated by someone with personal significance to Centenary. This photograph of Oscar Wilde, presented to the college in 1958, is one such item, seemingly out of place among the yearbooks, class photos and other ‘Centenariana’ stored in the archives.

It came to Centenary College through Dr. H. Graham DuBois, a member of Centenary’s faculty for 33 years. He was a poet and playwright like Wilde, an English professor at Centenary College for Women from 1929 to 1963, and the Chairman of the C.C.W. Division of Humanities from 1947 to 1959. The Mrs. Montell of the inscription was his grandmother, Mrs. Charles Montell, who had been a friend of Wilde’s uncle, Ledoux Elgee.When Wilde visited Baltimore on a lecture tour of America, Mrs. Montell invited him to tea as a courtesy to a family friend. He accepted her invitation and later sent the photograph to thank her.

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Dr. DuBois, left, and Dr. Seay, president of the college

Dr. DuBois donated the framed photograph of the English poet and playwright to the college in 1958. It was displayed in the library for a while but was eventually placed in the archives for preservation.

“Dr. DuBois Gives Picture of Oscar Wilde to C.C.W.” Spilled Ink 25 3 1958: 1. Print.

A YEAR OF SONG

            a year of song

Small hints of the influence of music at Centenary College are still visible around campus – the organ in the Whitney Chapel and pianos in the Ferry Building and the Seay Building are two reminders of the importance of music at Centenary. The College has a rich musical history that helps outline the value of tradition in togetherness and school spirit. In Ms. Leila Roberta Custard’s Through Golden Years it is written:

            “Spontaneous and exuberant as was this student life, there was still a noticeably conscious effort to achieve better school spirit…Periodically the editorials contained pleas that the better students exert continuous influence to keep the tone of the school high” (Custard, 120).

            Music played a leading role in how school spirit was expressed, and school-wide events were full of cheers, yells, and songs.

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Students and faculty alike expressed their pride for their school by writing songs for different occasions, and in 1910 these songs were collected for a music book called A Year of Song. Published by Carl F. Price, a graduate of Centenary Collegiate Institute, class of 1898, and a writer of songs and hymns, it articulated the experiences of decades of Centenary College alumni.

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The songs were arranged to correspond with the school year, starting in September with a song the school still uses today – the “Alma Mater”, written by Harry Runyon in 1903. This song has stood the test of time, and proves that it is still as significant now in 2016 as it was over one hundred years ago. We hope students will continue to sing it for one hundred years more.

THE EQUINE PROGRAM

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A riding class c.1920

For almost a century, Centenary College has been involved in equine studies. In the 1920s – 1950s, Centenary had classes for horseback riding, and also offered riding as an extracurricular activity. There was a Riding Club for students taking riding classes, and the Outing Club regularly scheduled excursions to local stables for all students. In 1957, Centenary College held its first horseshow. A two-year Horsemaster program was added to the curriculum in 1973 and expanded to a four-year program in 1977. Centenary acquired a new Equine Facility in 1982, and retitled the horsemaster program to be called Equine Studies two years later. The Equine Studies program has become one of the most well known equestrian programs in the nation.

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Centenary’s first horse show, 1957

In 1999, the college broke ground on their new Equine Center. The new center is located on 65 acres of land in Long Valley and features 3 barns, 3 riding areas, and a hunt field. The equine program boasts an award-winning Equine Studies Program and nationally ranked riding teams. Equine students can earn an associate or bachelor degree in Equine Studies, and students in other degree programs can minor in Equine Studies. The Equestrian Center also offers a therapeutic riding program called TRAC (Therapeutic Riding at Centenary).

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2014 IHSA National Champions

The school has several different competitive riding teams: ANRC (American National Riding Commission), IDA (Intercollegiate Dressage Association), IHSA, (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association), and a Hunter/Jumper team. Centenary riding teams consistently rank at the top of intercollegiate riding competitions. The ANRC team twice hosted the National Collegiate Championships, with the National Team earning the Reserve Championship and the Novice Team winning the Novice Championship. In 2013 The National Team won the Championship. The IDA team finished fifth in the Inaugural Intercollegiate Dressage Association National Finals in 201, and has qualified for the National Finals every year since. The IHSA team won the IHSA Hunter Seat National Champion three times between 2009 and 2014, and won the coveted Cacchione Cup several times (1997, 2009, 2011, and 2013). The Hunter/Jumper team competes in the Garden State Horse Show, the largest “AA” horse show in New Jersey – AA being the rating given to the most prestigious of United States Equestrian Federation shows.

 

The Equine Studies Program is thriving today and we look forward to seeing what our students can accomplish for years to come!