Centenary University

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.

150.06 The Conflagration 1

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.

SILVER SERVICE TEA SETS

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University, the library archives staff is highlighting some of the less well known items in the archives—in this case, silver service tea sets from the early days of Centenary.

The collection includes a total of thirteen pieces from three different tea sets, each with its own distinct pattern or floral design. Altogether, there are four teapots, four sugar bowls, three creamers, and one serving tray.

Mapelwood

Birthday

Teapots and Silver tray used during a birthday tea

Two of these sets were likely used for “family-style” meals in Centenary’s dining hall and for informal teas held by senior class advisors such as Miss Breckenridge or “Brecky” as she was affectionately referred to by the students. While these more relaxed teas were held in the parlors and “taught some of the graces young ladies should have,” formal teas were also held throughout the early 1960s by President Seay (Custard, 1945, p. 236). These monthly birthday celebrations were held in The President’s House and surviving photographs offer a glimpse into the social culture of Centenary at that time. Photographs also reveal that one of the sets included a second teapot; the location of this item is currently unknown and was possibly lost in the fire of 2015. See and learn more about The President’s House here.

sara7

The third tea set belonged to Ruth Scarborough—the first director of the Taylor Memorial Library—and boasts an impressively etched “S” on each of its five pieces. While all pieces have a hexagonal base, the set’s two teapots of differing size are unique in their wooden handles. Ruth Scarborough worked at Centenary College from 1946 to 1982. See and learn more about her here.

 

Custard, L. R. (1947). Through golden years: 1867-1943. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.

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:

150-04-the-program

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.

 

 

DORMITORY SOCIETIES

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

Delta Nu Gamma

alpha-epsilon

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.

PERSONALITY PROFILES

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

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-thorsteinsson

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.

CURRENT LIBRARY PROJECTS

fall-japanese-zelkova

The fall color of the Japanese Zelkova.

The library staff has been working on a project to update Trees of Centenary, a 1990s dendrological* survey done by Dr. Lewis Parrish, the former department head of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Centenary.

trees-of-centenary-sitting

The tree cataloger and photographer consult the original Trees of Centenary.

Parrish’s book is a compilation of every tree on the Centenary campus, but that information is over twenty years old. The archives staff have taken on the task of updating Trees of Centenary to reflect the  foliage of the current campus. So far, the project has created an inventory of all trees on the north side of campus, including most of the trees listed in Dr. Parrish’s book. The south side of campus will be more challenging as there was no survey done of these trees, and complete identification will have to be done from scratch.

first-draft

An excerpt from the rough draft map of the Jefferson Lawn, south side.

How is this task being accomplished? First, every tree in Trees of Centenary was listed and separated by location. The campus was broken down into sections, and each section was given its own hand-drawn map. Then, staff members took the book and the maps and made, well, a mess (see the rough draft map at right). Each tree was numbered, plotted, and matched to a tree from the book. This proved to be difficult because some of the trees mentioned in the 1990s survey are now gone, claimed by disease or death, and new trees have been planted since the survey’s publication.

Realizing a more orderly system was needed, the rough draft map from each portion was input into excel spreadsheets, which became the basis of our new interactive map!

green-ash-in-fall

The fall color of the Green Ash.

This map shows the location of each tree and includes a description and photos, just like the original Trees of Centenary. 

There is still much to be done, and the library hopes to have the entire campus cataloged by Spring 2017. During the winter all the evergreens will be recorded while the remaining deciduous trees will be classified in Spring 2017. Staff will also be taking pictures of the trees in each season. This year’s fall color went by too quickly, but there’s always next year!

*Dendrological: adj., Having to do with the botanical study of trees and other woody plants.

SPOOK and SPECTRE

 

1908057Perfect for Halloween, here are several pictures of Spook and Spectre, a dormitory society from Centenary Collegiate Institute’s early days. It was organized in 1904 and disbanded in 1910 after Centenary became an all girls school.

Whether they were influenced by spiritualism/occultism or just wanted to be spooky is unknown. Enjoy these great ghoulish photos and happy haunting!

spook and spectre all