A letter from the Archives:

“Dr. Cummings [sic] said:

Back in 1902 one of our students at C.C.I. was Irene Foote who was and is a splendid athletic girl fond of sports including swimming. She liked to take a plunge in the finest swimming pool at C.C.I. The only trouble she had was to take a swim and get her hair dry for the next recitation. One day she said “I am going to fix that!” So she took a big pair of shears and cut off her beautiful long hair, then took her swim and when she came out she shook her head a couple of times and was ready for recitations – all but dressing. And if the styles of 1902 had been like those of 1927 her bathing suit would have been just about the right thing without any change at all, although the skirt might have been longer.

The next day six other girls who liked to swim cut off their hair, and the vogue of bobbed hair was started and has been going ever since. It spread in this way.

The next year Miss Foote married Mr. Castle and became Irene Castle Foote (that you have all heard about). These two, Mr. and Mrs. Castle, danced their ways into the hearts of every body here and abroad.”

This letter was dictated by Mrs. Annie Blair (Titman) Cummins in May 1950, regarding a story from her late husband, Dr. George Wyckoff Cummins. To learn more about them, click here.

There are some discrepancies about dates in the letter; Irene Foote was a student here in 1906, not 1902. Born in 1893, she was thirteen when she attended Centenary Collegiate Institute. At that age, she was probably a member of the high school academy and also a member of the Diokosophian Society. The other discrepancy is that Miss Foote married Mr. Castle the following year – they actually met in 1910.

These slight variations in time bring into question the validity of the letter; a recollection told by a husband to his wife and written down almost a decade after his death may contain some errors. We still enjoy the mystery this item brings and are very pleased to have found it.



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.

Academics are an incredibly important aspect of a college education (hopefully the most important!), but many students found that their most memorable moments were spent outside the classroom.

150.08 The RecreationAside from classes and educational pursuits, students spent their free time enjoying outdoor activities. In Centenary’s early years, students went hiking, skiing, horseback riding, etc. Horseback riding was very popular, and there was a Riding Club for students taking riding classes, and an Outing Club that regularly scheduled excursions to local stables for all students. Swimming was also a popular pastime. In the 1930s, Centenary started hosting a yearly interclass swim meet. Each class competed in events including the egg and spoon race and ‘swimming with arms alone’. The 1940s marked the beginning of the Aquatic Club, which promoted interest in swimming, life-saving, and water fun.

One of the earliest and most accessible sources of extracurricular entertainment for students was academic. Students joined societies to strengthen their elocution, performed music or sang in recitals, and joined clubs that furthered their educational interests. The music department was the institute’s largest in its earlier years, and there were many musical clubs for students – The Mandolin and Banjo Club, The String Glee Club, the C.C.I. Concert Band, and the C.C.I. Orchestra, which thrived for many years. Students in Chorus gave town concerts and even produced records. Many students enjoyed activities that would help develop professional skills: Students in the school’s radio program spent their time planning radio shows. The radio station was directed by a member of the faculty and staffed by students in radio and television programs.

Let’s not forget social activities! Students had many yearly events for students as a chance to get to know each other better and to unwind. The school held several dances a year, each hosted by a different class. They also created the Winter Carnival with a winter themed dance, skiing, snow sculpture making, sleigh rides, and concerts. The Ice Breaker at the start of the school year welcomed new students to Centenary, and the Songs on the Steps at the end of the school year bid farewell to graduating Seniors. Students found many activities to entertain themselves while they were at Centenary.




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.