A Historical Sketch of Rutgers University
A Historical Sketch of Rutgers University*
by Thomas J. Frusciano, University Archivist
- Title Page
- Section 1
- Section 2
- Section 3
From Queen's to Rutgers College
The change of name from Queen's to Rutgers College can be attributed in large part to Philip Milledoler, the man who succeeded Livingston as professor of theology in the seminary and who was soon elected by the trustees as president of the college in 1825. It was in Milledoler's parish in New York City that Colonel Henry Rutgers served as elder. A devoted member of the Reformed Dutch Church, president of its Board of Corporation, and a wealthy bachelor who was inclined to support benevolent causes, Rutgers epitomized those Christian qualities held in such high esteem by the Synod and the College Trustees. While changing the name of the college in Henry Rutgers' honor, the Synod and trustees were also signaling a break from an uneven past and the start of a new and promising era.
The revival of Rutgers College was the result of several factors, two of which stand out: successful fund-raising, and collaboration between the trustees and the Synod. The sale of the building had cleared the college of its debt and the Synod immediately expended funds to complete most of the interior rooms of the building and perform much-needed alterations to the exterior and the college grounds. The Synod, at the urging of the trustees, embarked on a campaign to secure funds for an additional professorship in theology and established a committee to look into the possibility of revitalizing the college. Prompted by the success of a second lottery that yielded $20,000 in 1825, the trustees reached agreement with the Synod on a plan to commence instruction. Under this new Covenant, Rutgers College opened its doors to thirty students on November 14, 1825. To lead the college in this new beginning, the trustees turned to Milledoler, Professor of Didactic Theology, a member of the Queen's College Trustees since 1815, and close friend of Henry Rutgers, who also served for a short time as a Trustee of the College.
Rutgers College blossomed under Milledoler's leadership and much of its early success was due to its small but able faculty. Robert Adrain, a noted mathematician who had taught in Queen's College from 1809 to 1813, returned to New Brunswick from Columbia College to become the Professor of Mathematics. In 1827 he was succeeded by Professor Theodore Strong, a prominent mathematician who had published extensively in scholarly journals and contributed to several learned societies. William C. Brownlee, also a former instructor in the college in 1815, who had left to become minister of the Presbyterian Church and master of a classical academy at Basking Ridge, assumed the position of Professor of Languages. After Brownlee was called to the Reformed Dutch Church in New York in 1826, his place was taken by the Reverend David Ogilby, a Episcopal minister who taught the Greek and Latin and ancient geography. Joining Milledoler in the seminary were the Reverend John DeWitt, who had been Professor of the Sacred Languages since 1823, and the Reverend Selah Strong Woodhull, who received an appointment to the new endowed professorship in ecclesiastical history, church government, and pastoral theology. After Woodhull died in 1826, the Synod and trustees appointed the Reverend James Spencer Cannon, who for the previous thirty years had been minister of the church at Six Mile Run.
The curriculum offered by this eminent faculty during Milledoler's presidency followed a prescribed course of Greek and Latin languages and literature, and mathematics in the first two years and a broadened and flexible curriculum that included philosophy, literature, and political economy during the third and fourth years. In 1830, with the appointment of Professor Lewis Caleb Beck, students in the upper classes received for the first time lectures in geology, mineralogy, and chemistry. The senior class course in moral philosophy integrated the entire curriculum by "relating all subjects to higher general laws of nature." The faculty assumed responsibility for the daily operations of the college. They met twice a week and deliberated over policy decisions, the curriculum, entrance and course examinations, registration, grading, and student discipline. They stood "in loco parentis" to the students, but the non-residential nature of Rutgers College made discipline uneven. Rules and regulations, previously published in 1810 as the Laws of Queen's College, governed the students' behavior within the halls of Old Queen's and their conduct in the City of New Brunswick. The faculty expended an enormous amount of time during their meetings on such matters as tardiness, inattention in class, or absence without permission from chapel or recitations.
Enrollment in the college slowly increased over the next several years. Students came predominantly from Dutch families who resided in New York and New Jersey. Once in New Brunswick they secured rooms in respectable boarding houses and formed an integral part of the community. Students formed their own associations that focused their educational and social experiences. The predominant organization established during Milledoler's presidency and continued through the nineteenth century was the literary society. In 1825, Rutgers students established two literary societies, Peithessophian and Philoclean, which became the center of social and intellectual life in the college during the nineteenth century. Most students belonged to one or the other. Members engaged in competitive orations, essays, prose and poetry selections, reported on current affairs, and debated significant topics of concern. The debate allowed students to sharpen their oratorical skills by drawing on their knowledge acquired from classroom recitations and their own independent reading. Each of the two literary societies possessed a library more extensive than the college's own collections. The literary societies helped prepare students for their future roles in public life; together with the prescribed classical curriculum, they contributed to a complete educational system that was intellectually rigorous, broad in scope, and well-suited to the character and interests of the individual student.
The second revival of Rutgers College commenced with enthusiastic optimism and showed great promise for the future. The college had secured an able faculty, adequate facilities, and renewed leadership, both within the college and the Synod. Finances remained a problem but the trustees were willing to solicit additional subscriptions among the church congregations to meet salary obligations and operating expenses. The trustees and Synod enjoyed a relatively peaceful coexistence through 1832 but were soon entangled in controversy that was to last for over a decade. At the center of the dispute was the relationship of the college and the Theological Seminary. The ensuing battle resulted in a move toward establishing the independence of the college from the church but also brought about the resignation of Philip Milledoler as president of Rutgers College.
Beginning in 1833, and several times thereafter, the Synod complained that the theological professors had become overburdened with their teaching responsibilities within the college and proposals were offered to sever the connection established between the college and the seminary by withdrawing from the Covenant of 1825. By 1840, the Synod and trustees had reached an agreement whereby the trustees were to elect a new president without approval from the church and to govern its own affairs. The Synod guaranteed the trustees use of Old Queen's for college instruction and also tuition fees from those students supported by two beneficiary funds previously secured by the Reverend Livingston for support of deserving theological students. The theological professors would continue to provide instructional assistance.
Milledoler found himself the source of dissension throughout the decade of controversy with the Synod. He resigned the presidency of Rutgers College on July 2, 1839 but agreed to continue in that capacity until a suitable replacement could be secured. He remained in office for another year and continued teaching in the Theological Seminary until 1841, when he returned to New York City to devote the remaining years of his life to his family, his church, and his city.
Abraham Bruyn Hasbrouck, chosen by the trustees in 1840, was the first layman to hold the office of President of Rutgers College. During his administration the college moved closer toward establishing independence from the Church. The paucity of finances continued to plague the institution, but the college was able to make some progress. The faculty increased to three full-time professors and five part-time instructors. Modern languages and expanded scientific instruction were added to the curriculum, complementing the traditional classical offering. The theological professors provided instruction in moral philosophy, evidences of Christianity, logic, and mental philosophy. In 1841 a "Scientific or Commercial Course" was introduced to accommodate students who desired specialized training; those students were awarded a certificate upon completing their studies. The course was offered through 1864, when the Rutgers Scientific School was established. Other changes took place. In 1841, the college erected a small house for the President and his family to the east of Old Queen's on a plot of land leased from the Synod. Van Nest Hall was completed in 1848 and soon became home to the two literary societies, the geological museum and chemical laboratory of Professor Lewis C. Beck. The literary societies flourished in the 1840s but were soon challenged in their supremacy by the emergence of "secret societies," or Greek-lettered fraternities. Delta Phi, the first fraternity established at Rutgers in 1845, was soon followed by Zeta Psi in 1848, Delta Upsilon in 1858, and Delta Kappa Epsilon in 1861. The existence of these societies created animosity among alumni, whose loyalty remained with the literary societies and who sought to banish the fraternities from the college. The controversy between the literary and secret societies placed the trustees and alumni at odds with the faculty and students. Other student activities included the first venture into student publishing in 1842 with the short-lived Rutgers Literary Miscellany. Students also began to publish the annual college catalog.
In the midst of this thriving student life, the college failed to prosper to the trustees' expectations. The number of students in attendance declined to a low of sixty-five in 1850. Relations between the trustees and the Synod, amicable throughout most of the decade, once again deteriorated and the trustees suggested repossessing the building and campus for the college. The complete separation of the college from the Reformed Dutch Church was not to occur for over a decade. In July 1849, Abraham Hasbrouck resigned from the presidency of Rutgers College. He remained in office until April 1850, when the college secured the appointment of Theodore Frelinghuysen.
The Trustees of Rutgers College looked upon the sixty-three year old Frelinghuysen with admiration and respect, but also with a sense of optimism for the future of the college. Enrollment of students had declined over the past decade, and the problem of obtaining adequate resources persisted. The college's endowment in 1850 amounted to $40,000, but the trustees were forced to borrow from the principal to meet construction costs for the President's house and Van Nest Hall. They had set a goal to raise $100,000 and looked to innovative methods to raise the funds. One was the sale of perpetual scholarships to individuals or groups. This was a common method among colleges to raise money in the nineteenth century. Agents were also hired to solicit subscriptions for the college, but in the case of both the scholarships and solicitation, the results were inadequate--by 1862 only $35,000 had been raised. There appeared among the public great apathy to the college, and the trustees placed the blame on the faculty. By 1859, all were replaced except Professor George H. Cook, who had joined the faculty in 1853. In an effort to stimulate interest in the college among the students, individual trustee members created separate prize funds to be awarded at Commencement to students for distinguished work in composition, natural sciences, classical studies, and mathematics.
Curriculum changes were few during these years. A new professorship in English Language and Literature was added in 1860, but modern languages were temporarily eliminated. Frelinghuysen lectured on international and constitutional law and gave the senior course in moral philosophy and rhetoric. Classical training prevailed at Rutgers during these years, to the delight of its president. Frelinghuysen had advocated an emphasis on the classics in the college as a mechanism for inducing common values and instilling a sense of individual autonomy in those students who were to assume leadership roles in a democratic society. "As the term imports," Frelinghuysen wrote, echoing the Yale Report of 1828, "it is designed to lead the mind into the proper use of its powers; to train it to the best modes of thought and reflection; to teach it how to think and how to learn."
Throughout the 1850s, students came in greater numbers to New Brunswick, a city in the midst of transformation and already closely tied to the commercial metropolis of New York. By 1861, prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Rutgers had nearly doubled in size from that of 1850. Such high enrollments in both the college and the Theological Seminary created overcrowded conditions in Old Queen's, prompting Professor William H. Campbell to admonish his students and fellow instructors to demand new facilities. The Synod acquired funds from Mrs. Anna Hertzog of Philadelphia to erect a spacious building one block north of the campus. In 1856 all seminary work was transferred to Theological Hall, marking for the first time the physical separation of the college from the Church.
The Transformation of a College
Rutgers College transformed considerably during the next two decades. The changes were reflected in the students, the curriculum, the faculty, and the institutional structure of the college. In 1864, Rutgers gained further independence from the Dutch Reformed Church when the General Synod reconveyed Old Queen's and its surrounding campus to the trustees and withdrew the theological professors from the college. The Rutgers Scientific School, established in 1864 with the assistance of George Cook, was designated by the legislature as the land-grant college for New Jersey in 1864 under the Morrill Act. The Land-Grant status, won by the college in competition with Princeton and the Trenton Normal School, brought Rutgers into a relationship with the State of New Jersey for the first time in its history. President William H. Campbell and the trustees completed the "New Endowment Fund" by raising over $137,000. They also assembled a strong and assertive faculty, individuals who differed significantly from their predecessors in background, scholarly achievement, and approach to knowledge. Joining the college during this time among others were Jacob Cooper in Greek, Charles G. Rockwood in mathematics, Francis C. Van Dyke and Peter T. Austern in analytical chemistry, E. A. Bowser in engineering, David Murray in pedagogy, George W. Atherton in history, and Theodore Sanford Doolittle in rhetoric, logic, and metaphysics. In 1872, construction was completed on Geological Hall, erected between Old Queen's and Van Nest Hall. This building, designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, housed an armory in the basement, laboratories for the physical sciences on the first floor, and a large museum on the second floor. In the same year the college received the residuary estate of Sophia Astley Kirkpatrick, in the amount of $65,000, which was used to construct the chapel that bears her name. The structure, which was also designed by Hardenbergh, and contained a library, was dedicated in December 1873.
In spite of the expanded facilities, increased endowment, new curriculum, and learned faculty, Rutgers College never had sizable enrollments of students. There were rarely more than 170 students attending the college at one time and in 1882, the last year of Campbell's presidency, there were only 113. Nonetheless, the students of the college proved to be successful in their studies and in the careers they entered following graduation. During their collegiate years, they established several significant organizations, activities and enterprises that were to become Rutgers traditions. In January 1869, the first issue of the student newspaper, the Targum was published, and two years later, the Junior Class issued the Scarlet Letter, the first college annual. In 1873, the Rutgers Glee Club was formed and with it, the song, "On the Banks of the Old Raritan" was composed by Howard N. Fuller. The first athletic clubs were established during the 1860s and 1870s, and in 1869, the first intercollegiate football contest was played in New Brunswick between Rutgers and Princeton, with Rutgers winning, 6-4.