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A Historical Sketch of Rutgers University

From "Seminary of Learning" to Public Research University:
A Historical Sketch of Rutgers University*
by Thomas J. Frusciano, University Archivist

Section 3


Stained-glass window in Kirkpatrick Chapel depicting the signing of the Queen's College charter, 1766.


Rutgers and the State of New Jersey

Rutgers came under the control of an academic disciplinarian when the trustees selected Merrill Gates as President. The first professional educator to assume the presidency of the college, Gates sought tighter control over student discipline in the 1880s. He shook up the faculty and brought to Rutgers young academic scholars such as Louis Bevier, Edgar S. Shumway, and Alfred A. Titsworth. He also hired Irving S. Upson to assume the first administrative position as librarian, registrar, Secretary of the Faculty and Treasurer of the college. Although generally unsuccessful with acquiring substantial private support, he did accept the unsolicited offer by Garret E. Winants of Jersey City to build the college's first dormitory, which was completed in 1890. Gates was effective in securing increased State and Federal aid. In 1887, under the provisions of the Hatch Act, the agricultural experiment station was established with an annual subsidy of $15,000. Rutgers also obtained additional federal funds for the Scientific School with the passage of the second Morrill Act of 1890. Relations with the State of New Jersey also moved forward. The State erected New Jersey Hall in 1889 on land conveyed to them by the college for the State Agricultural Experiment Station. The building also served the needs of the college for chemistry and biology instruction. In 1890, the State Legislature State passed the Scholarship Act, which provided one scholarship in each of the sixty assembly districts in New Jersey. Because the scholarships were to be used for the State Agricultural College, the scientific students at Rutgers soon outnumbered those pursuing a classical curriculum.


Ballentine Gymnasium, located on the corner Somerset and George streets (present site of the Zimmerli Museum) and destroyed by fire in 1930.

Gates' successor, Austin Scott, was also consumed with Rutgers' relations with the State of New Jersey. He succeeded in resolving issues relating to the Scholarship Act of 1890, from which the college had failed to receive payment for over a decade. In efforts to serve the state, Rutgers instituted the "short course" and college extension education. The faculty turned their attentions to curriculum reform with intent on strengthening the classical program. Student life flourished with fraternity life, intercollegiate athletics, debating contests, and new secret honorary societies such as Cap and Skull (1900), Casque and Dagger (1901), and Theta Nu Epsilon (1892). Students experimented for the first time with self-government and formed a committee to regulate student conduct and discipline. Physical training received a boost in the 1890s with a generous gift from Robert F. Ballantine, a wealthy brewer in Newark and college trustee, to construct a gymnasium on the campus. A private gift from Mrs. Ralph Voorhees provided funds for the construction of a library, as the one in Kirkpatrick Chapel had expanded considerably under the care of Irving S. Upson. The Voorhees Library (now Voorhees Hall) was dedicated on Charter Day in 1904.


The New Jersey College for Women, established in 1918 and renamed Douglass College after its first dean, Mabel Smith Douglass, in 1955.

Rutgers changed significantly under the stewardship of its next leader, William H. S. Demarest, the first Rutgers' alumnus to serve as president. The undergraduate curriculum was restructured in 1907 and again in 1916 to keep abreast of the changing needs of the state and nation. Teacher-training courses were emphasized in the newly established Summer Session program in 1913. In 1917, the Agricultural College or State College was designated the State University of New Jersey. It expanded with new facilities constructed on the College Farm. In 1918, the New Jersey College for Women was founded, the results of the dedicated service of Barnard graduate Mabel Smith Douglass, and the influence of the State Federation of Women's Clubs. Rutgers College aided the war effort by establishing a unit of the Students Army Training Corps and a War Service Bureau to communicate with the students, faculty and alumni who served during the war. State and federal appropriations increased substantially, as did private gifts and alumni support. New facilities were constructed for instruction in engineering, chemistry, entomology, and ceramics; dormitories were built to accommodate the increased undergraduate population, which rose from 235 students in 1906 to 750 in 1924. Together with students in the Women's College, the Summer Session, the Extension Courses, and the Short Courses in Agriculture, the total enrollment was close to 2,500 students. Financial support in the form of State Scholarships was extended during these years to include all undergraduates, including one of Rutgers' most illustrious graduates-Paul Robeson.


A native of Princeton, Robeson attended Somerville High School and received a four-year scholarship to attend Rutgers College. During his years at Rutgers (1915-1919), he was selected by Walter Camp as a two-time All-American in football, and earned varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball, and track. Robeson was truly a scholar-athlete. His literary and oratory accomplishments were outstanding. He won class prizes in declamation and oration in each of his four years, and was a member of the Rutgers Intercollegiate Debating Association. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his senior year, Robeson wrote a thesis on the Fourteenth Amendment, and was selected to give the Valedictorian address at the 1919 commencement on the topic "The New Idealism."



Paul Robeson (1898-1976), one of Rutgers; most famous graduates, as he appeared in the Scarlet Letter (left) and as a member of Cap and Skull.

Throughout his administration, President Demarest envisioned a dual role for Rutgers. One would be that of the state-supported university; the other, the small private college that the school had been throughout its history. In the aftermath of World War I, the institution moved closer to becoming a public institution.


Members of the Student Army Training Corps marching on Neilson Field, ca. 1917.

In 1925, the college changed its name to Rutgers University and shifted its focus to become a leading public educational institution. What followed was a period of growth and expansion in student enrollment, academic programs, and physical facilities; it was also a time of increased frustration over relations with the state. In 1925, when John Martin Thomas assumed the presidency, Rutgers had 1,343 undergraduates and a total registration of 2,396. By 1930 the undergraduate population had increased to 2,662, and combined enrollment in the university was nearly 17,000 students. In 1925, the University Extension Division was established under the able direction of Professor Norman C. Miller. The Division provided educational service to more than 40,000 residents of New Jersey. The following year Thomas invited the Bureau of Education to conduct an extensive survey of the university and submit a detailed report, which was used to develop long-range plans for the institution. As a result of the study, faculty salaries were increased and four-year courses in economics and business administration were added to the curriculum. In January 1927, the New Jersey College of Pharmacy in Newark was incorporated into the university, and in the same year the Bureau of Biochemical and Bacteriology Research was established. By 1930, the university consisted of seven schools and colleges: Arts and Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Education, the New Jersey College for Women, Pharmacy, and Chemistry.


The College of Agriculture, ca. 1922.

With the growth of new academic programs came new facilities. The Dramatic Arts Building was completed in 1925, and one year later, Hegeman Hall, an addition to the Voorhees Library, and Van Dyck Hall all appeared on the College Avenue campus. Construction at the Women's College included Recitation Hall and the Voorhees Chapel in 1926, and the Willets Infirmary and the Music Building in 1928. In 1929, three dormitories--Wessells, Leupp and Pell Halls--were begun on the Bishop Campus of Rutgers College.

Throughout his term, Thomas and the trustees deliberated over the university's relationship with the State of New Jersey. State appropriations had not amounted to the levels needed to expand the school into a State University, and the problem remained over the dual private- public role of Rutgers. By 1930, numerous attempts to resolve the differences had failed and in 1930, Thomas announced his resignation as president of Rutgers University. He had championed the idea of Rutgers becoming a state university, but he had become discouraged with the lack of results. The trustees named one of its brethren, Philip M. Brett, as acting president. Brett took office at a time when the nation was plunging into the depths of a depression, the university was entangled over disagreements with the newly established State Board of Regents, and morale had severely dwindled among the faculty.

Brett served as acting president for eighteen months, during which time he restored the confidence of the faculty and the alumni in the college. Their praise and affections culminated in a petition requesting him to accept appointment as president of the university. However, Brett declined the overture and relinquished the office to his successor, Robert C. Clothier.


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The Depression and World War II


Robert C. Clothier, who served as Rutgers' president during the hardships of the Depression and World War II.

Clothier's vision of growth and development for Rutgers coincided with the depression and war years. State appropriations were drastically reduced during the early 1930s and private gifts were not forthcoming. He nonetheless encouraged a "friendly and understanding" relationship with the state and embarked on an expansion program that proved to be valuable for planning future development of the university. In 1935, he announced the acquisition of a 256-acre tract immediately across the Raritan River. The River Road Campus, as it was called at the time, soon featured playing fields for intramural and intercollegiate athletic programs, a 22,000-seat stadium, the Chemistry Building, which was erected with state funds, a faculty village and a housing development for married students. By the 1940s, the university had acquired buildings along Georges Road for the College of Agriculture, buildings on College Avenue, and the President's House on River Road. It had constructed an annex to the Engineering Building, and transformed the Neilson Campus, now the Voorhees Campus mall.


Rutgers Stadium, completed in 1938 through the work of the WPA.

During the early years of Clothier's presidency, the curriculum was strengthened and new programs were added. The Graduate Faculty was formed in May 1932, two years later University College was established, and the following year the first graduate school of banking was initiated with the collaboration of the American Bankers Association. In March 1936, the Rutgers University Press was founded. Additional programs begun during the 1930s included the Bureau of Biological Research, the Rutgers Research Council, the State Scholarship Program, and the departments of personnel and placement, alumni, and public relations.


Students of the Army Specialized Training Program receive instruction at Rutgers, ca. 1944.

With America's entry into World War II, Rutgers found itself once again in the throes of a national emergency. The university immediately committed its resources to the war effort. The campus became host to the Army Specialized Training Program (A.S.T.P.), which helped maintain enrollment levels in the university. Through the A.S.T.P., Rutgers provided training for 3,877 men. The war had a devastating effect on the university; more than 5,000 Rutgers men and women served in the armed forces and 234 men and 2 women lost their lives overseas.


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Postwar Expansion and the State University

During the postwar years, Rutgers renewed its call for growth and expansion. Clothier declared that university policy would be to accommodate "all qualified veterans and high school graduates for whom it is possible to provide, not just those whom it is convenient to take." More than 19,000 veterans flooded the campus to receive their education through the benefits of the G.I. Bill. In 1945, under the provisions of the State University Act, the state legislature enacted the designation of State University to all units of Rutgers. The Bureau of Mineral Research was founded in 1945, followed by the Institute of Management and Labor Relations in 1947, the Institute of Microbiology in 1949, and the Bureau of Government Research in 1950. In 1946, the College of Arts and Science, the School of Business Administration, and the School of Law of the former University of Newark were merged with the university to form Rutgers-Newark. In 1950, the university assumed control of a law school and the two-year College of South Jersey in Camden, extending the university to that portion of the state.

Rutgers began to fulfill its pledge to serve the state of New Jersey in the 1950s under the direction of President Lewis Webster Jones. But the early years of the 1950s were marked by the effects of the Cold War, especially on issues of academic freedom. In 1952, two professors at Rutgers were dismissed or forced to resign after invoking the fifth amendment in refusing to answer questions concerning their possible Communist Party membership or affiliation. Richard P. McCormick, a young Professor of History at that time, recalled this very troubling time at Rutgers:


Professor Richard P. McCormick (1916-2003), noted American historian who served Rutgers as an active member of the faculty, Dean of Rutgers College, and University historian.

We entered into a very unhappy period. It was marked, among other things, by bitter division by faculty and the governing body, all of the so-called Heimlich-Finley cases. These were the cases of two professors who had invoked the fifth amendment when questioned about their political beliefs and we were the first university to really be hit by this thing at that time. The reaction of the trustees was to adopt a rule [that] called for immediate dismissal. I was a member of a special faculty committee that contested that decree. As one of three members of the faculty, I made a personal appeal to the board. I was on leave and I had a study in Winants and right next to my place was the public relations office. As I walked up the stairs I saw these stacks and stacks and stacks from a mimeograph press release, I picked one up and this was a long statement by the president saying that the board had re-emphasized its decision in respect to the dismissals. In other words, what we had said at this meeting was instantly hot air. . . .and I went into my office and I wept. I was young, I was idealistic. To think that there should be such contempt for the opinion of the faculty that they'd write this report off the ball without even a chance to make our cases. It was very disheartening.


Albert Schatz (left) and Professor Selman Waksman (right), working the laboratory, in the early 1940s. Waksman received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1952 for the discovery of the streptomycin, which revolutionized the treatment of tuberculosis.

Another significant event that took occurred in the 1950s, and one that firmly established Rutgers' relationship with the State of New Jersey, was the reorganization of the university's governing structure. In 1956, the Board of Governors was created to provide the state with a larger role in the control of the university. Recommended by a special committee of the Board of Trustees, the Board of Governors consisted of eleven voting members, six appointed by the Governor and five from among the trustees, which continued to exist to serve in an advisory capacity, to manage certain funds, and to act as a "watchdog" over educational standards.

With the status of "State University of New Jersey," Rutgers continued to expand throughout the 1950s. A major building program resulted in the construction of Alexander Library, the River dormitories along the Raritan, the completion of Demarest Hall on the College Avenue campus, Lipman Hall at the College of Agriculture, and Waksman Hall, which houses the Institute of Microbiology on the Busch campus. Other construction projects underway or in the planning stages included new buildings for the study of horticulture and poultry on the Cook campus, a library at Camden, and a health center and two new dormitories at the College for Women, which had been renamed Douglass College in April 1955 in recognition of the vision and leadership of its first dean, Mabel Smith Douglass.

With expansion of facilities came an increased emphasis on graduate education. In 1954 Rutgers established two new divisions: the Graduate School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Library Service. Through the generous bequest of Florence Eagleton, the Eagleton Institute of Politics was established. By 1957, nearly 1,000 students were enrolled in graduate programs throughout the university. Educational programs and facilities were also expanded in Newark and Camden. A nursing curriculum was introduced on the Newark campus in 1952, and evolved into the College of Nursing four years later. Scientific instruction and facilities received increased federal support after 1957 in the wake of the Soviet Union's launching of Sputnik.

It was during the turbulent decade of the 1960s under the leadership of Mason W, Gross when Rutgers witnessed unprecedented growth and development. In 1959, the first of three bond issues received approval by the citizens of New Jersey, enabling the university to embark upon a $75 million building program.


Camp Kilmer served as an Army facilities and embarkment station during World War II. The Livingston College campus sits on 540-acres acquired by Rutgers in 1964.

By 1964, enrollment had doubled with more than 12,000 full-time undergraduate students. A second public referendum yielded approximately $19 million for Rutgers, and Gross continued to campaign for funds for the university. An additional $68 million was secured in 1968. As a result of increased public support, construction took place on every campus of the university. Seven buildings, including a library, a student center and a law school building, were erected on the 18.3-acre complex in Newark. Large-scale development occurred on the 16-acre campus in Camden, including a law school complex.

A new library and dining hall were constructed at Douglass College, and classroom facilities sprung up on the Rutgers College campus. In 1964 Rutgers acquired from the federal government 540 acres of the former Camp Kilmer army base and the first buildings were erected on the Kilmer-area campus, where Livingston College opened in 1969. Scientific research and teaching facilities emerged on the Busch campus.

Other sources of funding aided the development of new academic programs. In 1961 a grant of over $1 million from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation enabled Rutgers to establish a medical school. In 1963, a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health enabled The Center for Alcohol Studies to be moved to Rutgers from Yale, where it had been in existence for forty years. The Urban Studies Center, established in 1959, embarked on projects to increase community involvement in the urban centers of the state of New Jersey. In addition, graduate education and research expanded significantly throughout the decade. The number of doctoral programs increased from twenty-nine to more than fifty, and research opportunity in the sciences significantly increased through the receipt of federal aid by the university.


Freshman Randy Green addresses an audience in the College Avenue Gymnasium following the takeover of Conklin Hall on the Newark campus in 1969.

President Mason Gross converses with students in his office in Old Queen's.

The decade was also one of political action and social awareness. Gross promoted a sense of calm and reason when students took over Conklin Hall on the Newark campus in protest of the low enrollment of African Americans and other minorities in 1969 and again with the student protests over the Vietnam War in 1971. He took an unpopular stand on academic freedom when he refused to dismiss Dr. Eugene Genovese for proclaiming publicly during a teach-in that he welcomed a Viet Cong victory in Southeast Asia. Gross's defense of academic freedom was recognized by the Association of University Professors.


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The Research University


Edward J. Bloustein, President of Rutgers University, 1971-1989. Bloustein spearheaded Rutgers in becoming a major public research university and a member of the Association of American Universities in 1989.

According to many observers of higher education, Rutgers reached new heights in the two decades under the leadership of Edward Bloustein. His tenure began in the midst of student protests over Vietnam and ended with protests over proposed increases in student tuition, but the intervening years saw the university expand its research facilities, attract internationally known scholars, and achieve distinction as one of the major public research universities in the nation. In February 1989, the university was invited to join fifty-six other prestigious academic institutions that make up the Association of American Universities.

The Bloustein presidency was marked with significant achievements for Rutgers. In 1972, Rutgers College became coeducational. Through the prodding of alumnus Sonny Werblin, the university made a commitment to "big time" sports. In 1978, efforts were begun to reorganize the New Brunswick faculty into a unified Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which was accomplished in 1980. One year later a Mission Statement was approved that provided a blueprint for future planning and development for the university.


Busch campus in Piscataway, home to numerous science and technology research centers at Rutgers.

During the 1980s the university established the "Fund for Distinction," a combination of private giving, and state and federal support, that helped finance science and technology centers on the Busch campus. The fund was given a boost when New Jersey voters approved a $90 million Jobs, Science, and Technology Bond issue in 1984 and the $350 million Jobs, Education, and Competitiveness Bond issue in 1988. By 1989 Rutgers had become an "institutional goliath" with more than 47,000 students enrolled in programs offered in three cities. The total budget had reached over $600 million and academic standards had risen substantially over the years.

Rutgers enjoyed the benefits of a healthy economy and a governor who gave strong support to the mission of the university. Bloustein fostered a close relationship with state and federal officials and persistently promoted Rutgers. He was a tireless fundraiser for the university and his personal involvement helped reached the projected goal of $125 million for the Campaign for Rutgers shortly before his untimely death on December 9, 1989.



President Francis L. Lawrence (center) flanked by two 1993 Rhodes Scholars from Rutgers, Randall Pinkett (left) and Dana Brown (right).

As the 1990s unfolded, Rutgers University was confronted with massive cuts in state funding amounting to more than $90 million over a three-year period. Under the leadership of President Francis Lawrence, the university mounted an intensive public campaign to win public support and to convince the Governor and the Legislature that higher education, and Rutgers, The State University in particular, should be among New Jersey's top funding priorities. As the university moved toward the twenty-first century, it redirected it energies toward increased emphasis on teaching and undergraduate education; better internal and external understanding and appreciation of the links among the university's missions of research, teaching and service, and the need for distinction in all three. It sought to revitalize the university's sense of community; adopt a collegial style in the administration of the university; achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness through a service orientation in the university's administrative support systems; renew commitment to the support and inclusion of minorities in the university community through enrollment, hiring, and opportunities to promote not only tolerance but understanding of the value of diversity in the community.

But the Lawrence years were also marred by controversy, and many of the faculty felt alienated from the administration and voiced a lack of confidence in the president. It was left to Richard L. McCormick, selected in 2002 as the nineteenth president of Rutgers, to bring the university community together.


One of President Richard L. McCormick's goals at Rutgers is to enhance both the academic and social experience of undergraduate students, beginning with the merging of liberal arts education in 2007.

A former history professor and dean at Rutgers, Richard L. McCormick returned to New Brunswick following his tenure as Provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and as President of the University of Washington. Familiar with Rutgers, and aware of its potential to achieve recognition as an outstanding public research institution, McCormick embarked on an ambitious program to strengthen undergraduate education, increase state and private funding for student support, research, and campus renovation.


Architectural rendering of College Avenue submitted by Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos and Ignacio Bunster-Ossa of Wallace, Roberts & Todd, the winning team of a competition held in 2006 to transform the College Avenue campus in New Brunswick.

The early years of the twenty-first century have witnessed substantial changes. In the Fall of 2007, liberal arts students entered the new School of Arts and Sciences, as the transformation of undergraduate education that began in 1979 took shape with the consolidation of the separate liberal arts colleges on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campuses. The physical environment on all three campuses have changed with the addition of new facilities and plans for other campus alterations, as the university implements the initial phases of the most recent Master Plan. Lack of state funding continues to plague Rutgers, but new approaches have been adopted to garner support for the university from the citizens of New Jersey.


The success of the Rutgers football team in 2006 propelled the university into the national limelight. Coach Greg Schiano (left) has fulfilled his promise of creating excitement at Rutgers, as witnessed by the "sea of red" that stormed the field following the victory over Louisville on November 9, 2006 and the appearance on the sidelines of actor James Gandolfini, Rutgers College Class of 1983, during the 2006 Insight Bowl.

Its recent success in intercollegiate athletics has had its effect in drawing significant public and media attention, and attracting more students. In its continued quest to be a top-tiered public research institution, Rutgers has established impressive goals for the future. It is a very different institution than the one envisioned by Theodore Frelinghuysen and Jacob Hardenbergh in the eighteenth century. While it began as a "seminary of learning" Rutgers has become a large and influential public research university.



Sol Iustitiae et Occidentem Illustra, 1766