Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at Columbia’s 1954 bicentennial Charter Day celebration.
Courtesy Columbia University Archives
Columbia celebrates Charter Day every October 31 — the date in 1754 on which New York governor James De Lancey granted a charter on behalf of King George II, creating King’s College (which, 30 years later, was renamed Columbia College). While Charter Day’s major anniversaries have often been marked by large celebrations, the 200th in 1954 was an especially big blowout: Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was the guest of honor at a Charter Day dinner, held at the Waldorf-Astoria on October 30; the following day she accepted an honorary degree to recognize her family’s role in creating King’s College. During the dinner, the Queen Mother read a message from her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II — then a little more than a year into her reign — which (in part) said: “I pray that [Columbia] may long continue its task of inspiring free citizens in the pursuit of sound learning and encouraging them to apply it to the benefit of their fellow-men.”