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Columbia College Today March 2004
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   Save the Date!
The Good Ol'
250 Years
Hitting the
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Strengthening the
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They All Lived
   in a (White
   and) Yellow



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250 Years
Columbia College, 1754–2004

Columbia College was chartered in 1754 as King's College. Throughout its lifetime, the College, and what was to become the University, grew and evolved due to strong leadership and a solid academic base but ultimately due to its people. In this timeline, we highlight key people, as well as events, from Columbia's 250 years.

The first campus of King's College at Trinity Church

King’s College is chartered in New York by King George II to “promote liberal education.” It is designated “The College of the Province of New York, in the City of New York … known by the name of King’s College.” The Rev. Samuel Johnson, a Colonial scholar and Anglican minister, is appointed its first president. There are eight students. Johnson teaches all summer classes until he is assisted in the fall by his second son, William Samuel Johnson.

King's College is chartered in New York

Trinity Church presents King’s College with a parcel of land bordered by Church Street, Barclay Street, Murray Street and the Hudson River, and intersected by Park Place. Leonard Cutting is hired to replace the temporary William Johnson as the College’s first regular faculty member.

Trinity Church presents King's College with a parcel of land

The first commencement is held at St. George’s Chapel; there are five bachelor degree graduates.

King’s College moves to a three-acre site at Park Place, overlooking the Hudson River. The campus comprises a three-story stone building, a private park and 24 rooms total for living quarters, a chapel, classrooms and dining.

King's College moves to a three-acre site at Park Place

Myles Cooper, a 28-year-old Oxford University-trained minister, is appointed the College’s second president. Samuel Johnson retires to Connecticut, where he dies in 1772.

The American Revolution begins. The British ship Asia bombards the Battery. Pursued by angry patriots, Cooper flees King’s College for the British frigate HMS Kingfisher. Commencement is cancelled. Benjamin Moore (Class of 1768), recently ordained an Anglican minister and a tutor at the College, becomes acting president

The Revolutionary Committee on Safety seizes the King’s College building for use as a military hospital. When the British occupy Manhattan later in the year, they continue to use the college as a hospital.

Classes are suspended due to the Revolutionary War.

King's College is renamed Columbia College
Benjamin Moore - class of 1768
DeWitt Clinton - class of 1786
Middle: Benjamin Moore (Class of 1768)
Bottom: DeWitt Clinton (Class of 1786)

King’s College reopens and is renamed Columbia College by the New York State Legislature. The word “Columbia” recently had been coined by patriotic poets and was first put to historical use here. John Jay (Class of 1764) and Alexander Hamilton (Class of 1778) are instrumental in the reopening. The new charter declares Columbia the “mother college” of the University of the State of New York.

Columbia College graduates its first class of eight students, among whom is future governor and statesman DeWitt Clinton.

A new charter vests Columbia’s governance in a self-perpetuating 24-member board, which is redesignated “the Trustees of Columbia College in the City of New York.” The N.Y.S. Legislature approves a new charter for “Columbia College in the City of New York,” by which the College reverts to its earlier status as a privately governed college serving New York City.

Benjamin Moore (Class of 1768), rector of Trinity Church and bishop of New York, becomes Columbia’s fifth president. He continued his duties as New York bishop and Trinity Church rector and was the first graduate of the College to become its president.

The Philolexian Society, Columbia’s first student-run literary society and its oldest student organization, is founded.

The 1787 College charter is amended and reenacted and a new curriculum is introduced.

The trustees issue new statutes in anticipation of the establishment of the “University of the City of New York” (later NYU), which aimed at attracting sons of the city’s commercial middle class. The College’s curriculum is revised to include a “Literary and Scientific Course” to appeal to the same constituency.

The deaf and dumb asylum, Madison Avenue
The Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Madison Avenue

A chapter of Alpha Delta Phi, the College’s first national fraternity, is organized.

Trustees buy the Deaf and Dumb Asylum property on Madison Avenue, between 49th and 50th Streets; a bargain at $63,000. It is seen as a temporary site for the College.

Columbia sells its Park Place campus for $600,000 and moves to 49th Street and Madison Avenue, near what is now Rockefeller Center. The Main Hall of the College at Park Place is demolished.

Intercollegiate sports begin at Columbia with a baseball game against NYU.

The School of Mines (now the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science) is founded.

Columbia loses to Rutgers 6–3 in the fourth intercollegiate football game played.

The Columbia Spectator is founded as a small, bimonthly publication.

The first Spectator

President Frederick A.P. Barnard’s Annual Report to trustees introduces the topic of “The Expediency of Receiving Young Women as Students.”

The trustees approves a system for “Collegiate Education of Women,” whereby qualified women could take Columbia examinations and receive Columbia degrees but could not attend Columbia courses.

The trustees approve the creation of Barnard College as a separate women’s college; it is to “rent” faculty from Columbia.

The University acquires 18 acres on Morningside Heights for a new campus.

The trustees select the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to develop the Morningside site.

John Howard Van Amringe - class of 1860
John Howard Van Amringe (Class of 1860)

Mathematics Professor John Howard Van Amringe (Class of 1860) succeeds Henry Drisler as dean of the School of the Arts; in 1896, he becomes the first dean of the College.

President Seth Low (Class of 1870) leads the dedication of the Morningside Heights campus. He speaks of University’s responsibilities to the City of New York, and trustees adopt the institutional designation of “Columbia University in the City of New York.” The undergraduate school now is to be known as Columbia College.

The College moves to Morningside Heights. The 49th Street campus is sold and its buildings demolished.

Morningside Campus

Nicholas Murray Butler (Class of 1882) becomes Columbia’s 12th president, serving until 1945 — the longest tenure of any Columbia president.

Seth Low - class of 1870 and Nicholas Murray Butler - class of 1882

Left: Seth Low (Class of 1870)
Right: Nicholas Murray Butler (Class of 1882)

Alma Mater is installed in front of Low Library.

Columbia abolishes intercollegiate football to protest the sport’s violence. The ban lasts until 1916.

Alma Mater is installed

The College introduces “Introduction to Contemporary Civilization,” the first course in the Core Curriculum.

John Erskine - class of 1990
Lionel Trilling '25

Top: John Erskine '90
Bottom: Lionel Trilling '25

John Erskine (Class of 1900) teaches the first General Honors course, a precursor to the Humanities sequence in the Core Curriculum.

Lionel Trilling, a renowned Columbia professor of English literature and one of the greatest critics of his generation, graduates. He and his wife, Diana, an author, will be at the center of New York’s liberal intelligentsia for decades to follow.

Baker Field’s football stadium, on the northernmost tip of Manhattan, is completed.

Columbia’s football team beats Stanford 7–0 in the Rose Bowl.

The Humanities A (later Literature Humanities) requirement begins. Humanities B (music and fine arts) begins as an optional sequence.

Research into the atom by faculty members I.I. Rabi, Enrico Fermi and Polykarp Kusch brings the physics department into the international spotlight.

WKCR gets its broadcasting license.

University enrollment tops 37,000 students, its historic high, with a surge of students enrolling under the GI Bill.

Dwight D. Eisenhower says goodbye on his way to the U.S. presidency
Columbia football team beats Stanford 7-0 in the Rose Bowl
Mark Van Doren

Top: Dwight D. Eisenhower says goodbye on his way to the U.S. presidency
Bottom: Mark Van Doren

Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes Columbia’s 13th president. He serves until January 1953, when he is inaugurated as president of the United States.

Columbia has a year-long celebration of its bicentennial with the theme “Man’s Right to Knowledge and the Free Use Thereof.” A major campus building program is activated and, by the end of the following decade, five of the University’s schools are housed in new buildings.

Ivy League football is inaugurated; Columbia is one of eight teams in the league.

Legendary English professor Mark Van Doren retires after nearly 40 years at Columbia.

Students found the Double Discovery Center.

Students occupy five campus buildings, protesting the construction of a gymnasium in Morningside Park. After eight days, the NYPD clears the buildings and arrests 712, including 524 Columbia students.

Student protests, 1968

Student protests, 1968

Lawrence Wien ’25 donates $3 million for the renovation of Baker Field.

The College admits its first fully coeducational class, although some women already were attending as transfer students.

The football team’s 44-game losing streak ends with a 16–13 Homecoming win over Princeton.

George Rupp
George Rupp

The Extended Core (later Major Cultures) requirement is established.

George Rupp becomes the 18th president of Columbia and pledges to restore the College’s place as the center of the University. During Rupp’s nine-year tenure, the College becomes one of the most selective schools in the country, and nearly every graduate and professional school also experiences a dramatic increase in applications.

Austin E. Quigley is named the 14th dean of the College. Under his leadership, the College would make great strides in facilities, admissions and student services and would fulfill Rupp’s pledge about taking its place at the center of the University.

Dean Austin E. Quigley

Dean Austin E. Quigley

A new student center, Alfred Lerner [’55] Hall, is completed. It replaces Ferris Booth Hall, which had served as the student center since 1960.

Cristina Teuscher '00

Cristina Teuscher '00

Cristina Teuscher ’00 becomes the first Ivy Leaguer to be chosen as the nation’s female collegiate athlete of the year. Teuscher won an individual swimming bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney after having won a relay gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The Roone Arledge [’52] Auditorium and Cinema in Alfred Lerner Hall is dedicated. Arledge, a television news and sports pioneer, won 36 Emmy Awards before his death in 2002.

Renovations to historic Hamilton Hall begin.

Lee C. Bollinger becomes the University’s 19th president.

President Lee C. Bollinger

President Lee C. Bollinger

The men’s and women’s fencing teams win Ivy League titles, continuing Columbia’s tradition of fielding outstanding teams in this sport.

Columbia University celebrates its 250th anniversary.

Lisa Palladino

Sources: Admissions Office; Timothy P. Cross, An Oasis of Order: The Core Curriculum at Columbia College; Archives Department of Trinity Church; Columbia University 2003 Facts; FACETS; Introduction to the King’s College History Website; Intro to Early Columbia College Website; Professor Robert McCaughey, Columbia: From College to University: 1858–1901 Website

PHOTO CREDITS, clockwise per page: page 30: Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; page 31: Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Paul E. Cohen and Robert T. Augustin, Manhattan in Maps: 1527–1995 (New York: Rizzoli, 1995), 74; page 32: Frick Art Reference Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; page 33: Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; page 34: Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; Columbia University Archives, Columbiana Library; page 35: CCT file photo; CCT file photo; CCT file photo; page 36: George Zimbel ’51; Alan R. Epstein; page 37: CCT file photo; page 38: Eileen Barroso; U-M Photo Services, Bill Wood; Eileen Barroso; Eileen Barroso




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