Celebrating 175th Years Together
Address by President Thomas C. Galligan Jr.
Friday, Oct. 12, 2012
Good afternoon and welcome to the Colby-Sawyer College and New London community celebration of our shared history. Thanks to all of you for being here—thanks to our alumni, faculty emeriti and trustees, to our special guests, to our college colleagues, to New London and area community members, and most of all, through all these 175 years, thanks to our students. Colby-Sawyer would not be here without you; we would not exist without you; and it is your benefit, well-being and dreams of contributing to a better world to which we will always dedicate ourselves.
Right now, we are all standing or sitting on the original campus of the New London Academy, which local leaders and community members founded 175 years ago, in 1837. Indeed, together they raised the funds to purchase this land and opened the school a year later. There was no high school here before 1838, and the town leaders and local families wanted to provide their sons and daughters with a rigorous secondary education in the liberal arts and sciences.
Those families who had worked so hard to clear the land and establish this town, and whose parents and grandparents were often among the very first settlers in this region, wanted to offer their children a good education so they would have better lives and more opportunities. In short, they had the same goals for their children that we have for ours today.
The 11 town leaders who sought a charter from the New Hampshire Legislature to establish the school included people whose names you may know—some of you may even be their descendants! They included Squire Joseph Colby and his son, Anthony Colby, who would later become a New Hampshire governor; Captain Perley Burpee; Squire Jonathan Greeley; John Brown; Captain Jonathan Herrick, who ran a tavern just down the road; and others.
The first principal and teacher of New London Academy was Susan Colby, the only daughter of Anthony Colby. She offered a demanding curriculum that included modern languages, Latin, mathematics, drawing, science, geography and philosophy.
So the New London Academy grew and other buildings were constructed on this very town common, which was then called Academy Row. Classes and chapel services were held in the Academy building, and there were once two boarding houses for the young men and women, Colby Hall and Heidelberg, and a gymnasium for the students, on this land.
In times of financial hardship, the academy looked to its trustees and other townspeople, and was often helped by the generosity of Susan Colby, who went on to marry James B. Colgate and became the academy’s primary benefactor. The academy evolved and changed its name to The New London Literary and Scientific Institution for a short time before becoming Colby Academy, but the school always remained true to its founders’ and its first principal’s belief that a well-rounded education was the best way for young women and men to reach their full potential.
The school was growing and in 1870 a huge building with classrooms, laboratories, a dining hall, a chapel, and housing for female students was constructed just up the hill, where the current Colgate Hall now stands. This impressive building was much bigger than our Colgate Hall, and it could be seen for miles around. It was referred to as “the crown jewel of Colby Hill.”
Unfortunately, this beautiful building was destroyed in a fire in 1892. The local townspeople came to the rescue and opened their homes to the 50 female students left homeless by the fire. But still, the academy kept going, and amazingly, the students missed just one day of school in spite of losing their main building.
By the turn of the 20th century, public high schools were on the rise, and that led to the decline of many New England academies like Colby. Miss Mary Colgate, the daughter of Susan Colby and James Colgate, was by then the school’s main benefactor, and she and others helped to fund the construction of the new building, our Colgate Hall, which was completed in 1912, and which, as you know, still stands and serves as our definitive building. Coincidentally, Colgate Hall is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, which is one of many things we’re celebrating.
A decade later, in September 1922, a new principal, H. Leslie Sawyer arrived at Colby Academy as its 25th principal. After a year in his new role as principal, Dr. Sawyer asked the trustees of Colby Academy to consider incorporating as a junior college for women. The school had enough classrooms and laboratories to support a post-secondary school, and he thought it would work if the school were to combine a liberal arts and sciences curriculum with professional preparation that would allow young women to gain immediate employment after graduation or continue their education at a baccalaureate college or university.
There was resistance from the trustees, many of whom were Colby Academy graduates, but declining enrollments and growing debt at the academy led to the plan’s approval and in 1928 the academy became a junior college for women, with Dr. Sawyer as its first president. Colby Junior College grew and thrived despite the stock market crash in October 1929, which set off an economic depression that lasted a decade. Even amid an economic depression, the college chose to invest in its future.
Beginning in 1930, five residence halls were built near Colgate Hall on what was then called the New Campus, and all of them were named for local individuals or families or other important leaders who had played major roles at the college over the years. The residence halls were named Colby, McKean, Shepard, Burpee and Page.
Under President Sawyer’s leadership, Colby Junior College became one of the nation’s preeminent junior colleges. Dr. Sawyer was beloved on campus and in the community, and he remained president until his retirement in 1955. Since then many other buildings and programs have been named in honor of the contributions and generosity of local people and college leaders, including the Susan Colgate Cleveland Library/Learning Center; Abbey and Best Halls; the Cleveland, Colby, Colgate Archives; Lawson and Danforth Halls; the Wesson Honors Program; the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center; Austin Hall; and London House, among others.
In 1975, Colby Junior College became a predominantly baccalaureate college with a new name, Colby-Sawyer College, that honors both the academy’s founding family and the college’s first and longest-serving president.
And since then Colby-Sawyer has had seven more presidents who have all contributed to the college’s growth and success. President Stock led the college from 1986 to 1995, and she helped to make the decision to return the college to its roots as a coeducational institution. She increased student enrollment and led the first comprehensive capital campaign in the college’s history, which led to the construction of the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center and Rooke Hall.
We also have a family member of another college president, Everett Woodman, who served as our third president from 1962 to 1972. Dr. Woodman helped to internationalize our college community and bring greater diversity to the student body. I believe one of Dr. Woodman’s daughters is here with us today.
What’s so wonderful about all this history is that our college and community remain very close and collaborative. There are so many examples I could share—there is the Chargers Club, a group of community members that celebrates their 30th anniversary this year. For three decades this group has dedicated itself to celebrating and supporting the college’s athletes. Go Chargers!
There is the Windy Hill School on campus, where so many of your children were educated, and there are our summer camps and athletic camps at the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center, and there are art exhibitions, films and plays where we all come together. There are local businesses, organizations, schools and the hospital that provide invaluable internships for our students and opportunities to gain real world experience and skills. There is Adventures in Learning, our lifelong learning program, whose motto is: Learning Later, Living Greater!
There is the New London Police and Fire Departments and our Campus Safety Office, who work so well together to keep our communities safe. There are so many ways that the college and community support each other and share resources—in fact we had 18 groups and more than 75 individuals who participated in the New London Hospital Days parade in August.
So let me just say that Colby-Sawyer College is truly fortunate to have such a wonderful hometown and great neighbors! We are extremely thankful for all the partnerships and the collaborative relationships and friendships we share with community members, which enrich our lives and strengthen our communities. Thank you!
And now I’d like to introduce a person who truly needs no introduction here in New London; Hilary Cleveland, who recently retired after teaching at the college for 57 years. Hilary, please join me here on the bandstand. Hilary has been a wonderful teacher of history who has lived so much of the history of our town, and the state and the nation that she was able to include her own memories in her classroom lessons!
Hilary has been engaged in this community as a town moderator, as one of the founders of Adventures of Learning and as a popular study group leader. She has been a pillar in this community. Through her husband, the late Congressman James Cleveland, she belongs to one of New London’s earliest families, the Colby, Colgate, Cleveland family, who were involved in the founding of the New London Academy and have been so dedicated to the institution ever since.
I know I speak for the community of New London and for Colby-Sawyer College when I say thank you, Hilary, and thank you to your family and to your long line of ancestors who helped to build this community and this college. We are forever grateful.
President Galligan’s Closing Remarks at 3 p.m.
As the eighth president of Colby-Sawyer College, I am proud to be part of this 175-year tradition of teaching and learning and of our hometown of New London. On behalf of the college, I would like to thank all of you for coming today and making this a true college-community celebration.
Our Alumni Fall Festival has begun today and I’d like to invite you all to a few events that are scheduled this weekend in celebration of our anniversary. Tonight at 9 p.m., right here on the town common, The Colby-Sawyer Players and our college archivist will lead an historical Lantern Tour of our old and new campuses. You’ll get to learn a lot more about the history of the college and its founding families, and you might even hear a bit about some of our legends and about the ghosts who some say still roam our campus.
On Saturday night you are also invited to our celebratory 175th Anniversary Fireworks Display at 8 p.m. It will take place in the field behind the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center and the library. After that, you’re also invited to a community-wide dance party at the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center, which begins at 8 p.m. Please join us for all these celebratory events!
But first, let’s continue with our ceremonies here. As part of our anniversary, the college has committed to planting 175 trees, all native species, on our campus. So far we’ve planted 174, and today we would like to plant a very special 175th maple tree, on what was our original campus, as a gesture of thanks to the New London community. After that, we’d like you to join us to admire—and then eat—this beautiful anniversary cake and enjoy some cider. And after you can purchase some 175th memorabilia from our college bookstore, enjoy musical entertainment from members of the Kearsarge Community Band, and explore the historical displays made possible by the New London Historical Society and our college archives. We also have a host of historical games that we invite you to try.
Thanks again for being here! Now please join us at the edge of Main Street while we plant our 175th tree.
This address was presented at Sargent Town Common in New London, N.H., by Thomas C. Galligan Jr., the eighth president of Colby-Sawyer College.