“New occasions teach new duties, and we are, whether we like it or not, at the beginning of a new era,” declared the newly inaugurated President of Drew University, Arlo Ayres Brown T’1907, on Thursday, October 17, 1929. Little did he know the significance of his words. Black Tuesday came less than two weeks later, and with it the beginning of the Great Depression.
But that October day the Drew community celebrated the annual Founder’s Day with three significant events, what Honorary President Ezra Tipple described as a “witness and festival of the Drew that was, and is.”
In 1928, brothers Leonard and Arthur Baldwin of East Orange had donated $1 million to establish a liberal arts college at Drew, along with the $500,000 needed to construct a new building. The first highlight that day was the dedication of this brand-new Georgian style brick building, trimmed with Indiana limestone, Westminster chimes in the clock tower, and a working fireplace in the library (the present-day BC Café).
At 10:00 A.M. The Reverend Edmund Soper T’1905, President of Ohio Wesleyan University, offered an invocation to open the dedication. Leonard Baldwin then explained the intent to establish “at the edge of this beautiful forest a school of liberal arts with the standing and character of Drew,” as he presented the classic building that would seat generations of then-unknown students.
Following the dedication, the trustees hosted a luncheon in the S.W. Bowne Hall Refectory for official delegates from 140 American colleges and universities and the second commemoration of the day. During the meal, Arlo Brown reflected on the great legacy of Samuel Bowne at Drew, including the Great Hall where they dined, Hoyt-Bowne dormitory, S.W. Bowne Gymnasium (re-invented as the Kirby Theatre), and Bowne Gateway. Brown then presented four new Tiffany & Co. stained glass windows – representing John Wesley, Francis Asbury, Truth and Courage – given for Great Hall by Mrs. S.W. Bowne in memory of her late husband.
By 2:00 p.m. delegates, faculty and trustees were gathering for an academic procession to University Chapel and the third historic event of the day. Leonard Baldwin, President of the Board of Trustees, presided over the inauguration of Drew’s sixth president, Arlo Ayres Brown. Speaking on behalf of his fellow graduates, Charles W. Flint T’1906, Chancellor of Syracuse University, said that “We alumni are proud of our own Drew, of her beautiful forest and extensive buildings, of her rich history and heritage of her great scholars and teachers.”
Drew University has witnessed other economic downturns over the last nine decades, not to mention global conflicts and social revolution. In his inaugural address 83 years ago today, Ayres Brown confirmed an unwavering commitment to “standards of excellence in education” and to “producing citizens who can contribute to the larger community.” Through all the challenges and changes since 1929, Drew has stayed true to these guiding principles.
– Barbara Price
View the Dedication program >
View the Inauguration program >