Taking a break from studying for finals in December 2008, John White strolled around Voorhees Mall on the New Brunswick Campus. Noticing dates on the facades, "I was impressed by the fact that our university had some great examples of 19th-century architecture," he recalls. "I knew that Rutgers was one of the oldest colleges in the nation, but past that, I didn't know too much about Rutgers history."
For Old Time's Sake
Honoring the Past
Believing other Rutgers students would take pride in that history if they knew more about it, he and a friend got the ball rolling on what is now the 30-member, student-run Rutgers University Historical Society.
Its purpose, according to the Chanticleer, the society's newsletter, is "to promote and protect the history and traditions of Rutgers University." The debut 12-page publication, named for a former Rutgers mascot, offers student-researched and -written articles on, among other subjects, William the Silent, a Dutch monarch whose statue graces Voorhees Mall; the 200th anniversary of the Old Queens building; and the school's namesake, Henry Rutgers.
The society also plans to conduct tours of Rutgers campuses, starting with Douglass and Livingston (which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this school year), and advocate for the preservation of historic buildings. The Chanticleer, whose debut issue includes a piece on Depression-era Douglass College, will eventually cover history at all Rutgers campuses, according to John.
Music and Architecture
John arrived at Rutgers in 2008, after spending one year at West Chester University in Pennsylvania and another taking classes at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey. He chose Rutgers because the School of Arts and Sciences offers a generalist liberal-arts degree in music, beyond a more specialized performance or education focus. Such a track, John explains, allows him to pursue other interests, such as his minor in art history.
A longtime history buff, John credits Professor Carla Yanni's course on 19th-century architecture with sparking his interest in Rutgers history. Because she places each architectural style within the context of society at the time, he says, "I've become a lot more appreciative of a lot of styles, not just the pretty Federalist buildings that are on Voorhees Mall."
Post-Rutgers, grad school is in the offing for John. If he sticks with music, he might pursue arts administration, he says. But "any art history student at Rutgers who's taken architectural or historic-preservation classes is prepared for any graduate program in preservation," he adds. "I have a broad liberal-arts education that's prepared me for anything I'd be interested in."