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Identifier: RG 04/A11

Rutgers College Office of the President (William H.S. Demarest)


  • 1890-1928

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the records of the Office of the President during the tenure of William Henry Steele Demarest (1905-1925) reside in Series I: Subject Files, with the remainder of the files comprising Series II: Name Files. This series documents all aspects of the Demarest Presidency, including the issues that were unique to his presidency as well as the issues common to any university president.

Rutgers experienced unprecedented growth during the Demarest Presidency, which is well represented in this series. As noted in the administrative history, this expansion took on many forms, such as the expansion of existing colleges and programs, the edition of new colleges and programs, new facilities, and expanded enrollment. These files may be found throughout Series I and include folders such as: "Agriculture Department and Experiment Station", "Buildings & Grounds", "Engineering Building", "Ford Domitory: Construction", and "New Jersey College for Women" to name just a few. The "Bequests" and "Property Improvements & Acquisitions" files also relate to the growth of, and improvements to the institution's physical property.

A university cannot grow without increased funding, so during his presidency Demarest tirelessly pursued ways to fund the expansion of Rutgers. The "Carnegie Foundation" and "General Education Board" files demonstrate the difficulties faced by the institution in securing funds from external funding sources, while the "Endowment", "Endowment Campaign", "Endowment Committee", and "Fund Raising and Gifts" files relate to Rutgers sponsored funding initiatives.

Although the growth of Rutgers and the pursuit of funding are important issue during the Demarest presidency, the relations between Rutgers and the State of New Jersey supercedes both in importance. Because expansion relies on funding and funding from the state was frequently dependant on the relationship between Rutgers and the State, neither issue can be fully understood without investigating this relationship. Dr. Demarest's presidency can be viewed as turning point in the history of the institution. Although Demarest hoped to maintain the duality of Rutgers as a state institution and a small liberal arts college, it is during his tenure that Rutgers begins to move towards the former and away from the latter. This is evidenced by the fact that the General Synod of the Reformed Church, at Demarest's urging, rescinded the quota mandating that "two-thirds of the Trustees had to be communicants of the Reformed Church" in 1909. (McCormick p. 154-5) This is reflected in the "Reformed Church" files.

By removing this quota, Demarest hoped to increase federal and state support of Rutgers. The "Smith-Hughs Act" files provide insight into some of the issues that were at play regarding the status of Rutgers as a private or public institution. One of these files, entitled "Smith-Hughs Act: Objection to Rutgers Receiving Federal Funds" demonstrates the problems that created by this duality of status. McCormick tells us that "President Demarest took the leading role in dealing with Governors and legislators, always confining his requests to what he felt assured could be obtained but constantly pressing the state authorities to give to Rutgers recognition and support comparable to that bestowed on state colleges elsewhere." (p.153) This is revealed by the numerous files related to the state, state departments, boards, and commissions, as well as state representatives. Examples include "State: Relations, Budgets, Appointments", "State Appropriations", "State Legislature: Requests for Funds" and "State Relations with Rutgers: Minkler, Frederick C." in Series I, as well as folders in Series II that relate to individual trustees and legislators.

In addition to expanding and improving Rutgers, Dr. Demarest was busy interacting with various communities of people of interest to the university. The Subject Files reveal that the Rutgers alumni were quite important to the Demarest presidency. Boxes 2 and 3 contain more than 20 files related to the alumni of Rutgers and various alumni clubs and associations. In addition there are several files related to specific graduating classes ("Class of 1868", "Class of 1883") and "Class Reunions".

Demarest was also collegial with many individuals and associations external to Rutgers. The Subject Files include files such as " Agricultural College Association", "Association of Land Grant Colleges" and many more, filed according to the name of the association. The Name Series includes communications with individuals from other academic institutions, which complement general files in the Subject Files series such as "Communications with other Colleges".

Demarest's Subject Files also reveal the more predictable responsibilities of a university president. In addition to files for each of Rutgers' colleges and academic departments are files related to "Athletics", fraternities (filed alphabetically by fraternity name), "Commencement", "Honorary Degrees", and "Rhodes Scholarships".

Because World War I occurred during the Demarest presidency, the war and related subjects are found throughout the Subject Files. These include files such as: "Memorial Service", "Military Department", "Military Science", "National Defense", "R.O.T.C.", "Student Army Training Corps", and "War Department".

The Subject Files series reveals that Dr. Demarest was more involved in the day to day operation of Rutgers than are the more recent presidents. Whether this is a result of the times or the size of the institution during his tenure remains to be seen, but certain files make this claim indisputable. It was not uncommon for Demarest to communicate directly with students and perspective students, their families, faculty, alumni, and job applicants as evidenced by files such as: "Application for Position", "Candidates for Positions", "Communications with the Faculty", "Trustees" and "Undergraduates: letters to Undergraduates and Parents". The Name Series also includes many files of correspondance with individual faculty members, individuals requesting positions at Rutgers, or admitance to Rutgers for themselves or others.

The second series, Series II Name Files, augments the Subject Files. Although the contents of these folders often relate to the folders in Series I, each file tends to be more general in subject.

The third series, Series III Newsclippings, also augments the Subject files. These clippings relate to Dr. Demarest and his speaking engagements, as well as subjects related to the university as a whole.


44 manuscript boxes

Language of Materials



Administrative records generated by the Office of the President at Rutgers College during the administration of William H. S. Demarest, 1906-1924. The records includes reports, meeting minutes, and correspondance and thoroughly documents the history of Rutgers in the early part of the twentieth century.

Administrative History and Biographical Sketch of William Henry Steele Demarest

The Reverend Dr. William Henry Steele Demarest (1863-1956), the first alumnus to become president of Rutgers College, was "the personification of old Rutgers," as Richard P. McCormick has so aptly written. Ancestrally, his connection with the College was almost coexistent with its history. His great-great-grandfather, John Schureman, was a Trustee from 1782 until 1795; his great-grandfather, the Reverend Henry Polhemus, was Trustee from 1800 until 1816; his maternal grandfather was a Trustee from 1825 until 1858 and Secretary of the Board from 1825 to 1830; and his father, the Reverend David D. Demarest, was a Trustee from 1858 until his death in 1898, and Secretary of the Board from 1866.

William H. S. Demarest was born at Hudson, N.Y. He moved to New Brunswick in 1865, graduated from the Rutgers Grammar School in 1879 and immediately entered Rutgers College. As an undergraduate he was active as class secretary, vice president, and president; director and secretary of the athletic association, a member of the Peripatric Club, class baseball and football teams, and the varsity baseball team. He was senior editor of the Targum, and the Class Day orator. In his senior year he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, graduating from Rutgers with high honors in 1883.

From 1883 to 1886 Dr. Demarest taught in the Rutgers Preparatory School. In 1888 he graduated from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and that same year was ordained to the ministry of the Reformed Dutch Church. He served as pastor of the Reformed Church of Walden, N.Y. from 1888 to 1897, and pastor of the church in Catskill, N.Y. from 1897 to 1901. In 1901 he was appointed Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government in the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, serving in that capacity for five years. In 1899 he became a Trustee of Rutgers College and served as Secretary of the Board from 1904 to 1906. During the year 1905-1906 he was acting President of the College, and was elected by the Trustees to succeed Austin Scott as President in February 1906.

Rutgers changed significantly under Dr. Demarest's stewardship and several milestones were achieved during his administration. In 1917 the Agricultural College or State College was designated the State University of New Jersey. It was expanded and new facilities constructed on the College Farm. In 1918, the New Jersey College for Women was established. The undergraduate curriculum was restructured in 1907 and again 1916 to keep abreast of the changing needs of the state and nation. Teacher-training courses were emphasized in the newly established Summer Session program in 1913. State and federal appropriations increased substantially, as did private gifts and alumni support. New facilities were constructed for instruction in Engineering, chemistry, entomology, and ceramics; dormitories were built to accommodate the increased undergraduate population, which rose from 235 students in 1906 to 750 in 1924. Together with students in the Women's College, the Summer Session, the Extension Courses, and the Short Courses in Agriculture, the total enrollment during Demarest's last year in office was close to 2,500 students. Financial support in the form of State Scholarships was extended during these years to include all undergraduates. In 1918 the College aided the war effort by establishing a unit of the Students Army Training Corps and established a War Service Bureau to communicate with the students, faculty and alumni who served during the war.

Throughout his administration, Dr. Demarest envisioned a dual role for Rutgers. One would be that of the state-supported university; the other, the small private college that the school had been throughout its history. In the aftermath of World War I, the institution moved closer to becoming a public institution. In 1925, the college changed its name to Rutgers University. But by this time, William H. S. Demarest had submitted his resignation, which was effective on June 30, 1924.

Following his resignation, Dr. Demarest served for ten years as president of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary and remained active in the affairs of the University. In 1924 he published History of Rutgers College, the first detailed history of the institution. Dr. William Henry Steele Demarest died on June 23, 1956. To quote Professor McCormick, "No son of Rutgers had ever been privileged to serve his alma mater with such loyalty and distinction."

Arrangement Note

The records of the Rutgers' Office of the President during the administration of William Henry Steele Demarest are organized into three series: I. Subject files; II. Named Files; and III. Newsclippings. Series I and Series II are arranged alphabetically by folder heading. Series III is arranged chronologically.

  1. I: Subject Files, 1890-1928
  2. II: Name Files, 1905-1925
  3. III: Newsclippings, 1906-1924
Inventory to the Records of the Rutgers College Office of the President (William H.S. Demarest) 1890-1928 RG 04/A11
Edited Full Draft
Matthew Brown
October 2005
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

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