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On Thursday, Nov. 30, Lafayette will commemorate a visit by Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States, to the College exactly 120 years before.

The public is cordially invited to attend a ceremony and reception beginning at 3:30 p.m. in Skillman Library’s Special Collections Reading Room. The program will include remarks by Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf; Diane W. Shaw, special collections librarian and college archivist; and Jeffrey Ruthizer of the Class of 1962.

Ruthizer and his wife, Monica, of Armonk, N.Y., will receive special recognition for their contribution of a plaque commemorating the visit of Hayes and other dignitaries for the rededication of Pardee Hall, one of Lafayette’s major buildings, which had been rebuilt after being largely destroyed in a fire some 18 months before.

“We are grateful to Jeff and Monica for this plaque commemorating a unique and important occasion in Lafayette’s long and proud history,” Rothkopf says. “Jeff’s deep and abiding interest in Lafayette’s history is an inspiration to all of us. We also deeply appreciate the Ruthizers’ generous support of the College’s future success.”

The rededication ceremonies, held Nov. 30, 1880, were more grand than the dedication itself, Shaw notes. Hayes, who served as president from 1877-81, delivered an address. Accompanying the chief executive were several distinguished Lafayette alumni who had achieved prominence in national and state government, including Alexander Ramsey, Class of 1836, the U.S. Secretary of War; Henry M. Hoyt, Class of 1849, the governor of Pennsylvania; Horatio Gates Fisher, Class of 1855, a member of Congress; and Abraham D. Hazen, Class of 1863, the U.S. Assistant Postmaster General. Also in attendance were William Tecumseh Sherman, commanding general of the U.S. Army; John Jameson, superintendent of the Railway Mail Service; John Eaton, U.S. Commissioner of Education, and Daniel Coit Gilman, president of Johns Hopkins University.

The event was featured in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, one of the major magazines of the day.

“This gathering of luminaries for the rededication of Pardee Hall in 1880 was an event unmatched in Lafayette’s history,” Shaw says. “It bespeaks more than anything the clout of these highly placed Lafayette alumni, who were able to deliver a sitting president to campus for a building dedication.”

An exhibit in the lobby of Skillman will include pictures of Pardee Hall at the time of the fire. “The photographs are reminiscent of a gothic horror structure. There was very little left but the walls,” Shaw says.

Ruthizer is well-versed in the rededication, having maintained a keen interest in Lafayette history since his undergraduate days. He has a collection of college memorabilia that includes old Lafayette coins. His son, Joshua Ruthizer, graduated from Lafayette last year with a double major in history and philosophy.

“I had the privilege of studying history under some great professors at Lafayette,” says Jeffrey Ruthizer. “They fostered in me a deep love of history, and that extends to the college. When I was an undergraduate, I bought a set of the first two volumes of The Biography of a College, David Bishop Skillman’s history of Lafayette. It always struck me as odd that this day — the most celebratory day in the entire history of the college, with all of these wonderful personages there — was not known and had nothing commemorating it on campus. This was the only sitting president on campus in the history of Lafayette. I thought it required some publicity. I’m very excited that the college is taking the opportunity to bestow on this day the credit and remembrance it deserves.

“At the time, Sherman was a tremendous war hero in the north,” Ruthizer continues. “Wherever he went, large crowds would gather. He gave a very inspiring speech and talked about the Marquis de Lafayette as a general. I also find it fascinating that the great English professor Francis A. March spoke. His son, Peyton March, must have been in the audience, watching his father and Sherman with his chest full of medals. Here’s this boy, who had to be inspired, and who went on to become army chief of staff in World War I.”

The plaque will be erected on the south portico of the Pardee Hall, which today houses several classrooms and academic departments. Originally dedicated October 21, 1873, the building symbolizes Lafayette’s leadership role as the first small college to offer scientific and technical programs along with education in the classics. The benefactor of the building was Ario Pardee, a Hazleton, Pa., businessman who also funded the Pardee Scientific Course, which added science and engineering to the curriculum. The concept of combining technical and classical education at a school like Lafayette was “distinctly new,” says Skillman in The Biography of a College.

“[T]his idea of engrafting a scientific and technical department onto an old, purely classical school, . . . of fusing into one student body, in many cases merging them in the same classes, those preparing for the ministry and the other learned professions with those preparing for careers in science and engineering, and governing the whole by one faculty, was distinctly a new idea in educational circles,” Skillman says.

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