College life in the 1870s: John Erigena Robinson’s diary

The Archives & Special Collections Center recently acquired a historic diary of a Seton Hall student, which provides interesting glimpses into what it was like to attend Seton Hall College in the 19th century. The diary was written by John Erigena Robinson, who graduated from Seton Hall College in 1874. His diary concerns his everyday life at the college, including worrying about assignments, writing letters to his family and friends, and playing for the college’s baseball team. The campus that Robinson studied at during the mid-1870s was one that centered on a structured, liberal arts education that was emblematic of Catholic higher education during his age. He entered into a world of study at Setonia that consisted of two sessions lasting five months apiece from September through June.

Front cover of John Erigena Robinson's diary
Front cover of John Erigena Robinson’s diary

According to his recollections, Robinson primarily lived on campus during the school year, but on many weekends and holidays he would travel the roughly 24 miles from South Orange to Manhattan via the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad roughly three hours or more round trip to visit family and friends and then reverse his commute prior to the resumption of classes.  After walking from the train station to campus he would study on campus in a setting where “The College buildings are of great architectural beauty, large and commodious . . . ” and quite different in setting with the Orange Mountains in the background as opposed to the more congested streets of Brooklyn.  Along with the scenery and the structures where he would spend most of his time while at the school, Robinson entered a world that was structured and included a liberal arts curriculum of long standing.

A view of Seton Hall College from 1875
A view of Seton Hall College from 1875

Beyond the classroom, Robinson played baseball for the Seton Hall nine also commonly known in that age as the Alerts which began as a popular sport on campus during the late 1860s and engaged in more formal play the following decade.  According to existing documentation they played local teams mainly their arch-rivals St. John’s College (now known as Fordham) of the Bronx during the 1873 season.  The main highlight of his time was a defeat of St. John’s 24-13 during October of that year which carried the squad into the following campaign where they would play the same opponent twice more.  Robinson would be among the pioneer players for the team that would grow in competitiveness and success over subsequent seasons.

One of the earliest photographs of Seton Hall College's baseball team, The Alerts, taken in the early 1890s.
One of the earliest photographs of Seton Hall College’s baseball team, The Alerts, taken in the early 1890s.

John Erigena Robinson was the son of William Erigena Robinson, a congressman and a journalist whose political career is mentioned several times in the diary. Robinson must have been inspired by his father’s journalistic pursuits, because he writes in the diary about his desire to start a student newspaper for Seton Hall College. On January 26, 1873 he wrote:

“To start a paper. How, when, and where? These were the things that occupied me during the day and I may add during the night as I went to bed and fell asleep with visions of shears scraps and papers flying here and there. If we can only get the permission of Malley who owns a press and of Dr. Corrigan who heads the College we are all right. We have fixed the name it is the Setonian. We have got the outline and the matter for each page and now for the permission of the two worthies who at least in this case have a great case in hand!”

Unfortunately, Robinson never realized his dream of starting The Setonian. A full explanation is never given in the diary, but on February 14, 1873 he laments that his plans will not come to fruition:

“George and Bill received a valentine today. I also received one. It had a picture of an editor on it and some ridiculous rhyming lines beneath it. It was sent to me as it had got around that I was going to start a paper in the college. Alas, the poor ‘Setonian’ is but a dream of the past.”

The reasons why Robinson was not able to start a college newspaper are unknown, but fortunately for Seton Hall it was not completely “a dream of the past” but simply deferred. A college newspaper was eventually founded in 1924—51 years after Robinson’s plans and with the same name he proposed, The Setonian.

Front page of the first issue of the Setonian
The first issue of the Setonian was released on March 15, 1924, 51 years after Robinson’s initial attempt to start a newspaper for Seton Hall College.

After graduation, Robinson returned home to Brooklyn and filled his days by playing baseball and meeting with friends. When the school year re-commences and he does not return to Seton Hall, he muses in his diary:

“First day of September. Tomorrow school opens. I have no fears of the morrow. The noisy Setonia cricket no longer hears my tramp. The boys no longer shake me by the hand. The prefect no longer smiles in anticipation of the sarcasm and the lines he will burden me with. Such is the past. The future is alone known to God. Played ball.”

Handwritten entry in Robinson's diary reflecting on Seton Hall College
Handwritten entry in Robinson’s diary reflecting on Seton Hall College

Like many Seton Hall students, Robinson felt a connection to the College that extended well beyond his graduation, and further diary entries indicate that he remains aware of what is happening there and stays in touch with friends he met in school. His diary provides insight into the ways that student life has changed over the years, but also ways it has remained the same. For more information or to view the diary please make an appointment with Brianna LoSardo or Alan Delozier. We can be contacted at archives@shu.edu or (973)-761-9476.

Studying Ireland, Irish Resources in the Archives and Special Collections Center

With March upon us an increased interest in learning about the culture, history, individuals, events, and traditions associated with the Irish experience is both evident and welcome!  However, when it comes to finding resources related to both Éire proper and Irish-America alike we offer year-round opportunities to study a wide-range of subject areas related to, and inspired by Ireland proper.

The Archives & Special Collections Center at Seton Hall University features a group of printed volumes from the collection of Irish literary figure and noted book collector Michael Joseph (Meagher) MacManus (1888-1951) who wrote various nationalist-themed books and worked as editor of the Irish Press from 1931 until his death two decades later. This library includes over 3,000 titles dating from the seventeenth century to the present day and covers several different aspects of Irish and Irish-American life including culture, geography, literature, politics, biography, history and religion. Nearly all editions are printed in either English or Irish (Gaelach).  The core of this collection consists of acquisitions secured by MacManus during his lifetime, but arrangements have been made to add latter day works to what has become a continuously expanding bibliography.

Most of these volumes of the volumes found in the MacManus Collection are housed in our repository, but many non-rare titles featuring a connection to the Ireland and Irish-American experience in some manner are also included via our databases (including the JSTOR Irish Studies Collection – https://www.jstor.org/subject/irishstudies and the digital Irish Times and Weekly Irish Times [1859-2015] – https://search.proquest.com/hnpirishtimes/index?accountid=13793) along with various e-books or print volumes in our Main Collection and assorted Reference Collection holdings.  More information can be found via our Irish Studies Research Guide – https://library.shu.edu/Irish-studies

and complimented by one specializing on Irish Literature: Past and Present – https://library.shu.edu/irishlit compiled by Professor Gerry Shea.

Another collection donated by Rita Murphy (1912-2003), achieved status as one of the first female graduates of Seton Hall in 1937, prior to becoming a long-time director of the Irish Institute at Seton Hall during the 1950s and 1960s.  She also hosted a weekly Irish Music Program on W-S-O-U FM, South Orange and frequently appeared on local television.  Her collection of nearly 1,000 titles are complimented by other important works donated by prominent donors of Irish titles including the recently acquired Emmet-Tuite Library of volumes focusing on varied aspects of the Irish experience printed between from the 16-19th century, noted New Jersey based journalists Barbara O’Reilly; Jim Lowney and noted advocate Jim McFarland whose bequest centers on focused materials related to political issues in Northern Ireland over the past few decades.

Counted among our major subject collections featuring Irish subject matter include the reference papers of John Concannon (1924-2011) former author, publicist and National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians whose voluminous source material on Ireland and Irish-America is especially detailed with particular emphasis on parades, noted political and military figures.  In addition, the Center houses microfilm editions of the National Hibernian Digest (1905-97), Hibernian Journal (1907-69), and Convention Proceedings of the AOH in America (1888-1990).  Various materials including ledgers, documents, and other items representing the New Jersey AOH have also found a central place within our collection.

When it comes to family ties and Irish-connected genealogy, the presence of church census data, select religious community information, educational files and various institutional and parish records are also found within this collection. Original and microfilmed nineteenth and early twentieth century sacramental registers from both current or closed parishes and various local cemeteries provide a wealth of data for those conducting genealogical research for their Irish and Irish-American ancestors either on-site or via mail inquiry. Supplementing these distinctive resources are bound or microfilm copies of Catholic Almanacs and Directories dating from 1851 onward.

Governor Richard J. Hughes greets President John F. Kennedy at Mercer County Airport – Trenton, NJ, c. 1962

In terms of manuscript collections individual figures with Irish surnames have also been featured prominently in the organization of archival collections featured at Seton Hall through University connections including such academics and former presidents as Bernard J. McQuaid (1856-1857 and 1859-1867); James H. Corrigan (1876-1888); James F. Mooney (1907-1922); Thomas H. McLaughlin (1922-1933); Francis J. Monaghan (1933-1936); James F. Kelley (1936-1949); John L. McNulty (1949-1959) and John J. Dougherty (1959-1969).  Other prominent collections include resource materials from the laity including Congressman Marcus Daly (1908-1969) of Monmouth County, the first Catholic Governor of New Jersey Richard J. Hughes (1909-1992); and Bernard Shanley III (1903-1992), political advisor to President Dwight Eisenhower to name a few.

For more information about these, and other resources, and/or to schedule a research appointment please contact Alan Delozier, University Archivist/Education Coordinator via E-Mail:  Alan.Delozier@shu.edu or by Phone: (973) 275-2378

Women of Accomplishment and Authority Honoring the First Female Administrators and School Leaders of Seton Hall (1928-1959)

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Archives & Special Collections Center is proud to present an exhibit that honors some pioneering female professionals who made a difference in the building of a stronger administrative and educational institution over the last several decades on campus.

List of First Female Faculty at the Urban Division of  Seton Hall College (1937)

The varied contributions made by women in the annals of Setonia have always been significant from her earliest days forward. A portent of success was found when Mme. Chegary, a successful school mistress sold her academy to the Diocese of Newark in 1856 on land in Madison that served as the first home of Seton Hall.

Upon establishment of the school, the work of the Sisters of Charity was enlisted to provide spiritual leadership and nursing care and supervision of the infirmary during the 19th century.  The mothers of the all-male Seton Hall student body also provided a strong influence as role models and support for their college-bound sons.  The accomplishments of women during the early years of Seton Hall was rarely documented and mostly done in the shadows, but their varied and valuable contributions cannot be denied.

When it came to individual females who began the trend of administrative leadership on campus, Ms. Marie K. Fitzsimmons began her affiliation with Seton Hall as the College Registrar in 1928 and lasted through most of the 1950s.  Her work defined who would ultimately attend Setonia and she also oversaw the dawn of co-education when women were first admitted to the Urban Division of Seton Hall (Newark and Jersey City) in 1937.

Marie K. Fitzsimmons (Registrar)

This move towards admitting female students also paved the way for the first women faculty (either adjunct or full-time) members.  This included a number of subject experts including – Sr. M. Aloysius, O.P., Ph.D. (Psychology); Sr. M. Anthony, O.P., A.M. (Education); Sr. Catherine Jonata, M.P.F. (Modern Languages), A.M.; Mary A. Colton, LL.B. (Law); Sr. M. Ines, O.P., A.M. (English); Blanche Mary Kelly, Litt.D. (English); Julia Killian, B.S. (Library Science); Mary T. Mooney, A.M (Sociology).; Dorothy I. Mulgrave, Ph.D. (English); Mary C. Powers, A.M. (English & History/Social Studies); Aileen Reilly, A.M. (English); Elizabeth Scanlon, Ph.D. (Education); and Sr. Teresa Gertrude, O.S.B., Ph.D. (Education).  Complimenting this roster of instructors was Ms. Rita Murphy who became first head of an information center when she became Director of the Urban Division Library during the 1938 academic year.

Blanche Mary Kelly, Litt.D. (English)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary C. Powers, A.M. (English & History/Social Studies)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership opportunities arose shortly afterwards when Professor  Anne E. Murphy, B.A., B.S. was named as the first Dean of Nursing.  She became the first-ever female department head at Seton Hall in 1940. Her example led the way to the hire of other professional women who continuously led the School of Nursing in succession to the present day.  Other milestones initiated across campus included creation of the Dean of Women positon first held by Ms. Ruth Dugan, A.M. during the early 1950s.

When it came to national recognition, Seton Hall instituted its Law School in 1951 and school administration selected Miriam T. Rooney, LL.B. as the inaugural Dean who served in this capacity until her retirement in 1959.

Eventually more women served as key managers, faculty, vice presidents, deans, trustees, and within the last few years assumed top  positions within the administration.  Provost and Executive Vice President, Karen Boroff, Ph.D. and Acting University President appointed in 2016 and Mary Meehan, Ph.D. named in 2017 who serve in their respective capacities have made history and continue to blaze trails in the process.

Examples from our collection will be on exhibit from February through May of 2019 in the First Floor foyer of Walsh Library located across from the stairs and elevator.

  • For additional background and more information on this topic and other aspects of Seton Hall please feel free to contact University Archivist, Alan Delozier at: alan.delozier@shu.edu  or by phone: (973) 275-2378.

1968 : A Year in the Life of Seton Hall University – A Pictorial Retrospective Exhibit

The Archives & Special Collections Center is proud to present an exhibit that shows scenes from the Seton Hall campus from half a century ago to celebrate student life, academics, activities, and the school within the context of one of the most pivotal years and times in national and world history.

 

Counted among the highlights that happened at Seton Hall in 1968 include the following milestones . . .

  • The South Orange campus of Seton Hall becomes fully Co-Educational.
  • The Humanities Building (today known as “Fahy Hall” named in honor of Rev. Thomas Fahy) houses offices and classroom space is dedicated.
  • The Boland Hall East Dormitories were also dedicated on October 23.
  • Bishop John J. Dougherty serves as the University President (1959-69).
  • Commencement takes place on June 8th of that year.

  • Sister Agnes Reinkemeyer is appointed Dean of the School of Nursing on July 11th of that year.
  • University Council approves Voluntary R.O.T.C. Program on campus.
  • Business School starts plans for a new structure (ultimately completed in 1972).
  • Spring Weekend at Seton Hall called the “Biggest and Best Ever” at the time.
  • New Core Curriculum plan for the College of Arts & Sciences is discussed in December.

 

Examples from our collection will be on exhibit from October through December of 2018 in the First Floor foyer of Walsh Library located across from the stairs and elevator.

For additional background on the United States Constitution and questions about relevant holdings and other research topics please feel free to contact us at – archives@shu.edu or (973) 761-9476.

Discovering the namesake of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives

Written by Rev. Michael Barone

The Spring 2018 semester at Seton Hall University found Archives staff at the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives and Special Collections Center beginning to process the collection belonging to the eponymous former University Archivist, Director of Special Collections, and Rare Book Librarian, who died in December 2000.

Holy card, 2000
Holy card, 2000

Speaking to people who knew him, one learns that “Father Field” was a fixture on campus and in the Archdiocese of Newark, for which he was ordained a priest in 1940.

While the arrangement and description of the collection is still an ongoing project, looking through Monsignor’s papers and ephemera, one sees the story of a priest, scholar, lecturer, and traveler beginning to take shape.  After all, archivists process and maintain the collections of persons so that their lives and work might be preserved for future generations of researchers and historians.  While tedious at times, the task of archiving invites oneself to experience a sense of reverence or respect for the subject and creator.

Being himself an archivist for 30 years, Msgr. Field’s papers gives insight into the work of a Dean of Library and Special Collections Director, who earned his MLS from Columbia University in 1961.

Daybook, 1940-1970
Daybook, 1940-1970

Most of the collection is structured to organize his academic papers. However, Monsignor Field was also a gifted poet who sent and received numerous greeting cards from all across the globe. These are part of a correspondence series.  Msgr. Field kept detailed travel logs, postcards, and brochures from years of travel.  Beloved chaplain and member of several professional societies, the numerous awards, religious and devotional objects, owned and collected by the priest, will be discoverable by use of a detailed finding aid describing its inventory of materials and their structure.

Entering the reading room, one notices a prominently placed bust and portrait of Msgr. William Noé Field, welcoming visitors to his beloved

Archives, which bear his name.  Founded during his lifetime, and organized with help of Peter Wosh, the Center remains a valuable repository and resource.  For more information, or to schedule a visit to the Archives at Seton Hall University, located on the ground floor of our Walsh Library.  We look forward to this collection being available to the public in the very near future.

Archives sign
Namesake of the Archives

 

Seton Hall Community College – The Associate Degree Experience (1952-64)

From its first semester forward, Seton Hall has offered students the option of pursuing a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree through its undergraduate studies program which on average typically lasted four years to complete. However, there have been exceptions to this traditional approach as educational trends changed over time.  For example, Seton Hall offered not only collegiate level instruction, but a preparatory school option during the earliest decades which encompassed a seven-year curriculum until this was discontinued in 1897 with “Seton Hall Prep” establishing its own identity.  Otherwise, during the twentieth century, Setonia began to develop various professional, or extension schools (not only its South Orange campus, but also in Newark, Jersey City, and Paterson) outside of the customary post-secondary model including such study options as certificate programs, distance education, graduate degrees, and other specialized curricula.  In general terms, many of these programs were designed to help educate and build specific skill sets for those who wanted to learn outside of the undergraduate model.  In many cases, these programs usually last two-three years (or less) depending on the major and curriculum involved.  This led to an experimental school known as the Seton Hall Community College which helped train a number of individuals for work in the white collar world.

Seton Hall Community College (SHCC) followed a wave of other accredited two-year schools (also known as junior colleges) that were established nationwide. During the post World War II and Korean War-era when the GI Bill helped pay for tuition for college education this led to an explosion in college attendance and offered increased learning opportunities for veterans, but also others who wanted to explore different vocational options.  On a more local level within New Jersey, for a number of years SHCC shared company with independent junior colleges that featured Catholic-affiliation including  the now defunct Alphonsus, Don Bosco, Englewood Cliffs, Maryknoll, and Tombrock Colleges for example.  Today most accredited community colleges are public institutions administered on a county-wide basis, but although no longer in operation, SHCC still retains its place in the annals of junior college history.

SHCC was founded in 1952 as a two-year school that offered classes at its original campus located within the 12-story structure situated at 31 Clinton Street in Newark or in the building situated at 3055 Boulevard in Jersey City.  From its start, SHCC was co-educational and mainly designed for those who worked during the day as classes were typically held during late afternoons, evenings, and on Saturdays.  However, before anyone could enroll they had to meet admission requirements.  As noted in SHCC catalogs of the period the school  offered “young men and women” who attended high school and had adequate grades along with good “ . . . health (and) character . . .” along with passing “ability (and) placement” tests and a post-exam interview helped to assure admission.  Furthermore, the individual had to complete an official application and offer official transcripts for board review.

When contemplating a course of study the prospective student had a limited amount of offerings at the start as SHCC granted diplomas in either Business or Secretarial Studies when it began operations.  During its first years within the framework of  different concentrations including General Business, Accounting, Selling, Personnel, Retailing, Insurance, General Secretarial, Medical Secretarial, Insurance Secretarial, or Legal Secretary work were available.  When it came to the core curriculum, the first semester that a typical freshman faced included a total of 9 required credits which included one credit courses in “Apologetics I,” “Survey of the Catholic Religion I,” or “Religion and Reason” and partnered with such two credit offerings as – “Principles of Rhetoric I,” “History of the United States I,” “Voice and Diction I and II,” and “The Natural Sciences.”  During the mid-1950s, a new major was established an Associate Degree in Applied Police Science. For this path of study, he same type of classes were required at the start along with Moral Philosophy and eventually led to such courses as “Traffic Control,” “Swimming and Life Saving,” “Principles of Investigation,” Psychology of the Criminal,” and others.  Along with required and topical classes, optional classes available through the College of Arts & Sciences, Education, and General Studies were also available in subsequent semesters.  When it came to costs, the fee structure for the SHCC included the following: Matriculation Fee (payable once)  – $10.00, Tuition per credit – $13.50, Graduation Fee – $20.00, Registration Fee (per semester) – $3.00, Student Activities Fee  (per semester) – $1.00, Laboratory Fee (Typewriting) – $5.00 and a comprehensive $125.00 for the Applied Police Science program.

In order to make the experience more well-rounded, the school offered students personnel counseling, various extracurricular activities, a student council, placement bureau, and various facilities for Ex-Service Men among other options.  In addition, the ability to transfer into a four-year program either for those who earned the requisite 68 credits (36 in the basic core and 32 in electives) was in the offing for those who wished to advance further.  Once all required coursework, costs, and other goals were met, this led to an Associate of Arts degree for the graduate.

For those who attended and the message after graduation was outlined for the student in the following practical manner:  “Earning A Living.  The practical world today requires that young people acquire skills and understanding if they are to succeed in the highly competitive situation which prevails.  Seton Hall has selected general fields of training that grow out of the needs of the great metropolitan area.  Particular attention has been paid to those fields in which there are the greatest shortages of adequately trained personnel at present.  The programs planned, however, are sufficiently fundamental so that adaptability to general business as well as specific ability in one field may be expected . . . “ Therefore, the SHCC strove to meet this goal for its students and those who called it alma mater.

Although admissions and attendance peaked during the mid-1950s, the days of the SHCC were numbered as more schools were established and Seton Hall concentrated more on its undergraduate division and looming full co-education options on the South Orange campus which occurred in 1968.  The last days of SHCC came about around 1964 when the last two graduates of the program earned their A.A. degrees, but all who attended, taught, or were impacted by the Seton Hall Community College remain part of the institutional history and are pioneers in the educational development of the school.

For more information on Seton Hall Community College and other aspects of school history please contact Alan Delozier, University Archivist at: <Alan.Delozier@shu.edu>  or (973) 275-2378

April Fools’ Day-Themed Tall Tales & Seton Hall . . .

Our school newspaper known as The Setonian has been a staple on campus since 1924 and since that time has featured numerous stories that focus on factual reporting.  Accuracy in journalism is the goal for anyone involved with the press from the writer to the editor before any article reaches the public.  Even before the upsurge in “fake news” that has become more commonplace in contemporary society there are times when content is purposely meant as satire in order to provide comedic relief.  This was clearly stated in the annals of Setonia lore as the paper regularly featured a special “April Fools’ Edition” dated April 1st from its inaugural appearance in 1956 through the remainder of the decade through the 1960s in particular.

These special editions were clearly meant to lampoon college life and often featured clever headlines and text to bring momentary shock, but with it harmless humor and often an inkling that something is amiss.  In many cases, the more outrageous the headline, columns, and photograph(s) shows the creativity of those involved with the prank.  In all cases though a disclaimer is issued that warns the reader of what they are to expect.  For the latter day audience these special issues have historical value on what constituted comedic values in a particular era.

For more information about college humor, satire in print, and other historical notes about Seton Hall please feel free to contact Alan Delozier, University Archivist at: Alan.Delozier@shu.edu or phone at (973) 275-2378.

 

Honoring the 65th Anniversary of the Judaeo-Christian Studies Institute & Jeifa Family Collection

This exhibit on display throughout the Spring 2018 semester on the first floor of Walsh Library is designed to share the historical significance of remembering the Holocaust and have furthered the discussion of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation over the last century into the new millennium.  This select array of materials on display also provides an introductory   and research-oriented means of appreciating the power of individual and communal stories through the sharing of documentary evidence.

The Jeifa Family Collection is based mainly on the contributions of Mr. Michel Jeifa (b. 1927) who was born and raised Paris, France and surviving the Holocaust and being able to endure after the deaths of his parents in concentration camps during World War II.  Various representations of life before and after this tragedy along with symbols and pride in their faith have been preserved by Michel, his children, and grandchildren as part of an important and lasting legacy.

              

Founded in 1953, The Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies became a trailblazing enterprise devoted to religious dialogue and understanding.  The first director was Monsignor John Oesterreicher and through his vision and that of former university president, Monsignor John L. McNulty, Bishop John J. Dougherty, and others.  More detailed and additional information on Judaeo-Christian Studies and related initiatives sponsored through this Center can be found on the Institute homepage at: https://www.shu.edu/judaeo-christian-studies/

The materials presented here were selected from various portions of the Archives & Special Collections Center at Seton Hall University with editorial assistance from Reverend Lawrence Frizzell, Director and Associate Professor of the Jewish-Christian Studies Graduate Program, and Ms. Gisele Joachim, Dean of Enrollment Management of the Seton Hall University School of Law.

For more information on this exhibit and other materials related to the Holocaust and Judaeo-Christian Studies, please contact Alan Delozier, University Archivist via e-mail at:<Alan.Delozier@shu.edu> or phone: (973) 275-2378.

Brendan T. Byrne (1924-2018) – From Setonia to the State House, A Life of Public Service

We are pleased to announce a new exhibit in honor of the late Governor Brendan T. Byrne which is being hosted by the Archives & Special Collections Center through the Spring 2018 semester.

Brendan Thomas Byrne was born April 1, 1924 in West Orange, New Jersey, the fourth of five children born to Francis A. Byrne and Genevieve (Brennan) Byrne. He attended Seton Hall College in 1943 before leaving to enroll in the United States Army Air Corps as a navigator during World War II. Byrne earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and a Presidential Unit Citation before his honorable discharge from the service in 1945. Upon returning from overseas, Byrne graduated from Princeton University in 1949 and received his LL.B. from Harvard Law School two years later. The future governor first worked as a clerk for future Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, Joseph Weintraub and assisted attorney John W. McGeehan of Newark during the early 1950s.

The public career of Byrne began in the early 1950s as a member of the West Orange Planning Board. He then earned appointed as Assistant Council within the administration to Governor Robert B. Meyner in 1955.  Byrne was later promoted to the position of Executive Secretary the following year, and held this post until 1959.  Later that year, Byrne was named Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Office of the Prosecutor for Essex County and within months he was made the Essex County Prosecutor.  Over the next decade, Byrne argued over 60 different cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court and achieved recognition for prosecuting dishonest contractors and powerful underworld figures. Starting in 1968, Byrne served as President of the State Board of Public Utility Commissioners. He left this position when he was appointed to the New Jersey State Supreme Court in 1970.  In 1971, he handed down a decision that declared the state law on capital punishment unconstitutional. He resigned from the Supreme Court in 1973 to run for Governor.

The platform chosen by Byrne in the gubernatorial election of 1973 was based on the slogan “one honest man can make a difference.” Between the years of 1970 and 1973, several New Jersey public officials were indicted by federal grand juries, and with Watergate still in the news, Byrne ran on a platform of restoring public confidence in the government. His opponent was Republican candidate Charles Sandman, who criticized Byrne throughout the campaign for his reluctance to publicly state his position on controversial issues, but instead preferred to issue position papers. On November 6, 1973, Byrne won by over 721,000 votes.

Nicknamed “One Term Byrne” by critics, he surprised political experts in 1977 when he won re-election against Republican candidate Raymond H. Bateman. Despite being considered the underdog in the race, Byrne won by a large majority.  During his two terms time as governor, he created a legacy that includes the Meadowlands Sports Complex, development of Casinos in Atlantic City, dedication to the environment exemplified in the Pinelands Preservation Act, and a commitment to improving public education.

After stepping down as governor in 1982, Byrne returned to the private sector as an attorney, co-wrote a column in the Newark Star-Ledger with his gubernatorial successor Thomas Kean, and taught classes at various colleges prior to his death on January 5, 2018.

Governor Byrne receives an Honorary Degree from Seton Hall University on May 18, 1974.
Governor Byrne receives an Honorary Degree from Seton Hall University on May 18, 1974.

This exhibit (which will run throughout the Spring of 2018 and viewable at the Archives & Special Collections Center, located on the First Floor of Walsh Library) shows the ties Byrne had to Seton Hall as a student prior to the call to service in World War II.  In addition, included are his debate stop during his first gubernatorial campaign, honorary degree ceremony (1974), and aid with the Meadowlands Development project which bore his name during the 1970s-80s where Seton Hall sponsored a number of events from Men’s Basketball games (held regularly between 1982 until 2007) to Commencement and other activities of note. Additionally, select materials that provide an overview of his campaigns, work among the citizenry of New Jersey, summary of initiatives, and related items that provide a look at the man and his work on behalf of the Garden State and its citizens encompass this display.

More information on the Brendan T. Byrne Collection at Seton Hall University can be accessed via the following site link – http://academic.shu.edu/findingaids/mss0007.html  or you can contact Alan Delozier, University Archivist/Education Coordinator by e-mail at: <Alan.Delozier@shu.edu> or phone: (973) 275-2378.

Pictures and Prose of the Season – Christmas Cards and Setonia

Christmas has been an event traditionally embraced by generations of    Setonians as a special time in their lives both in experiencing campus traditions leading up to the celebration and looking back at memorable days of yore.  This prelude and embrace of the holiday is not only clearly expressed in such Seton Hall traditions as the Nativity Scene constructed outside of the Immaculate Conception Chapel, the presence of Holly Wreaths on entrance ways on many iconic buildings from South Orange Avenue to Ward Place, Musically-Themed Concerts, Pageants, Plays, and other artistic endeavors that highlight Holiday Music, and other signs of the season are evident across campus throughout December.  In recent times, the lighting of the Christmas Tree found outside of President’s Hall has grown into a major event each year and officially signals the beginning of celebrations campus-wide.  The popularity of these and other rituals are not only anticipated, but are typically announced or memorialized in that most customary of seasonal gifts – the Christmas Card.

The University has issued a number of different seasonal greetings over the years and these posts have offered not only joyful wishes and expressions of peace, but also featured illustrations or photographs that capture the feeling of the school community in collective celebration.  These cards often link to the spirit of Christmas Past or Christmas Present in their look along with expressing the positive wish for New Year and Christmas Future in word and sentiment.  A few historical examples are provided here to show some of the shared experience.

For more information about Christmas and other aspects of University History please feel free to contact us at: Archives@shu.edu or by phone at: (973) 275-2378