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Wagner College: Four Histories

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  • 1.Wagner College: Four Histories THIR D REV I S ED ED IT I O N M A Y 2 0 1 1 Richard DarrowHarald K. KuehneWilliam Ludwig Lee ManchesterWalter T. Schoen Jr. Frederic Sutter with Brian Morris E D IT ED BY L E E M AN C H E ST ER

2. Wagner College: Four Histories 3. IntroductionThe publication of this small volume, coinciding with the 125thanniversary of the founding of Wagner College, is the first attempt atpublishing a history of the school actually, four histories.The main contributions to this collection were written by fourauthors: Harald Kuehne, Walter Schoen, Brian Morris (ghost writingfor the Rev. Frederic Sutter) and Lee Manchester. Manchester alsoserved as the volumes editor. These main essays were the basis of aspecial forum on Wagner College history held September 12, 2008.The collection also includes five appendices. The first, profilingthe early direktors (German for headmaster or president) ofWagner College, was compiled by Lee Manchester, based upon a setof profiles written by early Wagner professor William Ludwig. Thesecond appendix, describing student life at Wagners Rochestercampus, was written by Richard Darrow, the colleges assistantdirector of communications, for the January 1968 issue of WagnerMagazine. The remaining three appendices are tables reprinted frommaterials found in the college archives. HARALD K. KUEHNE wrote his contribution, A Report on theReligious History of Wagner College, for a Yale Divinity Schoolclass in May 1950, a year after he graduated from Wagner. His essaywas the earliest scholarly attempt at writing a history of the collegethat we had on file in the schools archives. It starts off with ageneral history of the college, then focuses on an aspect of theinstitution that has changed dramatically since the 1950s: its religiouslife, orientation and affiliation. After graduating from Yale Divinity and the LutheranTheological Seminary in Philadelphia, the Rev. Harald Kuehne wascalled to become pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church inRockville Centre, Long Island, a position in which he served until hisretirement in 1989. He continues to serve as pastor emeritus at HolyTrinity. He is married to Britta (Woodbury) Kuehne, Wagner CollegeClass of 1950. Wagner College literally saved me, Rev. Kuehne wrote in arecent note for his annual class letter at Yale Divinity. The war[World War II] took 4 years out of my life. My discharge wastraumatic from the discipline of Army life to, Youre on yourown, pal. I was a lost vet until my pastor told me to apply to a smallLutheran college on Grymes Hill, Staten Island. Half the studentbody was made up of ex-GIs. I was at home again.viii 4. WALTER T. SCHOEN JR. wrote The Founding of WagnerCollege and the Early Years of Its Development in May 1957 as hisEnglish thesis under the supervision of one of Wagners outstandingprofessors, Dr. Ida Everson, he recently recalled.While he was composing his meticulously documented essay,Schoen had access to early records and minutes of the college thatcan no longer be found or no longer exist; as such, it is the onlyreliable reference we still have to many key facts concerning thecreation of Wagner College.Schoen graduated from Wagner College in 1958. He earned hismasters degree at Columbia University and completed doctoral andpost-doctoral work at Southern Illinois, Syracuse and New Yorkuniversities. Schoen served as president at Monticello College, anddean at Ramapo State College and Somerset County College.Now retired, he lives in Pinehurst, North Carolina. His wife,Barbara R. (Brown) Schoen (Class of 1956), died in 2006. BRIAN MORRIS, a 1965 graduate of Wagner College, workedin the Wagner College Communications Office from 1967 to 1972.In 1968, he taped a series of extensive interviews with the Rev.Frederic Sutter, founder of the modern Wagner College on StatenIsland. Morris compiled those reminiscences into a memoir that wasfirst published around 1970 as The Evolution of an Idea: Fifty Yearson Staten Island. Morris, retired from his position as spokesman for Staten IslandUniversity Hospital, teaches part-time at St. Johns University,whose Staten Island campus is just a stones throw away fromWagner College. He is currently a member of Wagners NationalAlumni Association Communications Committee. He lives on StatenIsland.LEE MANCHESTER is Wagners media relations director. Hecame to the college in 2007, bringing with him 20 years ofexperience in public relations, journalism and publishing.Manchester is the author or editor of a dozen books, eight of them onregional history. His story on how he found the last survivingdescendants of the original Wagner family, Finding GeorgeWagner: A Historical Detective Story, appeared in the Summer2008 issue of Wagner Magazine. Manchester is also the author of anongoing feature in Wagner Magazine on the architectural history ofthe colleges Staten Island campus. He and his wife, Jody Leavens,live on Staten Island and in Jay, New York, outside Lake Placid.ix 5. Notes on the revised editionof November 2008After the initial publication of this book in August 2008, Ilearned that a key point in my essay, Founding Faces and Places,was inaccurate:The name of the elder Wagner who brought his family toRochester from Prussia in 1838 was not John George Wagner Sr., butGeorge Heinrich Wagner. My initial assumption had been based onthe inscription on George Heinrich Wagners tombstone, GeorgeSr. The fact is that George Heinrich was called George Sr.because his son, John George Wagner, was also referred to within thefamily as George.Wagner Colleges early benefactor, John George Wagner, wasnot John George Wagner Jr. That name properly belongs to ourbenefactors son, J. George Wagner Jr., who died at the age of 19 andin whose honor the college was eventually renamed.I also learned that the wife of John George Wagner, ourbenefactor, was also his first cousin. John Georges marriage hadbeen arranged, long distance, by his father. Both this fact and thecorrect name of the eldest Wagner immigrant were disclosed in abatch of papers containing the genealogical research of John GordonMaier, a distant cousin of Margaret-Anne Milne, the great-granddaughter of John George Wagner.Upon visiting the grave of Christian Seel, in whose privatehome Wagner College was hosted for its inaugural academic year, Isaw that his tombstone claimed that he had died in 1893, though allother records agree that he died in 1895. I have found no explanationfor this contradiction.While visiting the Seel family grave site, I also learned thatChristians youngest son, Eduard, was of an age in 1883 that hewould undoubtedly have still been living at home when the secondfloor of his house was turned into the Lutheran Proseminary ofRochester.Finally, though I have discovered a Rochester newspaperobituary, for young George Wagner, I have still not determinedwhether or not he was enrolled at Newark Academy, a predecessor ofWagner College, at the time of his death. I had hoped that hisobituary might tell us what was his occupation at the time of hisdeath, but the accounts I found mentioned nothing about either hiswork or studies. x 6. Earlier, I had tried to find an obituary for George Wagner inone of the two Newark, N.Y. daily newspapers that were inpublication at the time of Georges death. The Newark Unionnewspaper contained no mention during the month of October 1873of the death of anyone with a name like John George Wagner Jr.Microfilms for the 1873 issues of the Newark Courier whichappears to have been the newspaper of record for Newark, N.Y.during that period were missing from the microfilm series held bythe Newark Public Library when I visited over the summer of 2008.Librarians told me that the original hard copies of the Courier, fromwhich the microfilms had been made, no longer existed. Lee Manchester November 11, 2008 xi 7. A report on the religious history of Wagner College by Harald K. Kuehne, May 1950ForewordThe title to this paper bears witness to its limitations: It is areport and not an exhaustive historical treatment. The study andresearch, which ought to have entailed at least a months time, werecompleted in feverish haste during a period of three days. Theapproach, therefore, is not a fully penetrating one; the analysis isneither clear-cut nor complete. As a result, the unique position whichWagner College has attained and holds today in the realm of highereducation cannot be made adequately evident to the mind of thereader solely through the means of this work.The writer has attempted to avoid misleading and mistakenconclusions and generalizations by keeping as close as possible tobasic concrete facts. The historical material was obtained largelyfrom facts and data as found in newspaper clippings, historicalcontributions and outlines, and catalogues. The contemporary pictureis presented, as the result of numerous interviews with members ofthe faculty and administration, examination of the Student ChristianAssociations minutes and files, and the writers own livingexperiences as an undergraduate student at Wagner College. A history of the collegeThe school had the name Wagner Memorial College, but itwas not a college in the American sense. It did not have the standard[curriculum] and was not recognized by the Regents of the State assuch. It was still a preparatory school for students of theology whosefinal examination entitled the students to the entrance in a theologicalseminary. The students who entered the college were supposed to begraduates of a Public School. They were probably 14 years old, butexceptions were made. Some were younger, some older. The Schoolhad a six years course, stretched out over six classes. In these classeswere about 23 students, who all came from German Lutherancongregations or Orphan Homes. Their mother tongue was German.So there were no difficulties as far as language was concerned.1Such was the inauspicious position and unique make-up which this1 From A Contr

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