Conversations With Our Past
Thomas Frusciano writes to William H.S. Demarest

Rutgers history is very murky in a lot of ways, isn’t it? And interesting. And complicated.

You oversaw a small college that was experiencing some growing pains. Outside of the work of Selman Waksman RC’15,’16 and other agriculture folks, research was limited. Not today—especially with the addition of the biomedical and health sciences.

You lifted a small, classical men’s college into a 20th-century university, bursting with promise.

As 1920 approached, you realized things were changing. The bond with the State of New Jersey, which was now giving us funds, was only going to grow. And there was this idea that we really should move toward being a public university. There was an expansion of the curriculum into the sciences and agriculture.

Yes, the school was changing and, of course, you had to oversee that growth. In my opinion, you may not have really truly embraced that. You were so tied to the old Rutgers: a small private college for men.

You would be surprised by the variety of students who have lived in your namesake Demarest Hall—I mean, the composite of their interests. It’s so different from what you knew as a college student.

Did you anticipate the ways Rutgers might grow? For example, the establishment and growth of the New Jersey College for Women? I think you really supported that, but you had to deal with someone who was very forceful in Mabel Smith Douglass. I would have loved to have watched the two of you talking. I bet Mabel was probably more outspoken.

Rutgers was cobbled together, as former president Richard L. McCormick put it. You’d be surprised to see how Rutgers–Newark, then Rutgers–Camden, and then Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences came to be part of Rutgers. Now they are all serving New Jersey, the nation, and the world. Every Rutgers president since you has emphasized service.

Thomas Frusciano
Rutgers University Archivist

History Lessons
Frusciano served as archivist at New York University and received his master’s degree in history from the University of Montana.

Mightier Than the Sword
He has authored two books and numerous articles, and frequently lectures on Rutgers history.

The archivist loves answering research inquiries by diving deep into the treasures at Alexander Library at Rutgers–New Brunswick.

Research Tool
As an archivist, he celebrates Demarest’s A History of Rutgers College because the president understood the value and use of primary materials and original documents. “You can see where he got all his research.”

William H.S. Demarest
RC1883, 11th President of Rutgers

All in the Family
With four generations of family members serving as trustees, Demarest was the 11th president of Rutgers College (1906–1924). He died in 1956 at the age of 93.

Student Life
A member of the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni, he played baseball and football, edited the Targum student newspaper, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Singular Alumnus
Ordained in the Dutch Reformed Church, Demarest was the first alumnus to become president.

Change Agent
During his presidency, enrollment tripled, the New Jersey College for Women opened, and new facilities were built.

Scarlet for Life
After his resignation, Demarest served as president of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary for 10 years. He remained involved in the university’s affairs throughout his life.