A president without an inauguration: Dr. Edward J. Gray
By Janet McNeil Hurlbert
Professor Emeritus of Library Services
Dr. Edward J. Gray led Williamsport Dickinson Seminary, a predecessor of Lycoming College, from 1874-1905. During his presidency – the second longest in the college’s history – Gray brought many curriculum enhancements and facility improvements, and established the institution’s financial stability.
Formal inaugurations were not held at this time, and Gray as well as his very capable wife, Eva, assumed responsibilities in February 1874. Both of the Grays had been graduates of the Seminary. He was known for his oratory and devotion to the ministry of the Methodist Church, and he took part in every aspect of school life from guiding the board to teaching and interacting with alumni and presiding over Seminary functions. Shortly after his arrival, Gray wrote an historical sketch of the school incorporated into the 1875 catalog: http://www.lycoming.edu/library/archives/catalogs.aspx.
Known as a strict disciplinarian, Gray started each term with a reading of the school’s rules as he explained his interpretation to the students. Before official events, doors were locked to discourage late-comers, and Gray started many programs by reminding everyone to be quiet. There was no doubt that Gray took seriously his responsibility of nurturing young adults, and he gave many inspiring sermons to them during his presidency, such as this excerpt from a baccalaureate ceremony:
“Behind you is the history of six thousand years of human history and divine manifestation; around you are the golden opportunities in which place the treasures of the age within your grasp; beyond you are the cycles across which character is to march. Seize all that they bring to you. Join yourselves to the past, bind yourselves to the present, project yourselves into the future.”
For more information about the history of Lycoming, consult “Lycoming College 1812-2012” by John F. Piper, Jr. and the Lycoming College Digital Archives: http://www.lycoming.edu/library/archives/.