A Golden Plan
From right, Franklin F. Moore, George Hill '30 and J. Goodner Gill pointed Rider in a new direction with the founding of SLAS.
It’s all in the written record, in the minutes of the Board of Trustees’ meeting from November 15, 1961. President Franklin F. Moore ’27 made it known that night to the Board that Rider College would be reorganized to include five separate schools, each with a dean who would report to the provost, beginning with the 1962-63 academic year. Among these five schools would be an entirely new academic unit: the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It was an addition that would transform the institution.
In reality, though, the origins of this decision have their roots three decades earlier, first published in a 1934 letter from Moore to Rider alumni upon his appointment to the presidency of the Trenton-based college.
“The idea for a full-fledged program in liberal studies was actually an idea first voiced by President Moore’s father in the late 1920s,” said Dr. Walter A. Brower ’48, dean emeritus of the School of Education and perhaps the foremost authority on the Rider history. The elder Moore, Franklin B. Moore, served as president from 1898 until his death in 1934, and spoke often of transforming his proprietary business college into a comprehensive institution of higher education.
With the Rider community reeling from the deaths of Moore and longtime Vice President John E. Gill just six weeks apart, the younger Moore, newly installed as president, penned a letter to Rider alumni declaring the strength and vitality of the institution.
“He also indicated that he’d like to see the day when a liberal arts program would lead to a degree at Rider,” said Brower of Moore, whose strong liberal arts background included a degree in English from Princeton. “He felt he owed it to the alumni, that the college would continue to grow.”
Like the rest of the nation, however, Rider first had to cope with the Great Depression, which, according to Brower, sent the liberal arts project to the back burner for some time. Another issue seemed even more daunting: Rider’s lack of accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
“It wasn’t a lack of quality in the programs at Rider,” Brower explained. “But rather, that Middle States had no categorization for such specialized institutions.” The idea would have to wait, but in the meantime, Moore kept moving forward.
Not long after taking office, Moore convened a new Board of Governors to serve him in an advisory capacity. Within three years, however, Moore asked the board to amend Rider’s Certificate of Incorporation to establish itself as a nonprofit institution. He was, in effect, relinquishing a profitable family business in order to help Rider become a full-fledged part of New Jersey’s higher educational landscape. With the 1937 amendment in place, Moore now served at the pleasure of the new Board of Trustees.
“He will never get the full credit for what he did for this institution, giving up profit-making and his proprietary interest,” Brower said. “But, he had a vision of what he wanted this school to be, and he wasn’t going to give up on it.”
In 1952, Middle States altered its policy, agreeing to certify specialized institutions. “President Moore applied immediately for accreditation,” Brower recalled. A year later, the organization dispatched a team to Rider’s Trenton campus on East State Street for a survey.
“The report was very favorable to Rider,” said Brower, who also recalled that it concluded with a recommendation that the College should consider the possibility of instituting a liberal arts program to its curriculum. At the time, no other college in the area featured one.
“That little comment at the end of the report stuck with him,” recalled Brower of Moore. “He pondered over it, and said, ‘Now is the time to move.’”
Within a year, Moore “got the ball rolling,” according to Brower. Organizing his program swiftly but carefully, Moore proposed his idea to the state assistant commissioner of higher education, receiving another favorable response.
“That was all he needed,” Brower said. In 1957, Moore presented his proposed program to the State Department of Education, and the following fall, Rider was offering classes leading to a bachelor of arts in English, Social Studies and Mathematics.
In the spring of 1961, Rider conferred its very first bachelor of arts to Mary Jane Bukowy Whitesides ’61, who earned a degree in Liberal Education. Moore’s master plan was nearing its goal.
“I recall that year that President Moore convened a meeting of the deans,” recalled Brower, who served as secretary of the deans’ council at the time. “He indicated that he had devised a plan to create five schools: a Graduate School, an Evening School, a School of Business Administration, a School of Education, and a School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”
Moore tapped a respected friend from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lawrence O. Ealy, to lead the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences as its first dean.
“He came up with a program for the school, and began hiring people,” recalled Brower, who also served as dean of the Graduate School in 1962-63, its only year of operation. “Rider’s liberal arts offerings up to that time were not extensive, so it was quite an addition to the faculty. The school was off and running.”
Fifty years later, Brower maintains that the creation of the SLAS propelled Rider into the mainstream of American higher education. “No doubt about it,” he said. “Things began to change very quickly, and people began to really look at us in a new light. Along with the move to Lawrenceville, it was one of the greatest milestones in the history of this institution.”