The Relocation of our Educational Institution in the 1950s
For its first hundred years, Kean University was based in Newark and was known as Newark State Teachers College. As time passed, the city grew, the residential neighborhood housed fewer families, and trolley lines were replaced with automobiles. The college’s single building was small and in need of repair. By the late 1940s, the school could no longer meet its demands and had two choices: close or move.
Eugene Wilkins, the college’s president, persuaded the state to relocate the school on a new campus.In the spring of 1951, the New Jersey legislature authorized a referendum to provide a bond issue of $15,000,000 for teacher-college expansion. In November 1952, the city of Newark received $3,700,000 to relocate the College at a new site.
The community, educators, and government officials decided to move the campus to nearby Union Township. The state purchased a parcel of land owned by one of New Jersey’s most-famous families, the Keans, on March 30, 1954. Fifteen hundred people attended the groundbreaking event on April 11, 1956. The big move to Union took place on an unexpectedly snowy day, March 14, 1958. The official dedication of the campus was on October 4, 1958. The campus expanded from a single building on one acre to 5 buildings on 120 acres. Newark State College, soon to be renamed Kean College to better represent its new location, was now ready to meet the needs of its students for the next hundred years to come.
After the United States entered World War II in 1941, librarian Nancy Thompson began reaching out to students and alumni in the armed services. Many wrote back. The letters and other materials were compiled in a scrapbook that we call the Nancy Thompson WWII Scrapbook Collection. Displayed in the exhibit cases are photographs, letters, pictures and other memorabilia from the Scrapbook Collection and the University Archives, touching on the lives of soldiers and students during this pivotal time in history.