A Legacy of Impact
For nearly 200 years, Lafayette has given students the knowledge and habits of mind that they need to succeed; to become inventive, resilient world citizens who have an impact wherever they land. These selected facts highlight how the College—by virtue of its own powerful character and focus on a way of learning as well as the students transformed by the process—has helped to change the world.
A Lafayette student team won the national championship in the Federal Reserve’s College Fed Challenge in 2009, and the Forensics Society’s speech team placed first in its division at the National Forensics Association’s national tournament. (Lafayette placed second nationally in debate in 2013.)
Charles Bergstresser, Class of 1881, was the silent partner who bankrolled the publishing venture of Charles Henry Dow and Edward Davis Jones. By 1889, Dow Jones & Co. had grown to 50 employees and its business publication, founded in 1883, had evolved into a full-sized newspaper, which Bergstresser named The Wall Street Journal.
Given to the College by Fred Morgan Kirby, the Kirby Chair of Civil Rights (1920) and Kirby Hall of Civil Rights (1930) were the nation’s first endowed professorship and academic facility, respectively, dedicated to the study of civil rights.
Orvan W. Hess ’27, an obstetrician and gynecologist, pioneered the development of the fetal heart monitor and was instrumental in the first successful clinical use of penicillin.
Lafayette declined an invitation to compete in the 1949 Sun Bowl football game because David Showell ’51, a black Army Air Corps veteran, would be barred from playing. The incident widely exposed the exclusion of African American players from most college bowl games, and the College’s action helped spur a policy change: Three years later the first integrated Sun Bowl game was played.
Joe Maddon ’76 of the Tampa Bay Rays, whom the College awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 2010, is a two-time American League Manager of the Year.
Two Lafayette graduates were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. They are Philip Showalter Hench, Class of 1916 (in 1950 for discoveries related to the hormones of the adrenal cortex), and Haldan Keffer Hartline, Class of 1923 (in 1967 for discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye).
Lafayette is the only college of its type selected by the National Academy of Engineering (in 2008) to take part in its Grand Challenges Scholars Program and the only institution whose participating students included non-engineers.
J. Alfred LeConey ’23 ran the anchor leg for the American 4×100-meter relay team that won the gold medal at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris with a world record time of 41.0 seconds. The U.S. Postal Service used a photograph of LeConey at Lafayette for a stamp commemorating the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.
The tomato-canning process was invented at Lafayette in 1847 by Harrison Woodhull Crosby, assistant steward. President James K. Polk and Queen Victoria were among those to whom he sent stewed tomatoes in hermetically sealed tin cans.
James McKeen Cattell, Class of 1880, became the first professor of psychology in the United States when he was appointed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1889.
Lafayette was the first college to formally establish a chair for the study of the English language and literature. In 1857, it named Francis Andrew March “Professor of the English Language and Comparative Philology.” March, a member of the faculty from 1855 to 1906, pioneered the study of literary works in the English language, instituting a program in English at Lafayette decades before the subject was widely established in colleges throughout the nation.
Begun in 1884, Lafayette vs. Lehigh is the most-played rivalry in college football. Yankee Stadium hosted the 150th game in 2014, which Lafayette won, 27-7.
William C. Lowe ’62 led the 150-member team that developed the IBM Personal Computer, which was introduced in 1981. He subsequently held executive positions at Xerox Corp. and Gulfstream Aerospace.
In 1866, thanks to a gift of $20,000 from industrialist Ario Pardee, the College’s first great benefactor, Lafayette added civil and mining engineering to the traditional classical curriculum and became one of the first American colleges to address the needs and opportunities created by the Industrial Revolution.
Lafayette is one of a handful of undergraduate colleges to offer discipline-specific degrees in engineering along with degrees in the liberal arts.
Roger Newton ’72 co-discovered and championed Lipitor, an anti-cholesterol drug approved in 1996 that became the best-selling drug in pharmaceutical history.
Among the U.S. News & World Report top 50 National Liberal Arts Colleges, Lafayette is No. 6 in the percentage of alumni who are executives or directors of companies with sales of $1 million or more as listed in the 2012 Standard & Poor’s Register.
David Kearney McDonogh, Class of 1844, a former slave from Louisiana, was Lafayette’s first black graduate. He became a physician and practiced medicine in New York City. The city’s first hospital to admit physicians and patients without regard to race was named in his honor.
The books of Dominique Lapierre ’52, from Is Paris Burning? to A Rainbow in the Night: The Tumultuous Birth of South Africa, have been read by millions of people around the world in dozens of languages, and his humanitarian, philanthropic initiatives have improved the health and living conditions of millions of underprivileged people in India.
Michael Raynor ’84 is U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Benin. Marcia Bloom Bernicat ’75 served as ambassador to the Republics of Senegal and Guinea-Bissau from 2008 to 2011, and has been nominated as ambassador to Bangladesh.
Alpha Phi Omega, the national coeducational service fraternity with 360 chapters nationwide, was founded at Lafayette in 1925.
Leslie N. Gay, Class of 1913, pioneered the use of Dramamine as a preventative and cure for motion sickness and founded the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s allergy clinic.
As a Lafayette player, George “The Rose” Barclay, Class of 1898, devised and wore the first football helmet. . . . Lafayette’s victory over Penn in 1896 was the first win ever by a small school against college football’s Big Four of Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale. . . . Coach Herb MacCracken invented the football huddle in 1924 after he discovered that the Penn team had been decoding the Leopards’ hand signals.
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