Press Releases Index

March 23, 2005
CONTACT: Tom McLaughlin
908-737-NEWS (6397)

Kean University Hosts 150th Anniversary Birthday Celebration

UNION, N.J. ––Kean University will proudly commemorate 150 years of academic excellence with a birthday celebration on Thursday, April 14, at 3 p.m. in the lobby of the Center for Academic Success, located on the University’s campus at 1000 Morris Avenue in Union, N.J.

President Dawood Farahi expressed his pride in serving as president of the oldest public institution of higher learning in New Jersey, at such a significant milestone in its history. “Kean University is an institution steeped in a rich history. It has aged with an unmistakable and purposeful grace in a way that now lends a rather venerable glow to its image,” Farahi said.

However, he added, the story of Kean’s history isn’t just about old photographs and sepia-toned memories. “It represents the vibrant spirit of opportunity and diversity that exists in the hearts and minds of all our students, and the resonant past that made it all possible,” he said. “It is about all of us, planning and working to make this the best university possible, for the next 150 years and beyond. Our primary mission has changed very little. We do our best to provide our students with the education they need to have a stake in America's economic prosperity and a good shot at realizing their dream.”

The origins of the modern Kean University were found in the Newark public schools of the 1850s, then one of the best school systems in the nation. In 1855, the city faced a significant shortage of the teachers it needed to educate the children of the rapidly growing city. The city’s population more than quadrupled during the 1840s and 1850s, as immigrants fled Europe for the promise of industrial work in the United States.

To meet this demand, Dr. Stephen Congar, the superintendent of the Newark Public School System, established the Newark Normal School in order to educate new teachers for his district. Eighty-five students enrolled for the first year – students who would eventually teach in Newark – and after its first year, it was the largest producer of qualified teachers in the state of New Jersey.

In the 1950s, post-war enrollments soon outgrew the single-building campus in Newark, and all efforts to find a suitable location for expansion in the city came to naught. The College then came to terms with the Kean family for the purchase of part of its large estate in suburban Union. The transaction allowed Newark State College to move out of Newark in 1958 – thus ending more than a century of residence in New Jersey’s largest city.

The new Union campus occupied the Kean’s old Green Lane Farm. It was historic ground. The farm predated the Revolution, and Liberty Hall, mansion of Revolutionary Gov. William Livingston, lay directly across Morris Avenue. At its center was the chateau-like library and office of United States Sen. Hamilton Fish Kean, now Kean Hall, that hosted political luminaries of the day and served as a monumental display of the influence of the Kean family.

As it developed its new campus, the College did business under the somewhat anomalous name of Newark State College of Union. The appellation was only a stop-gap and carried no fixed link to either location; and dissatisfaction with the incongruity led President Nathan Weiss to appoint a Name Change Committee. In 1972, Weiss and the Board of Trustees selected “Kean College of New Jersey” as the best reflection of the history of the institution and in honor of the family so long identified with the region.

In September 1997, the institution established as a city normal school officially became Kean University. University status, however, was not a terminal phase of institutional development, but a recognition of Kean’s increasingly active role in the educational, economic and cultural affairs of the entire New Jersey metropolitan region. It continued to value its traditional commitment to teaching at the highest level, while encouraging faculty efforts in research and a variety of creative works in the arts, humanities, sciences and applied disciplines. Public programs in the fine and performing arts have established the University as a regional cultural center.

One hundred and fifty years since its founding, although the name has changed, Kean continues to be the the largest producer of teachers in New Jersey; the premier teaching university in the state; and the most diverse. But most importantly, it is the most affordable University in the state of New Jersey.

Much like the Normal School of Dr. Congar’s day, Kean University in 2005 still serves a wide array of first-generation Americans – the sons and daughters of immigrants as well as those who themselves were not born in the United States, and students who count on public higher education as the great equalizer.