Expansive Reading

Dwight Eisenhower reading Columbia Alumni News in 1949 with James Kip Finch and Felix E. Wormser
University president Dwight Eisenhower with engineering dean James Kip Finch (left) and Trustees chairman Felix E. Wormser, 1949. (Courtesy of Columbia University Archives)

Jean Edward Smith’s new book on Dwight Eisenhower tells us that Ike was more intellectually astute and curious than many people supposed, and this picture proves it: here, as president of the University, Eisenhower holds the October 1949 issue of Columbia Alumni News, the precursor to this magazine.

The issue opened with an unsigned editorial that begins, “Columbia was born in a borrowed vestry room and grew up in a deaf and dumb institution and an insane asylum. Now part of it will move into a dairy plant and bottling works.” The Sheffield Farms plant, located near Riverside Drive on West 125th Street in Manhattanville, became Prentis Hall, which first functioned as a laboratory space for the engineering school and currently houses studios for the School of the Arts and the music department.

October 1949 edition of Columbia Alumni News
Courtesy of Columbia University Archives

As Columbia moves forward with its Manhattanville campus, it is worth noting that today’s administration, like the University under Eisenhower, is dealing with a timeless problem.

“That these structures have been needed desperately,” the editorial goes on, “cannot be contested by anyone familiar with a University bulging at the seams.”