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Dr. Thomas E. Robinson, 1952-1968
Dr. Thomas E. Robinson became the institution's third president in 1952. Under his leadership, the college expanded its curriculum beyond teacher preparation.
Dr. Thomas E. Robinson, 1952-1968Born and raised in Trenton, he earned a bachelor of arts from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, a master of arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate from Rutgers University in New Jersey. He began his career as a teacher of Latin and English at Trenton Junior High School IV. He also was an elementary school principal, Mercer County Superintendent of Schools, Secretary of the N.J. State School Aid Commission, editor of the NJEA Review and chairman of the National Education Association's Citizenship Committee. A prolific writer, he wrote 10 books and more than 400 articles on schools and teaching and had a profound influence on educators state- and nationwide.
Robinson was named president of the college in 1952. The institution boosted enrollment, built more buildings and increased its curricular offerings under his leadership. The purchase of a 117-acre peach orchard on the north side of Route 322 gave the college more room to expand. In 1958, the Middle States Association accredited the college, which helped it achieve major league academic status. That same year, the college changed its name from Glassboro State Teachers College to Glassboro State College to reflect its expansion of course offerings.
Robinson maintained a calm atmosphere at the college, despite rebellions at other institutions throughout the 1960s. Students launched Project Uganda in 1963, which sought to collect books for the newly created country and establish a school there. There was even an on-campus celebration to mark Uganda's birth. Although the students' ultimate goal of constructing a school in Uganda was never realized and the country refused the 20,000 books that were collected, participants proved that they were willing to get involved. The books were donated to African nations that really wanted them and other collected materials were donated to migrant labor groups and needy schools in the United States.
While Robinson was president, the college built 14 buildings and full-time enrollment surged from 400 to 3800. The State Department of Education approved seven new graduate programs in 1964 and a liberal arts program was introduced in 1966. The expansion of course offerings throughout Robinson's tenure attracted higher-caliber faculty to the college, which began to project its image beyond South Jersey.
In 1967, the college became a focal point of world attention when President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin held a summit at Hollybush, the campus mansion at which Robinson lived. Robinson was only given 16 hours notice of the event, but helped convert the college into a diplomatic meeting place that earned high marks from both leaders. They met for five hours in Hollybush's library on June 23, 1967 and returned to the campus on July 25 for further talks. No agreements were signed, but the summit helped ease tensions. Johnson was so impressed with the cordiality of the college that he returned the following year and delivered the commencement address.
Ten days after Johnson's commencement speech, Robinson resigned after 17 years as president. When Robinson had arrived at the institution in 1952, it had offered three majors, but by the time he left, it offered 25. The Board of Trustees later named Robinson president emeritus.