Bridgewater State College: "As We Were, As We Are: 1840-2005"

by Davide Licata, '04

In its earliest days, what is now Bridgewater State College bore little resemblance to the school that opened its doors on September 9, 1840, to seven men and 21 women.

The path that took the college from the most humble of beginnings to an institution that now serves over 10,000 students a year is to be chronicled in a new book entitled, "As We Were, As We Are: 1840 to 2005."

The book itself is part of the college's progression.

"In 1940, the late Dr. Jordan D. Fiore, distinguished professor of history at Bridgewater for nearly 30 years, was a senior at the college and he published a small booklet which he entitled, 'As We Were,' " says David Wilson, class of 1971, who will be the editor of the new book.

"That was the centennial year of the college's founding, and Dr. Fiore had the foresight to contact living alumni and ask for their recollections of student life," explains Wilson. "As a result, memories of people who were students here in the 1870's and later were captured. "

In 1976, in observance of America's bicentennial, the alumni association published an updated version of Dr. Fiore's 1940 booklet.

"We called the updated version, 'As We Were, As We Are,' " says Wilson, who was the co-editor of the '76 book, along with Dr. Fiore, who was by then a member of the college's faculty in the Department of History.

Now, nearly 30 years later, a new version is in the works.

"While Dr. Fiore's original 1940 book was a collection of memories, the 1976 book included all of those recollections - only a few copies of the 1940 book even existed, and we were concerned recorded memories would be lost if they weren't reprinted - and, in addition, we added more than a hundred old photographs to the '76 book,"
says Wilson.

Also, Dr. Fiore wrote chapters for the '76 book on various aspects of college life.

"Like the 1940 book, there are very few copies available of the 1976 book today," says Wilson. "Therefore, in the '05 edition our plan is to include all of the alumni recollections from the 1940 book, many of the photographs from the 1976 book, and all of Dr. Fiore's writings that were in the '76 book. If we don't, we believe valuable information will be lost to history."

But the '05 edition will have much more, he says.

"We're updating the book to include the last ten years of Adrian Rondileau's presidency, the thirteen years of Adrian Tinsley's presidency and the first several years of Dana Mohler-Faria's presidency. The new book will be current and up-to-date," says Wilson.

Assisting Wilson in this effort is Davide Licata, '04, who is majoring in communication studies.

"This is quite an enormous project," explains Wilson. "We have a lot of history to cover and we hope to publish no later than the end of 2005 or, at the latest, early in 2006. I'm delighted to have the help, and the perspective, of a current student, and I look forward to working with Mr. Licata."

Funding for the project is expected to come from the college's alumni association, which, as noted earlier, provided the funding for the 1976 book.

"The alumni association is almost as old as the college itself," says Wilson, who served a two-year term as president of the association, from 1986 to 1988. "The first meeting of graduates took place in 1842, and since then the association has been operating continuously ever since."

Ultimately, Wilson says he hopes that future members of the college community will keep its history current.

"Bridgewater was a pioneer among public colleges - in many historical documents it's referred to as the 'mother of public colleges' because it's the oldest permanently located public institution of higher learning in Massachusetts - and its graduates not only have served the state but the entire nation with distinction. Appreciating that history means having it available for present and future generations to read and evaluate."

College's first home: from September 9, 1840, to August, 1846, the college was located in the basement of the local town hall in Bridgewater.

The Boydens: Albert Gardner Boyden, left, a graduate of the class of 1847, became princpal of the college in 1860, and remained for 46 years, retiring in 1906. His son, Arthur Clarke, right, a garduate of the class of 1876, became president upon his father's retirement and remained in office until 1933.