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Today's New Yorker Birthday, Nicholas Murray Butler, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Columbia U President.

Nicholas Murray Butler (April 2, 1862-December 7, 1947), although from Elizabeth, New Jersey, was affiliated with Columbia University in NYC for 60 years. He was an educator and university president; an adviser to seven presidents and friend of statesmen in foreign nations; recipient of decorations from fifteen foreign governments and of honorary degrees from thirty-seven colleges and universities; a member of more than fifty learned societies and twenty clubs; the author of a small library of books, pamphlets, reports, and speeches; an international traveler who crossed the Atlantic at least a hundred times; a national leader of the Republican Party; an advocate of peace and the embodiment of the «international mind» that he frequently spoke about. He was called Nicholas Miraculous Butler by his good friend Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1931 Butler shared the Nobel Peace Prize for with Jane Addams. He received it for his efforts to strengthen international law and the International Court at the Hague. As a champion of international understanding, Butler helped establish the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, of which he was a trustee and later president (1925–45). He became so well-known and respected that The New York Times printed his Christmas greeting to the nation every year.


In 1887, he co-founded with Grace Hoadley Dodge, and became president of, the New York School for the Training of Teachers, which later affiliated with Columbia University and was renamed Teachers College, Columbia University, and from which a co-educational experimental and developmental unit became the Horace Mann School.


Begiining in 1901, during Butler's v40+ years of serving as the President of Columbia University, it grew from a provincial college into a university of world renown. All graduate studies were enormously expanded; the scope of professional training was enlarged to include new schools such as those of journalism and dentistry; the student body was increased from 4,000 to 34,000 the physical plant was enlarged by new buildings; and professorial salaries were increased enough to attract many of the world’s leading scholars to the teaching and research staff. These additions included Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, the first academic medical center in the world.


Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, this son of Henry L. Butler, a manufacturer, and Mary Murray Butler, daughter of Nicholas Murray, a clergyman and author, began his career with a brilliant record as a student. In 1882, at the age of twenty, he received his bachelor’s degree, in 1883, a master’s degree, in 1884, a doctorate – all from Columbia College; in 1885 he studied in Paris and in Berlin where he began a lifelong friendship with Elihu Root, who was also destined to become a Nobel peace laureate. In the fall of 1885, he accepted an appointment on the staff of the Department of Philosophy at Columbia College, which in 1896 became Columbia University.


From the first, Butler distinguished himself as an educational administrator. Within four years he gave administrative form to his philosophical theory of pedagogy by establishing an institute which, later affiliated with Columbia, became known as Teachers College. He founded the Educational Review and edited it for thirty years, wrote reports on state and local educational systems, served as a member of the New Jersey Board of Education from 1887 to 1895, participated in the formation of the College Entrance Examination Board. He was named acting president of Columbia University in 1901 and president in 1902, retaining that position until retirement in October 1945. Butler was president of prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters from 1928 to 1941.


Butler was also active in Republican Party politics and on national issues. He believed that Prohibition was a mistake, with negative effects on the country. He became active in the successful effort for Repeal in 1933. During his lifetime, Columbia named its philosophy library for him; after he died, its main academic library, previously known as South Hall, was rechristened Butler Library. A faculty apartment building on 119th Street and Morningside Drive was also renamed in Butler's honour, as was a major prize in philosophy.


Sources for this post: nobelprize.org; wikipedia

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