@ilovemadisonnj April 4

My daily post theme for 2017 is on Colleges and Universities.

The plan for starting my blog back in 2014 was at the urging of fellow coaching colleagues to share posts on leadership and/or motivation. Somehow that idea got derailed and  turned into daily posts on one theme for an entire year.

In 2014 my daily posts were on the “Beer of the Day”, 2015 it was “A Friend of a Friend”, 2016 I wrote about “North Carolina”, and for 2017 I will focus on “Colleges and Universities”.

I have been associated with colleges since I was 18 and I love them. I have coached/worked at four different universities and in my professional and personal travels visited 100’s more. Each college has something in its history that I want to share that to me make it unique or personal.

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Name of University: Farleigh Dickinson University

Location: Madison NJ

Today is my brother Pat’s birthday and this is also his last week of work before he retires. He has had a long distinguished career as a banker in the New York City/New Jersey area. My brother will officially retire on Friday. He went to college at Farleigh Dickinson University. He took classes at the Florham campus which is located in Madison NJ.

fdu florham

My brother and I were part of six siblings and we grew up in Morris County NJ in Morristown, NJ. In the late 1880 and 1890’s over 100 millionaires had moved to Morris County and built estates. One part of the county were this was prevalent was on Madison Ave. (Rt. 24 today) which was dubbed “Millionaire Row”.  Possibly the most opulent were those of Otto H. Kahn, Hamilton McK. Twombly, Charles Mellon, Eugene Higgins, the Frelinghuysens, Claflins, James, Allens, Wolffs and Kountzes.

One of those millionaires was Heiress Florence Vanderbilt, granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, renowned as the richest man in America, and her husband, financier Hamilton McKown Twombly, wanted a country estate.

In 1890 the couple acquired 1,200 acres stretching from “Millionaires Row,” as Madison Avenue was then called, to Park Avenue and beyond. The foremost landscape architect of the 19th century, elderly Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park, was commissioned to transform about 150 acres into a park of lawn, terraces and formal gardens.

In 1894 the noted architects Charles McKim and William Mead with their partner, the flamboyant Stanford White, began work on the Twomblys’ 100 room mansion, the centerpiece of the park. It was completed in 1897.

vanderbilt estate

Its Georgian Revival design, inspired by the Christopher Wren wing of Hampton Court Palace, was sited to overlook the 150 acre park and nearby valley. The construction crew consisted primarily of Italian immigrant laborers.

As World War I ended, the excesses of the Gilded Age faded. Nevertheless, Florence Vanderbilt Twombly retained her title as uncrowned dowager queen of American society. Quietly she lived on in imperial style at Florham, clinging to a bygone era when vast fortunes were ruthlessly made and lavishly squandered. In 1952 she died at age 99.

Florence Vanderbilt Twombly shown below in her later years.


In 1953 the estate’s existence as a Twombly home for over half a century ended when the Twomblys’ unmarried daughter, Ruth, died. The surviving daughter, Florence Twombly Burden, sold the Mansion’s lavish contents at public auction in 1955.

In 1957 Esso Research and Engineering Company acquired 650 acres of the Twombly farmland. In 1958 Fairleigh Dickinson University purchased 187 acres of property, including the Mansion and related buildings, for an academic campus, now the FDU-Florham Campus.

My brother and FDU have both come a long way over the past 40 plus years.



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