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Rollins 66 Years Old Monday,
By DON VINCENT
When famed Rollins College holds its Mid-Winter Convocation at 10 a. m. Monday in Knowles Memorial Chapel, it will observe the 66th anniversary of its founding.
As American colleges go, 66 years is not a sign of antiquity. Harvard is over 300 years old, Yale about 250, Williams some 150. But few colleges of its size, regardless of age, have contributed in so short a time as much to the life of the nation, state and community.
The vitality and progressive spirit that has marked Rollins is in part due to the enterprise of its pioneer founders. When Rollins was founded Florida was, a frontier state. Winter Park was four years old, its population 400. The Florida Railroad had been put through in 1881 but trains rarely stopped at the village.
The idea of an institution of higher learning in Central Florida originated with Miss Lucy Cross, a graduate of Oberlin College, who was then conducting a private school at Daytona Beach. She appealed to her pastor, the Rev. C. M. Bingham, for the establishment of a college "for the education of the South in the South."
The Rev. Mr. Bingham liked the idea. As moderator of the General Congregational Assn. he presented the petition at a meeting in Orange City on Jan. 27-29, 1885. The association voted to take steps to establish a Christian college, unsectarian in purpose, and appointed a committee of five to send out an open letter inviting proposals from communities interested in securing the location of such a college.
Few believed that Winter Park had a chance, but they underestimated the enterprise of its businessmen. When the proposals were received at Mount Dora on April 14, Winter Park's bid of $114,000 was the highest. Of this sum $64,000 was raised by citizens of the town, $50,000 given by Alonzo Rollins.
Much of the credit for this victory goes to Dr. Edwin P. Hooker, who became the first president; George A. Rollins, brother of Alonzo, Frederick W. Lyman, Charles H. Morse, William C. Comstock, the Rev. Henry D. Kitchel, Francis B. Knowles, Dr. Henry Foster, and the Rev. Samuel F. Gale, most of them transplanted Northerners.
Despite the original success of the founding fathers, few colleges encountered more difficulties. With less determination, Rollins would have died soon after it was born.
When the college opened on Nov. 4, 1885, there were only 53 students, distributed between the college and preparatory departments and the training school. Small fry could enter. the training school at the age of six.
The-library consisted of a Bible and second-hand
Annie Russell Theater, left, and Knowles
dictionary, fundamental but inadequate for a well-stocked college library.
Prospects for growth were not promising. Orange county, which then included what is now Lake Seminole and Osceola Counties, had 14,400 inhabitants. Transportation posed a problem. The Florida Railway offered service between Jacksonville and Tampa, but students living off the line could come to Rollins on foot, or by horse and buggy.
Neither did Rollins start with the well-wishes of all Central Florida. Communities that had bid and failed to win the college showed their annoyance in various ways.
The South Florida Times of Orange City, described Winter. Park as a "place surrounded by swamps and