University of Rochester Library Bulletin: George Eastman and the University of Rochester, His Role, His Influence

Volume XXVI · Spring 1971 · Number 3
George Eastman and the University of Rochester: His Role, His Influence
[Taken from the unpublished history of the University; the complete history is available online]
--ARTHUR J. MAY (1899-1965), University Historian


On the afternoon of Thursday, October 11, 1900, the induction of Rush Rhees took place in the brand new Alumni Gymnasium, which was tastefully decorated with dandelion yellow for the historic ceremony. After pledging to promote the usefulness of the University in every feasible way, the President swiftly surveyed the innovations that had recently come over collegiate teaching and training in the United States. Not only did the times call imperiously for an enriched curriculum, he stated, but they demanded enlarged physical facilities and higher standards of undergraduate performance. Turning to the Rochester community, the President remarked that public interest in the University would largely shape the future of the institution.

Unproved as a money-raiser before coming to Rochester, his [Rhees] success in this phase of University affairs placed him among the elite of academic executives of his generation. Of the utmost significance in this connection were the bonds which the President knit, gradually but tightly, between himself and George Eastman-the richest citizen of Rochester, who manifested extraordinary philanthropic instincts.

Before the advent of Dr. Rhees, Mr. Eastman, whose formal schooling had stopped at the seventh grade, contributed in a minor way to the University; but, basically, he was indifferent at best to higher learning. He declined, for instance, to subscribe to the fund that was collected to make possible the admission of women to the University of Rochester. Within a year or two after settling in Rochester, Dr. Rhees made the acquaintance of Mr. Eastman, a very reserved individual outside of a narrow circle of friends. Although his grandfather had been a Baptist preacher and he knew several Rochester clergymen well, the industrialist seldom frequented divine worship and adhered to a humanistic interpretation of life which permitted no place at all for organized religion. Needless to say, in this respect, he diverged radically from Dr. Rhees.

On invitation from the President, Mr. Eastman in May of 1902 brought his distinguished guest, Lord Kelvin, Scottish scientist and inventor, to the Prince Street Campus. Although afflicted with neuralgia, Kelvin spoke to a student assembly about his own academic career and the obligations of educated men. The undergraduates responded with cheers that "could have been heard half a mile away." If the good Lord Kelvin exchanged views with his host on the values of higher education (a not implausible assumption), it is imaginable that the eminent Scot planted seeds in the mind of the forty-seven-year-old multimillionaire which eventually matured in a bumper harvest.

Dr. Rhees, in any case, presently turned to obtaining money to erect and endow a building in which to teach physics and biology, something that had been talked of for years. Since Mr. Eastman's thriving photographic industry depended greatly upon science and scientific research, and since he had already given substantial sums to the Mechanics Institute (later Rochester Institute of Technology), Dr. Rhees applied to him for funds to finance the desired structure. Whether Dr. Rhees was influenced in this venture by Trustee Walter S. Hubbell, Class of 1871, the attorney and intimate friend of Mr. Eastman, remains a matter of conjecture; nor can it be known whether Mr. Hubbell and possibly other trustees shaped the thinking of the industrialist about higher education.

At two interviews in April 1903, Dr. Rhees found Mr. Eastman "cordial and attentive" and obtained a pledge of $10,000 for the building and endowment on condition that $150,000 would be secured elsewhere. It was estimated that construction would run to around $50,000, and the rest of the money would generate income for maintenance. Only small amounts trickled in from "old grads" and friends of the college, so Dr. Rhees got up his courage and approached Mr. Eastman again. That gambit yielded an increase of the pledge to $60,000. By the time construction had been completed, costs reached about $78,000, all of which the "Kodak King" paid.

"Mr. Eastman entirely on his own initiative," Dr. Rhees revealed, handed him a check for the entire outlay, "without any solicitation, either direct or indirect on my part." A master key to the science building was turned over to the benefactor, "for the oftener you visit it the deeper our satisfaction." Mr. Eastman reluctantly consented to have his name placed on the structure. For a bronze tablet placed in it, provided by the class of 1904, Dr. Rhees devised the inscription: "This building given by George Eastman is dedicated to the study of life and energy for the larger knowledge of truth." Invited to become a University trustee, Mr. Eastman declined; and he responded negatively to hints that he would be offered an honorary doctorate.

Only once later, in 1919, did Dr. Rhees seek substantial financial help for the University from the Kodak magnate. There were, however, several requests for small sums for various purposes. Notwithstanding Mr. Eastman's flat assertion that he would contribute nothing more to the University of Rochester, his munificence, first and last, exceeded $51,000,000, conservatively reckoned. Fellow Rochesterians, kindred in mind and spirit, followed the lead of the community's wealthiest man.

Little by little, Mr. Eastman, on a pattern that defies precise reconstruction, reached the conclusion that institutions of higher learning, technical and non-technical, musical and medical, for whites or blacks, were proper objects of his philanthropy. The broad strands in his reasoning are sufficiently clear: colleges and universities ranked among the most beneficial and most enduring of human institutions; and the welfare and economic health of the nation depended upon the collaboration of industry and education to foster clear, original, creative thinking. It is evident, too, that the philanthropies of John D. Rockefeller, directly or indirectly, for educational and allied objectives, had a profound impact upon Mr. Eastman's thought and action. He once characterized the oil magnate as "the greatest and wisest wealth distributor who has ever lived."

As the years rolled along, the ties between Dr. Rhees and Mr. Eastman multiplied and grew more intimate, though it was 1925 before they started to address each other by their first names. They encountered one another at social gatherings and worked in double harness on significant civic enterprises. The character and quality of the work Dr. Rhees performed at the University of Rochester, furthermore, deepened Mr. Eastman's confidence in him as a sound, provident, far-seeing executive, capable of managing ever larger undertakings. More than that, deep affection for his adopted city, a determination to make Rochester a finer, more attractive community in which to live and work, for Kodak employees particularly, and to enhance its prestige nation-wide, prompted Mr. Eastman to apply the largest portion of his great fortune to improve the health, cultural, and educational facilities of metropolitan Rochester. It has been aptly suggested that his "lifelong love affair with his home city is unique in the annals of American communities."

It has been recounted how George Eastman met all the costs for the new science building, and on October 26, 1904, ground was broken on the Prince Street side of the campus, almost directly across from Sibley Hall; and exactly two years later-debate over the exterior decoration slowed up construction-the structure was ceremoniously dedicated.

Jubilantly--and prophetically--Interpres* lauded Mr. Eastman as "a friend of education" of the University of Rochester, who "has done much toward the placing of scientific training within the reach of all. In the years to come, when. . . our broad campus shall have become far too narrow to accommodate the host of buildings and the throng of students who shall follow in our footsteps   . . . one imperishable link shall survive. . . and that will be the name of Eastman. . ."

Toward the end of 1911 reports circulated that Dr. Rhees would soon be offered the presidential chair at Amherst College, his Alma Mater, and, on an overall estimate, the foremost men's college in the country. The attractiveness of Amherst, its comparative financial well being, its body of wealthy and enthusiastic alumni, the quality of its students in this "men only" institution, a sense of loyalty to his Alma Mater, and family ties in the Amherst area-all exerted a powerful pull upon Dr. Rhees. Yet he was convinced that he ought to stay in Rochester and carry to fulfillment undertakings which were started or were brewing in his mind. Accordingly, he confided to certain Rochester trustees that if two urgent needs were met he would eliminate the Amherst possibility from his thought. First, the productive resources of the University would have to be increased in order to enlarge the faculty and to raise salaries (the University of Rochester compensation for a senior professor stood at a thousand dollars below the Amherst norm), and to erect and maintain new buildings. In the second place, Dr. Rhees wanted prompt action to create a coordinate college for women. Trustee Walter S. Hubbell, the President wrote laconically, "found a favorable opportunity to present my problem to Mr. Eastman."

Gently nudged by Mr. Hubbell, George Eastman is quoted as saying in the spring of 1912, "Rochester cannot afford to lose Dr. Rhees. I will give $500,000 to keep him here, if you [the trustees] will raise the other half million." Acknowledging this most princely offer, ". . . the largest single gift we have ever received . . ." the President informed the Kodak philanthropist that plans were already in progress to secure the other half million. Assurances were given Eastman that everything possible would be done to convince him "that your generous investment in our work. . . has been worthwhile."

Collectively, the University trustees gave over $174,000. Henry A. Strong promised $100,000 for a women's recitation hall in memory of his mother, and other well-wishers responded with similar generosity. For full success, a good deal depended upon the action of the General Education Board. The Board hesitated so long in replying to the request that Dr. Rhees was "frankly apprehensive" lest assistance would not be forthcoming. Yet the Board eventually promised $200,000 if the remaining $300,000 were in hand by June 1913. By June, $1,061,185 were subscribed.

To celebrate the victorious campaign, a gala party was staged at the Hotel Seneca, which the modest Mr. Eastman characteristically declined to attend. Out of gratitude, the men of the college repeated the action of 1906 by dedicating the 1917 yearbook to the Kodak executive. An accompanying sketch of Mr. Eastman by Dr. Rhees described him "as eminent as a public-spirited citizen as he is as a leader in business enterprise . . . Students . . . recognize, with great thankfulness, his magnificent gifts to their Alma Mater."




On Monday, September 12, 1921, the Eastman School of Music opened its doors to students, one hundred and four of them "regulars" of whom fifty-nine were candidates for certificates and forty-five were aspirants for a bachelor's degree. Women outnumbered men in a ratio of seven to one. Over 1,200 entered as special students or in the preparatory department.

Out of a clear sky, apparently, Mr. Eastman inquired of Dr. Rhees, in 1918, whether he would like to have a school of music affiliated with the University. It seems evident that the President had previously been lukewarm regarding a professional school in both music and law. Yet, he responded affirmatively to the Eastman overture with the provisos that the school should be adequately endowed to obviate the necessity of a large registration to meet expenses, and, second, that standards of achievement in the proposed school should be of collegiate quality.

Without fanfare, Mr. Eastman purchased the property, equipment, and corporate rights of the hard-pressed Institute of Musical Art and turned them over to the University. Other Rochester patrons of music pledged to underwrite for five years any deficit the institute might incur.

For the projected center of musical training and entertainment, Mr. Eastman acquired a tract at the southeast corner of Gibbs and Main Streets. Barrett Place (or Alley) formed the boundary on the Gibbs Street side and the property extended along Main Street almost to Swan Street. It was decided that the music school and a small concert hall would occupy the south end of the property, while a theatre with a large auditorium would be erected on the north side. Musical entertainment would be furnished in the great concert hall one day of each week, and for six days it would be used as a cinema house de luxe, imitative of motion picture theatres in New York City, in that film showings would be accompanied by performances of good music and ballet. This feature of the whole enterprise was dear to the heart of Mr. Eastman, who reasoned that many moviegoers would thereby develop a taste for music of quality and, thus, patronage of symphonic concerts and opera would be enlarged.

Planning of the vast edifice was entrusted jointly to McKim, Mead, and White, a leading New York City architectural firm, and to Gordon and Kaelber, Rochester architects. Mr. Eastman personally visited several institutions (schools of music) and supplied the builders with detailed instructions on plans and their execution. Between competing designs for the principal entrance to the theatre, for instance, Mr. Eastman chose one which placed the doors at the corner of Main and Gibbs. The McKim firm was so furious by the rejection of its recommendation to have the theatre face on Main Street that it threatened to withdraw completely from the project; but through the tactful intervention of Mr. Eastman's friend, Frank L. Babbott, the firm reconsidered and agreed to design the façade and the interiors of the two concert halls. Thinking that the seating capacity planned for the theatre might exceed current needs and anxious to avoid a "barn-like" atmosphere, Mr. Eastman proposed a semi-permanent curtain to cut off the top level.

During the construction Mr. Eastman stopped at the site almost every day, and he was saluted as the master architect. To erect and equip the building, Mr. Eastman "spent money like water," Dr. Rhees wrote; but the President, too, kept a supervisory eye on construction.

For the dignified exterior of the entire edifice, the Italian Renaissance style was freely adapted, and Indiana limestone was used. For circular niches in the wall near each side of the stage, a youthful sculptor, Leo Friedlander, created heroic gilded busts of Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach (no favorite of Mr. Eastman's); and portrait medallions set into the balcony rail recalled fifteen other celebrated composers. Rounding out the wealth of artistic treasures, Maxfield Parrish, whose fairyland vistas had made him one of the best-loved American artists of the forepart of the twentieth century, painted "The Interlude." It was placed at one end of the grand balcony foyer, and Mr. Eastman thought the picture was "very strong, simple, forceful."

Reluctantly, Mr. Eastman acquiesced in the assignment of his name to the school and theatre. Jocularly, he inquired of a long-time friend, who recommended that the donor should be commemorated in art form, "Would it not satisfy your portrait aspirations if I should be sculpt' heroic size for one of the figures on the roof, with camera in one hand and a horn in the other?. . ." At the summit of the theatre façade there was an inscription, devised by Dr. Rhees, "For the enrichment of community life," proclaimed to be the supreme objective of the music center. By terms of the Eastman gift (which, with an endowment for the school, approached $6,500,000, excluding the cost of constructing the theatre, nearly $3,000,000 more) ownership of the property was vested in the University of Rochester, of which the school would be an integral division, but management was entrusted to a small, separate, self-perpetuating board, subject to nominal approval by the University trustees. Mr. Eastman, who selected the original board, had a place on it, as had Dr. Rhees and George W. Todd (Rochester industrialist), who served as the first chairman. It was charged, generally, with the promotion of musical culture in Rochester.

For the formal dedication on March 3, 1922, two thousand guests crowded into Kilbourn Hall or followed the ceremonies in the adjoining foyer, or in the school corridor. Dr. Rhees spoke a brief tribute of appreciation to Mr. Eastman, and English Professor John Rothwell Slater composed a poem for the auspicious occasion, reading in part:

Here shall music have a home,
Here shall many lovers come,
Seeking at her inner shrine
Meanings intimate divine...
In this consummated whole
Rochester shall find a soul...

The Eastman munificence and the facilities it financed elicited applause from the press and from the musical world in the United States and, to a degree, in Europe. To a bilious critic, however, the whole undertaking, the vision of transforming the Flower City into an American Milan, was dismissed as "the world's greatest experiment in attempting to exchange money for culture."

Experience dictated several minor alterations in the equipment of the school and theatre, but little was changed without Mr. Eastman's explicit sanction. Even minute details of the physical plant engaged his attention, though he seldom intervened in the educational policies and practices of the school. Installation of penny vending machines for drinking cups in the school, the substitution of more melodious chimes for curtain calls in the theatre lobby and school corridors, a refrigeration system to cut down summer temperatures in the theatre, a storage vault to hold the records of the school and theatre, and the blueprints of new University buildings were each approved by him. He even ordered an investigation to ascertain whether the expense of lighting the grand chandelier in the theatre--the cost ran to $2.88 an hour--could be reduced.

A communication from Mr. Eastman to Mr. Livingston, superintendent of the center, read, "Before you get the new screen for the theatre, please consult Mr. Jones at the Kodak Park Research Laboratory. They have just worked out a new formula for paint that may be useful." When a concertgoer complained to Mr. Eastman of a cold draft on her feet while attending a performance, he issued instructions that the fault be remedied promptly.

Since the facilities for teaching soon proved inadequate, two annexes were erected along Swan Street. The first, five stories high and adjacent to the theatre, was available in 1924. It furnished space principally for orchestral rehearsals, ballet training, and the preparation of properties for operatic spectacles. A runway crossed over to the stage entrance of the theatre. Executives of the school and the theatre were assigned garage space on the ground level. On concert nights, Mr. Eastman, Dr. Rhees, and Mr. Todd parked their cars in the heating plant.

Ten days before he took his life, Mr. Eastman wrote: "I am returning the key. . . as it is not likely that I will want to use the Swan Street garage any more. . ."

Scarcely had the music center been opened than certain citizens demanded the structure be taxed (about $50,000 annually), because patrons paid to attend movie shows in the theatre. From the standpoint of the University, the theatre was "essentially an educational enterprise," in a real sense a laboratory for the school--the two were veritably Siamese twins--and any profits that might accrue from motion picture showings would be applied to musical education purposes. Reasoning thus, University authorities claimed tax exemption. So thoroughly nettled was Mr. Eastman by the threat of taxation that he was heard to say, "If they succeed in taxing this theatre I will go down with hammer and nails and close the doors myself." Alternately, he proposed that the theatre might be leased to a commercial entertainment company. The Rochester press rallied to the support of the University and helped to shape public sentiment against taxation.

Affiliated with the Eastman School in one way or another were several important Rochester musical institutions.  Of them, the foremost was a new Philharmonic Orchestra, which made its debut on March 28, 1923. For the most part, the orchestra consisted of professional players who performed in connection with motion pictures in the theatre; and they were reinforced by teachers in the school and by the best members of the former Hermann Dossenbach Orchestra. Eager though Mr. Eastman was to have a philharmonic orchestra of distinguished quality, he had no intention of acting as "angel," or providing a subsidy. Expenses for the orchestra were to be met in the first instance by box-office receipts and earnings, if any, from the motion picture shows. Deficits were covered by donations from some two hundred patrons of the orchestra in the Rochester area, organized about 1922 as the Eastman Theatre Subscribers Association.

Precisely when George Eastman decided that training for operatic productions should be included in the curriculum of the school is unclear. What is certain is that George W. Todd first took up the idea under the influence of Vladimir Rosing, a Russian-born tenor and noted song recitalist. Boldly, he dreamed of producing well-acted opera sung by young Americans in understandable English. Convinced of the feasibility of Mr. Rosing's plans, Mr. Todd induced Mr. Eastman to finance an opera department at the school for an experimental period.

To teach dramatic action, Mr. Rosing brought to Rochester Rouben Mamoulian, a tall, dark bespectacled Armenian who had had experience with the Moscow Art Theatre, and who subsequently attained national distinction as a film director and producer of plays. Teaching of ballet dancing was established, with London-trained Enid Knapp Botsford as mistress of ballet. The first class of five girls entered in February 1923, and within a year enrollment had climbed ten-fold; children as young as seven were admitted. For a short time in 1925 the graceful and radiantly charming Martha Graham, one day to be known as "the high priestess of modern dance," taught at the school and supervised ballet performances.



While the Eastman center of musical culture and education was rising, the University of Rochester embarked upon a second gigantic undertaking: the construction of a huge medical complex.

"The School of Medicine and Dentistry," A tablet affixed to a corridor wall of the school informs the passer-by, "was established in the University of Rochester in 1920 by the gifts of George Eastman and the General Education Board founded by John D. Rockefeller and is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and to instruction in medicine and dentistry for the promotion of the health and happiness of mankind."

A full account of the meeting of Mr. Eastman and John D. Rockefeller apeared in the Democrat and Chronicle, with a photograph of the two side by side. To Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Eastman expressed pride in being associated with the oil magnate in the creation of a great medical complex. Mr. Rockefeller, in turn, indicated his appreciation to Mr. Eastman for "all you have done and are doing for good." Further, he wished "all men of wealth would give their money freely and judiciously for the general welfare," and he believed that progress was being achieved in this respect.

The trustees of the Dental Dispensary were assured by Mr. Eastman that the alliance with the medical school would not interfere with the work currently being carried on, but rather, would pave the way for even larger service. Dispensary and school would have a similar relationship as the school and the Strong Hospital. If the need for the dispensary should ever come to an end or be so lessened that a separate institution was no longer required, Mr. Eastman wrote its property and endowment should be turned over to the University of Rochester "for the benefit primarily of dental education, but if they cannot be advantageously so used, for the benefit of general medical education." The donor fully appreciated that the alliance would "call for a very high degree of cooperation between the two sets of trustees."

As expressly desired by Eastman, the University and the dispensary entered upon a formal agreement, dated October 19, 1920. Therein it was spelled out that the dispensary trustees would retain control of facilities, endowment, and administration. The director and his professional staff would be appointed by the dispensary trustees through nomination by the University trustees. The University, then, would have full and exclusive right to use the dispensary for clinical instruction and research in dental care. For services rendered to the University, and for educational equipment in dentistry, the University of Rochester would pay the costs.

Once the land had been legally transferred, plans for the construction of the Medical Center moved forward at a good pace, though they had not fully matured when an additional opportunity burst upon the scene: that of a municipal hospital to be embraced in the medical complex. Dr. Rhees and Dr. George A. Whipple, soon to be Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, responded enthusiastically to this idea, for it would at once enable the University to render a special service to the community and would provide the school with a wide variety of patients. This would assure the school of being able to expose future physicians to unusual or interesting ailments. George Eastman gave his approval to the idea, predicting that if it were carried out, "The poorest family in Rochester will soon have the best available medical and surgical skill." And the mayor of Rochester, Hiram B. Edgerton, not only strongly supported the proposal but piloted the necessary legislation through the municipal law-making body.

Senior professors, professional consultants, architects, and George Eastman combined forces in arriving at basic decisions on construction.  Gordon and Kaelber of Rochester were retained as architects, with McKim, Mead, and White of New York City in a consulting capacity. Backed by some of the University's trustees, the consulting architects urged that the exterior should be stylistically attractive; but Dr. Whipple and Mr. Eastman advocated the veriest minimum of costly decoration. During the debate that ensued, animated at times, President Rhees chose to stand above the battle, to hold the balances steady between the rival conceptions. Recalling the friction with McKim, Mead and White over the design of the music center, Mr. Eastman bluntly declared that unless they abandoned "the classic and produce exactly what they are told--an outstanding example of simplicity and economy--I [will] cut them out of the job." An anecdote with a folklorish tinge recounts how Mr. Eastman took architect Edwin S. Gordon on a drive past a Kodak factory and said: "That's what I want. No fancy stuff."

The Eastman-Whipple trinitarian doctrine of utility, efficiency, and economy won, both for the outside and the interior* of the instituition. Here, as at the music center, Mr. Eastman carefully followed planning and construction, proffering suggestions drawn from his lengthy experience in factory management. For example, he saw to it that corners in stairways were painted white to discourage visitors from throwing litter into them. On the exterior, a solitary modest concession to aesthetic adornment was permitted: the entrance to the Strong Memorial Hospital was a dignified, classical portico, composed of four Doric columns and surmounted by commemorative tablets over the architrave. Many an observer, early and late, lampooned the rest of the huge complex as a tasteless example of "early penitentiary" architecture.

Formal ceremonies dedicating the Medical Center were held on Monday and Tuesday, October 25-26, 1926, just after the return of George Eastman from a big game safari in Africa.



Early in the 1920's, friends of George Todd quoted him as saying, "I want to tell you about a brainstorm I've got;" and then he proceeded to outline a plan for a splendid collegiate institution on the grounds of the Oak Hill Country Club, overlooking the Genesee. Aided and abetted by an influential Rochester attorney and ex-Congressman, James S. Havens, Mr. Todd converted Mr. Eastman who had strongly favored expansion in the Prince Street area rather than at the Oak Hill site.

Adverse critics, however, differed strongly, contending that the Oak Hill property was not only too small, but was terribly hemmed in by the river, Mt. Hope Cemetery, the Genesee Valley Park, and the railways which were noisy, dirty and dangerous. These foes felt the property would defy the need for growth in the future. The college faculty in a confidential and tentative action endorsed the basic principle of removal from Prince Street, but requested that all attractive locations be examined before an irrevocable decision was made. In November of 1921, the Board of Trustees discussed the matter and finally approved that a move to Oak Hill be made. Elated by the trustee verdict, Mr. Todd offered to organize a special committee of public-spirited Rochesterians to direct a campaign for funds.

Consultations between the Todd committee representing the University interest and the officers of the Oak Hill Country Club for the acquisition of Oak Hill were rather protracted. In essence, the club was willing to turn over its property in exchange for suitable golfing facilities elsewhere. Accordingly, Mr. Todd's committee acquired a 355-acre tract to the east of Rochester, arranged for landscaping and laying out a golf course, and agreed to meet part of the cost of erecting a club house. Upon the departure of the Oak Hill Club, the Alumni Golf Association played on the links until construction of buildings began.

Mr. Eastman also bought two parcels of ground on the west side of the Genesee, opposite Oak Hill, and transferred the titles to the University. (This land was exchanged in 1931 with the city for a municipally-owned strip on the east bank.) On a July evening in 1923, President Rhees and over fifty influential Rochesterians were entertained in the home of George Todd for a sort of "reconnaissance" talk on the expansion of the college. Dr. Rhees presented in detail three possible plans--one involving an outlay of $5,000,000, a second of fifty percent higher, and the last, a hesitantly advanced $10,000,000. Dead silence reigned. Then, George Eastman, according to one guest, dryly observed, "I think we'd better run up the ten million flag and see what we get." The Oak Hill idea was enthusiastically endorsed, and hearty assurances of cooperation were given.

When Dr. Rhees expressed skepticism as to whether the huge amount of money in fact could be obtained, Raymond N. Ball bucked up his courage. Enheartening was a confidential offer by Mr. Eastman to match any pledge up to $2,500,000 that the Rockefeller General Education Board might make. In committing himself to this extent, Mr. Eastman reminded Dr. Rhees that the fund of $10,000,000 was "mainly to buy clothes for the baby [the medical center] which the General Education Board has left on our doorstep." If he had "known this baby was going to grow so fast I should probably have told Flexner [Secretary of the Board] to take it back home in the beginning but it is such a pretty baby that one does not want to give it up now without a struggle to help support it."

President Rhees tried unsuccessfully to persuade the money managers of the General Education Board to meet the Eastman offer, reasoning that the "medical enterprise can be doubled in importance by putting the college next to it and making it a strong powerful ally." Yet, the most the Board would pledge--because there was a doubt concerning the wisdom of moving ahead on the Oak Hill project while the medical complex was still unfinished--was $1,000,000; and that, provided five times as much was procured from other sources. Nonetheless, Mr. Eastman agreed "to chip in" $2,500,000--and did.

Economic conditions, the hesitancy of the General Education Board, and the time required to organize the financial solicitation caused repeated postponements of the date of the city-wide drive. But, with the intriguing slogan "Ten Million in Ten Days," the campaign was launched on November 14, 1924. Subscriptions might be paid in semi-annual installments extending over five years.

Ample preparations had been made for the great effort, which was conducted without benefit of a professional fund-raising agency. In advance of the solicitation in Rochester, a separate appeal was addressed to University of Rochester graduates. On the eve of the drive, Mr. Eastman entertained at his home 125 people, "quite diversified and fairly representative of the prospects," who listened to Dr. Rhees, Mr. Wareheim (director, Rochester Community Chest) and others describe the case for the University. Mr. Eastman also addressed personal appeals, citing specific amounts to selected investors in his company, underlining that he personally was contributing in order to help make Rochester the best place on earth "for Kodak people to live and bring up their families."

Alumnae and the city teams handsomely surpassed their quotas, and the alumni slightly exceeded the target set for them. The lofty goal of $10,000,000, true enough, had not been fully attained, even when the conditional pledge of $1,000,000 by the General Education Board was counted in. But by dint of persuasive argument Dr. Rhees obtained a promise of an additional $750,000 from the Board, contingent upon valid subscriptions of $8,250,000 by the end of 1927. The final gap of $750,000 was closed by gifts from other sources, such as the Watson munificence for enlarging the art gallery.

Before the tumult and the shouting over the outcome of the 1924 drive had died away, George Eastman cast a fresh vote of confidence in the University which, said Dr. Rhees, "electrified us all." On December 1, 1924, Mr. Eastman revealed that contractual arrangements would be entered into with four educational institutions whereby, in return for Kodak stock valued (grossly undervalued) at $12,500,000, they would collectively pay him $1,000,000 annually for the next fifteen years or until the time of his death. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes, and the University of Rochester shared in the distribution. Rochester got $6,000,000 (market value of which in 1933 came to $16,800,000), in addition, of course, to the $2,500,000 subscribed in the recent fund-raising effort. Little wonder that Dr. Rhees "found it difficult to keep my feet on the ground and breathe at a normal rate." Little wonder, too, that presently in their correspondence the President and the Kodak magnate addressed one another at last by their first names.

At about the time of Mr. Eastman's huge benefactions to higher education, a British journalist interviewed the industrialist in the living room of his East Avenue mansion and wrote an interesting characterization of him. "Mr. Eastman," he wrote, "sat on a small divan, smoking a cigarette, and reading a newspaper. His gaze is direct; his eyes questioning, unmirthful, even when the lips smile. His manner may be frosty, but he shakes hands as though he were genuinely glad to see you...

"His suit that day was a modest grey, the trousers slightly baggy at the knees. His tie was restrained. His spectacles were those of a quiet professor or hard-working business man . . . Even the dimple of his chin assumes an austerity impossible of achievement in the chins of weak men.

"If he hates anything more than the limelight, it has not become known. Unlike most of the world's richest men, he has remained a remote, secluded figure." Even in his home community, the Kodak philanthropist was not widely known, the reporter commented.

To an American journalist who talked with Mr. Eastman in 1929, it seemed that he combined "something of the studious attitude of a college professor with the firm, time-conserving voice of a busy architect who has just been called from his drafting board and wishes to get back to it.. . He thinks a moment before answering your questions...  His face is unlined, as smooth as a boy's and his eyebrows dark . . . [his] gray eyes searching . . ."

Well before that interview, Mr. Eastman had arrived at positive convictions concerning educational institutions radically different from opinions he entertained a quarter of a century earlier. "If a man has wealth," he is quoted as saying, "he has to make a choice because there is the money heaping up . . . I prefer getting it into action and adapting it to human needs . . . It is more fun to give money than to will it. And that is why I give it." And, again, "I have found the greatest satisfaction in doing things for Rochester."

When a business acquaintance balked at contributing to the Greater University Fund in 1924 and poked fun at college-trained people, Mr. Eastman acknowledged that he had once felt the same way, but his attitude had changed dramatically. "Nowadays," he wrote, "practically all bright boys go to college and the [First World] War developed the fact that the college graduate was a good officer and leader. We [the Kodak Company] now, instead of looking askance at college graduates, send out scouts every spring to engage the cream. . . From the Kodak point of view, it is highly desirable to have a good college here . . ."

Owing to the decline in endowment income as a result of the Great Depression, budget reductions became an urgent necessity. The trustees were sharply divided on whether cuts should be made in faculty salaries, as was done in many other universities.*

Action of that sort was avoided thanks to funds that accrued to the University following the death of George Eastman on March 14, 1932. Shortly before he took his life, the Kodak magnate had revised his will, eliminating bequests to several educational institutions, and making the University of Rochester the residuary legatee of his fortune. A million dollars was left to the Rochester Dental Dispensary; comparatively small bequests were made to a few individuals and to charities, but the balance of the estate, exceeding $17,600,000, passed to the University. Approximately $2,700,000 were specifically earmarked as endowment for the Eastman School of Music, and two million would generate income to maintain the Eastman mansion, willed to the University as the home of its president. After ten years the trustees might dispose of the property as they thought best.

The balance of the munificent bequest would be appropriated for the several components of the University as the trustees deemed desirable; and, if necessary, the capital might also be used. Over a million dollars was applied to liquidate the debt incurred in construction of the River Campus. In addition to the funds that the University obtained by the will, the death of Mr. Eastman relieved the University of annual payments to him (about $580,000) under the contractual arrangements of 1924.

When the architects drew the plans for the River Campus they allowed for a spacious quadrangle which would be flanked by academic halls and laboratories, with a library rising on the eastern side. University officials begged George Eastman to permit the assignment of his name to the quadrangle, but he obdurately refused, saying: "At one time it was proposed that the name of the University be changed to the Eastman University, and I objected . . . I am not interested in memorials . . ." After his death, however, the wide entrance to the University was given the name of the Eastman Quadrangle. The President composed two inscriptions carved on stone pillars at the entrance:

This quadrangle is dedicated to the memory of George Eastman, whose ideal for the service of the University of Rochester was as high as his gifts for that service were great.

The second recalled the bonds of the philanthropist with the Flower City:

Rochester, a city of happy homes, was George Eastman's cherished vision, and he gave lavishly to promote its health, education, and civic life. Like benefactions enriched others in America and foreign lands.

Kindred sentiments were placed on a meridian marker set in the heart of the quadrangle in the centennial year (1954) of Mr. Eastman's birth.

When President Rhees was asked to list the hallmarks of Mr. Eastman's philanthropy, he cited the personal consideration given to all begging letters, the independence of his mind, and the varied character of the educational institutions in which he was interested. It is singularly appropriate that portraits of the two men, from the brush of Boston artist Charles Hopkinson, should hang near one another in the University's Rush Rhees Library. "Both portraits show strength," the biographer of the President thought. "Neither shows enough benevolence. Paint cannot capture that. . ."

*The University of Rochester yearbook

*As requested by Mr. Eastman, to whom the term "ward" suggested a barracks, hospital sections were known as "divisions" (though not all staff members became accustomed to that designation).

*For a preliminary analytical assessment of the impact of the Depression on colleges and universities, see Malcolm M. Willey's Depression, recovery and higher education (1937).

August 17th, 1922.

Dr. Rush Rhees,
Islesford, Ranoook County, Maine,

Deer Dr. Rhees:-

I got home this morning after about five weeks' absence. On my desk was your letter of August 4th; also one from Mr. Gannett similar to the one he sent you. I will see him in a few days and find out an about the matter and let you know.

The theatre is coming along finely but it does not seem possible that it will be ready in about two weeks. Most of the seats are in and part of the carpets are down. The chandelier is hung and everything looks as if it was coming out splendidly.

Told [should read Todd] told me and perhaps you may have heard that the Scotti Opera deal slumped and that Scotti has gone to Europe. So they have taken on the San Carlos Opera for a whole week, beginning October 16th. Todd says everybody he could get hold of  to consult is enthusiastic about it, even Furlong.

Parrish's picture has arrived. I went up to look at it with Lawrence White this morning in the room there it is stored in the Music School. White pronounced it a "peacherina" and I echo his sentiments. I hope you can translate this into real art language. It is very strong, simple and forceful.  

Todd told me today that I had sold him a gold brick in the mezzanine for the reason that almost everybody thinks the best seats are in the gallery and the top part at that.

Nothing has come up that would seem  to indicate the necessity of your coming home earlier than the first of the month. Indeed as there is going to be no function of any kind at the opening why don't you and Mrs. Rhees finish out your vacations?

With kindest regards to you both, I am,

Sincerely yours,
George Eastman


July 13th, 1923.

Dr. Rush Rhees,
Islesford, Maine,   

Dear Dr. Rhees:-

It does not seem possible that a fund of $10,000,000 can be raised for the University without some very large subscriptions.

This is to let you know that I am ready to meet any subscription that the General Education Board is willing to make with another one of the same amount. For instance: if it is willing to chip in $2,500,000 I will do likewise. This would leave $5,000,000 to be raised in the general campaign, which I think is about all that could be expected. As this $10,000,000 is mainly to buy clothes for the baby it left on our doorstep I hope the G.E.B. will recognize the reasonableness of the suggestion. If I had known his baby was going to grow so fast I  should probably have told Flexner to take it back home in the beginning but it is such a pretty baby that one does not want to give it up now without a struggle to help support it.

If this offer is taken advantage of I may want to make special terms as to payment but nothing but what will probably be to the satisfaction of the General Education Board.

Yours very truly,

George Eastman


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