FDU’s namesake turns 150 years old
Above: Colonel Fairleigh Dickinson's 150th birthday is August 22, 2016. (Images courtesy of BD)
By Dan Landau (FDU) & Richard Kushnier (BD)
Born in North Carolina in 1866, the year after the Civil War ended, Dickinson’s childhood was a difficult one. When he was 11, his father died and the young Dickinson signed onto the crew of a merchant ship to support the family. Later on, Dickinson did stints with the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Elizabeth, N.J. and a sales position with the Baker Paper Company of New York City.
Despite his humble origins, Dickinson was highly motivated to succeed. While at Baker, he took his weekly travel allowance of 75 cents to New York Penn Station and asked for a round-trip ticket to take him as far away as the three quarters would cover. He got a ticket to Asbury Park, N.J., where he was able to make a large sale to a stationary store. He returned to New York on the next train to show his supervisors that he was their best salesman.
A sales trip to Texas brought Dickinson in contact with Maxwell Becton in a train station dining room. Becton was selling imported thermometers and other medical devices, and the two struck up a conversation over breakfast. Within six months, they formed a partnership and Becton, Dickinson and Company was founded in September 1897 (the company renamed itself to BD in 1999).
When the two started the company, Dickinson was only 31 years old and Becton was 29. Dickinson served as president of the company until his death in 1948 at the age of 82.
In the early 1940s, Peter Sammartino approached Dickinson for help in founding a new college. Dickinson provided the critically needed seed funding to start the school and in 1942, Fairleigh Dickinson College opened with 153 students.
In his book “Of Castles and Colleges,” Sammartino writes that the first name proposed was Dickinson Junior College, “but the State Board of Education turned it down, fearing that … might conflict with Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, one of the oldest colleges in America. And so in desperation we picked on the Colonel’s first name, ‘Fairleigh,’ and came up with Fairleigh Dickinson. We had practically to bludgeon the Colonel into accepting the idea, but once the legal papers went though, he took quiet pride in having his name associated with the small but interesting educational development.”
Seventy-five years after opening its doors, Dickinson’s namesake legacy has grown from its initial 153 students to more than 12,000 with four campuses in Madison and Teaneck, N.J.; Vancouver, Canada, and Wroxton, England. Today, FDU offers more than 100 degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, including most recently, the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree.
Today, the businessman and benefactor is also remembered at FDU in the form of the Col. Fairleigh S. Dickinson Scholarship. The achievement-based scholarship provides undergraduate students with awards ranging from $18,000 to $30,000 annually for four years.
Share this feature story: