Seth Low1850-1916 "The great city can teach something that no university by itself can altogether impart: a vivid sense of the largeness of human brotherhood, a vivid sense of man's increasing obligation to man; a vivid sense of our absolute dependence on one another." Kevin Boyd
Early Life • Born January 18, 1850 to Ellen and Abiel Abbot Low, in Brooklyn, New York. • Grandfather and Father had been prosperous merchants in the China trade industry. • Attended Poly Prep Country Day school in Brooklyn. • Went to Columbia College, graduating in 1870 as valedictorian. • In 1880 married Anne WroeScollayCurtis, daughter of Benjamin Curtis of the United States Supreme Court.
Rise to Prominence – Mayor of Brooklyn • Shortly after graduating from Columbia, Low joined A. A. Low & Brothers, which was the tea and silk house in New York that had been founded by his father. In 1888 the company was liquidated, from which Low received a sizeable fortune. • In 1881, Low became mayor of Brooklyn, his grandfather had previously been mayor years before. • Accomplishments as mayor: • Built new schools, put city employees under civil service, opened a school to train schoolteachers, reformed the franchise system, helped to initiate the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, restructured Brooklyn’s tax system and also reduced the city’s debt. • Served 2 terms until 1885, gaining himself a good reputation as a popular leader. Construction of Brooklyn Bridge
Seth Low Return to Columbia • Following his time served as the Mayor of Brooklyn, Low became the eleventh President of Columbia in 1890. • Low did not have the background of an educator, instead, the skills that he brought to Columbia were administrative and strong leadership, which he used to help transform and shape the college in many ways. • Low very strongly stressed the ideal of a University upon Columbia College, and he successfully brought together the various schools under one organization, a university council. • Barnard College became affiliated in 1889. • The medical school in 1891. • Teachers College in 1893. • The development of graduate faculties in political science, philosophy, and pure science established Columbia as one of the nation's earliest centers for graduate education. • With the increased focus on graduate students and professional education, in 1896 the trustees voted and approved the name change to “Columbia University in the City of New York”.
The Big Move • One of Seth Low’s most important and lasting legacy at Columbia was his decision to take the University from its Midtown location and make the move to Morningside Heights. • Under his guidance, Columbia purchased 18 acres in Morningside Heights. In 1897, the university moved from Forty-Ninth Street and Madison Avenue, where it had stood for forty years, to its present location on Morningside Heights at 116th Street and Broadway. Low sought to create an academic village in a more spacious setting. Charles FollenMcKim of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White modeled the new campus after the Athenian agora. Morningside Heights Midtown Campus (East 49thst. and Madison ave)
Low Library • The architectural centerpiece of the campus is Low Memorial Library, named in honor of Abiel Abbot Low, Seth’s father. Low Library was underwritten by Seth Low, and was made possible by a one-million dollar gift to Columbia by Low himself in 1895. The construction of the library was the first building on the new campus. Built in the Roman classical style, it appears in the New York City Register of Historic Places. The building today houses the University's central administration offices and the visitors center. Construction of Low Library Low Library today
Back to Politics – Mayor of New York • By 1897, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the other boroughs had been combined to create the Greater New York area. Also in 1897, Low’s first campaign to become mayor of the consolidated New York failed. • In 1901, Low campaigned again to become Mayor of New York. His second campaign was successful, and upon being elected Mayor, Low’s time at Columbia came to an end when he resigned in order to serve at his elected position. • He was the second Mayor of the Greater New York area, but served only two years (one term) before losing his re-election bid in 1903. • Notable achievements as Mayor: • Lowered taxes • Improved education in the city • Introduced a merit-based civil service system for hiring municipal workers. • Reduced corruption within police department Consolidation of the 5 boroughs
Seth Low, 1901 Campaign for Mayor • In the 1901 Mayoral election for the city of New York, Low ran as a fusion candidate, which is where two or more political parties list the same candidate in order to pool votes. The Republican party and Citizens Union party sought to defeat the Tammany Democrats, so both parties gave their support to Low, and he became the first Mayor of New York to be elected on a fusion ticket.
Post Politics – Tuskegee Institute • After his political career ended, Low went down to Tuskegee, Alabama in 1907. There he became chairman of the Board of Trustees of another prestigious institution, Tuskegee Institute. Tuskegee was a black school, headed by Booker T. Washington. • Seven years later, in 1914, he was also chosen as President of the New York Chamber of Commerce. • He held both of these positions until he died in 1916.
Other Notable Recognitions • While Mayor of Brooklyn, he served as a member of the Board of the New York Bridge Company, the company that built the Brooklyn Bridge. • Low served on the commission that prepared the first charter for Greater New York under its new consolidation in 1898. • Served on the Rapid Transit Board in 1899, which was established to plan New York's first subway. • On July 4, 1899 he was one of the American delegates to attend the International Peace Conference at The Hague, in the Netherlands. • Became President of the National Civic Federation in 1907. • Became President of the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1914.
Sources • http://www.answers.com/topic/seth-low • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seth_Low • http://c250.columbia.edu/c250_celebrates/remarkable_columbians/seth_low.html • http://library.columbia.edu/locations/cuarchives/presidents/low_seth.html • http://theboweryboys.blogspot.com/2008/01/know-your-mayors-seth-low.html