Warhawk Almanac: Oliver Cromwell Arey

Written by Madeline Church

Oliver Cromwell Arey, born in 1817 in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, was named after 17th-century English Puritan Oliver Cromwell.  From the ages of 16 to 21, Arey worked as a merchant sailor before receiving his degree from Union College in Schenectady, New York. After receiving his education, Arey served as the principal of two New York Normal Schools, located in Brockport and Albany respectively.[1]

Photo of Oliver Cromwell Arey
President Oliver Cromwell Arey[2]

In 1868, Oliver Arey became the first President of the Whitewater Normal School. When the Normal School opened in 1868, the school consisted of nine faculty members and forty-eight students [3]. Arey served not only as president, but also as a professor of mental and moral philosophy and theory and practice of teaching. President Arey, who had a strong dedication to living earnestly and “socially correct” behavior, decided that students would be “evaluated on the basis of character, integrity, and manners as well as on classroom academic performance.”[4] As President, Arey oversaw the first-ever Whitewater Normal School commencement ceremony in 1870. The ceremony, held in the Universalist Church in Whitewater, located on the corner of Center and Prairie Streets, recognized the first six graduates of the Whitewater Normal School.[5]      

During his tenure, Arey introduced “Student’s Day.” Student’s Day was an event held once each semester. On this day, faculty and staff were absent from school, leaving the students to be appointed by each other as “President and Faculty, who would at once take up the regular duties of the day and carry them seriously and successfully through to the close.”[6] The faculty and staff gave students no warning as to when this day would occur each term as a means to test their morals and abilities.  

Photo of Arey Residence Hall
Arey Residence Hall[7]

Arey left the Whitewater Normal School in 1876 to return to New York before becoming President of the Cleveland City Normal School in 1879.[8] Arey had a strong impact on the university here at Whitewater. Arey Residence Hall was built in 1963 and originally known as Carlson Hall. When the Carlson Business and Economics Building opened in 1971, the residence hall was re-named in honor of our first president. The residence hall continues to be in use today, housing up to 197 students and is located on the west side of campus.[9]

President Arey was last in Whitewater in 1904, three years before his death, to visit the graves of his two daughters who passed away while living here. Arey spent the remainder of his life in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.[10]

[1] Richard C. Haney, Campus Cornerstones: University of Wisconsin Whitewater Biographical Sketches of the People Whom Buildings & Facilities are Named (Whitewater: University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1997), 8-9.

[2] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 8.

[3] “1868: Old Main is Completed,” Sesquicentennial: Historical Timeline, https://www.uww.edu/150/timeline.

[4] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 8-9.

[5] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 8-9.

[6] Albert Salisbury, ed., Historical Sketches of the First Quarter-Century of the State Normal School at Whitewater, Wisconsin, with a Catalogue of its Graduates and a Record of their Work: 1868-1893 (Madison: Tracy, Gibbs & C0., 1893), 7.

[7] “Arey Hall,” University of Wisconsin – Whitewater – Housing, https://www.uww.edu/residencehalls/hall-tours/arey.

[8] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 8-9.

[9] “Arey Hall,” University of Wisconsin – Whitewater – Housing, https://www.uww.edu/residencehalls/hall-tours/arey.

[10] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 8-9.

This entry was posted in Archives & ARC. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Warhawk Almanac: Oliver Cromwell Arey

  1. Spudart says:

    Surprise! It’s Student’s Day! Assume your positions!

Comments are closed.