John Howard Van Amringe
John Howard Van Amringe CC 1860 was a Math professor, and is generally credited as the first Dean of Columbia College. Although he may not actually have been the first Dean (it was probably Henry Drisler), it was Van Amringe who convinced Seth Low to rename the entire school "Columbia University" and repatriate the "Columbia College" name back to its undergraduate liberal arts division in 1896. So given that Drisler was the first Dean of the School of the Arts, Van Amringe was really the first "Dean of the College" in name only. That said, if he hadn't proposed the change, you might have been attending the Columbia College School of Arts all this time!
Van Amringe was a passionate defender of the independence of the college from the university and of its liberal arts traditions, though some saw an elitism in this: part of New York's Knickerbocker elite, Van Amringe bought into its prejudices for the "well-read" man who came to college after a preparatory school education had ensured his ability to keep up with the classics. There were even hints of an anti-intellectual bent to Van Amringe's philosophy, seen in his supposed favoritism toward jocks and dismissal of "strivers" with their noses in books, but this may have simply been a manifestation of his preference for "well-rounded" students in the aristocratic tradition. While it cannot be said that Van Amringe did much to increase the value of the college for social mobility, his stonewalling kept the likes of University President Nicholas Murray Butler from completely dissolving it into the university.
There is little doubt of Van Amringe's popularity with students and alumni. How many other Deans had a popular song about them? Van Am Quad is named for him, making him the only dean honored by a purpose built structure on campus, and one of only two deans whose names grace a major campus landmark (Dean Harry Carman (Carman Hall) is the other.)
|Dean of the School of Arts
None (position renamed Dean of Columbia College)
|Dean of Columbia College
Frederick P. Keppel
- A History of Columbia College on Morningside, p. 20 (1954)