Pit Stop #53: Colgate University

In mid-July, I had the opportunity to make my first visit to Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. Hamilton is 240 miles due west of Boston (a gorgeous journey even on the interstate), but I opted to get off the highway for the last hour to take bucolic Route 20, as it meanders through even more spectacular countryside. Along the way, I passed by the village of Cooperstown, home to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and vowed that next time, I’ll definitely stop for a relaxed visit there. 

Beyond the beauty of my journey, the destination of Colgate’s campus simply blew me away; it is one of the most scenic (and hilly) college campuses I’ve ever seen. It’s so hilly, in fact, that they have named sections of the 575-acre campus as if they were actual levels: Upper, Middle, and Lower campus. 

Brian Casey, whom I have had the good fortune to know for some years, is in his eighth year as President. Happily for Colgate, President Casey has no plans to leave anytime soon, as he is leading the college through the early stages of a billion-dollar campaign to ensure the future of the institution and its ability to fully meet the financial needs of its incoming students. While many of our colleges and universities continue to suffer from the impacts of COVID, Colgate is one of those fortunate schools that have come through the pandemic stronger than ever.

Applications have increased by thousands since 2020, Colgate been lauded as one of the “Hidden Ivies,” and the school has been recognized as one of the most highly selective colleges in America. In fact, its admit rate for this Fall is just 12%. 

More to come about Colgate’s unique history, but first a word of explanation about how I came to visit.  Colgate is a member of a consortium of upstate New York liberal arts colleges, along with Hobart and William Smith Colleges. As keen readers of this blog may recall, Hobart and William Smith was the first US-based, non-New England institution to join NECHE (from the Middle States Commission accreditation), and it was HWS’s experience with us that came to the attention of Brian Casey and the board of Colgate. Colgate has just begun the process of applying for NECHE membership, hence my visit –soon to be followed by a Commission team visit. If successful, and with all approvals met, Colgate’s transition to accreditation under NECHE will occur in Spring, 2024. Needless to say, we are quite excited about this prospect. 

Back to a reverie on the distinctive traits of Colgate…beyond its  supremely good-looking campus. For a liberal arts college, Colgate’s student body is quite large, with more than 3,200 undergraduates studying across 56 majors. And as a member of the Patriot League, its athletic program boasts an impressive 25 Division One teams. 

Colgate also boasts a very odd lucky number: 13. According to legend, way back in 1817, 13 men gathered, offered 13 prayers, donated $13 each, and wrote 13 articles of a constitution that led to the creation of what is now Colgate University. Small wonder that the number 13 is still at the center of Colgate’s identity…in Colgate’s zip code, its address, and the total of letters in its motto Deo ac Veritati. Of course, Colgate Day is also un-superstitiously celebrated every Friday the 13th. Naturally! 

Known for its academic rigor, with 345 full-time professors and a rather fanatic cadre of loyal alumni, Colgate’s success has been a steady ascendance that is particularly noteworthy. Over 80% of its students participate in undergraduate research alongside faculty and in the last three years, 16 Colgate students have been awarded a Fulbright and 9 were granted the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation. 

We will be pleased to share Colgate’s path to full accreditation in the future. Stay tuned.