Education: Nicholas Miraculous

When Nicholas Murray Butler was a few days old, his aunt gathered the baby, an American flag, a $10 gold piece and a Bible in her arms. Then she carried her treasures up to the cupola of the house, and in a little ceremony dedicated little Nicholas to a life of patriotism, wealth and piety. All that was missing, to include all of the symbols that Butler lived by, was the blue-&-white pennant of Columbia University.

As student, professor and president, Nicholas Murray Butler was part of Columbia—and Columbia part of him—for 67 years. At 28, he was Columbia's youngest philosophy professor,...

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