A hallowed segment of the Homewood campus received a
fitting tribute on Sunday, April 30, as the university
sought to underscore a name all too often forgotten.
More than 50 years since its naming, the Keyser
Quadrangle was rededicated in an afternoon ceremony
attended by Johns Hopkins officials and nearly 50 Keyser
family members who gathered to celebrate the event and
unveil two bronze William Keyser biographical plaques,
recently installed on opposite ends of the quad.
The Keyser Quad, commonly — and somewhat
regrettably, many say — referred to as the upper
quad, is bounded by the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and
Krieger, Ames, Gilman, Jenkins, Mergenthaler and Remsen
halls. The university first dedicated the quad in 1954 to
honor William Keyser, who was instrumental in the founding
of the Homewood campus.
Fritz Schroeder, the university's associate vice
president for development, said that the time was right to
rededicate the quad, in large part due to the new formal
signage and the recently completed quad's beautification
efforts, which include new brick and marble pavers and
Schroeder said it's also time the quad's real name
became common knowledge.
"We hope this will change people's perceptions of the
quad and what it should be called. We also wanted to honor
the family and have a celebration of the gift that led to
the establishment of the campus," Schroeder said. "This is
the campus's original quad, where it all started."
William Keyser was born in Baltimore on Nov. 23, 1835,
to Samuel Stouffer Keyser and Elizabeth Wyman.
He began his professional career by founding the
Keyser Brothers partnership with his brother Irvin. In
1870, William became second vice president of the Baltimore
and Ohio Railroad under President John Work Garrett. An
astute businessman, he next ventured into copper
manufacturing, eventually taking control of the Baltimore
Copper Co. and the Baltimore Smelting and Rolling Co. and
amassing a fortune. Keyser put his money to many
philanthropic uses, perhaps inspired by his friend Johns
In November 1894, the university's first president,
Daniel Coit Gilman, asked Keyser for his assistance in
securing another site for the school, which was outgrowing
its location in downtown Baltimore.
William; his twin brother, Samuel; and their cousin
William Wyman would lay the groundwork and provide
financial assistance for Hopkins' acquisition of the
In 1898, William Wyman approached his cousin with an
offer of 62 acres of his own land, situated west of Charles
Street and south of the intersection with University
Parkway (then known as Merryman's Lane). Keyser purchased
the land from Wyman, and the two men, together with a group
of four friends, worked in secrecy over the next three
years to secure options on adjacent tracts.
In early 1901, the two offered 179 acres to the
university with the condition that at least 30 acres of the
property be given to the city for use as a public park
— what would become Wyman Park. The trustees accepted
the offer on Feb. 22, 1902, and the Homewood campus was
Keyser died at the age of 68 at his summer home,
Brentwood, on June 3, 1904. His wife, Mollie, and three
children — Robert Brent Keyser, Henry Irvine Keyser
and Mathilde Lawrence Keyser — survived him.
Juliana Keyser Harris, who was instrumental in
bringing together the family members for the celebration on
Sunday, said that the philanthropic spirit of her
great-great-grandfather is a source of much pride and
inspiration for the family.
"We're very happy to have the university rededicate
the quad and to honor William Keyser's memory," said
Harris, who is the executive director of the W.P. Carey
Foundation. "From my perspective, understanding the legacy
of William Keyser, his work on behalf of Johns Hopkins, and
all the other Baltimore boards with which he was involved,
is important because it gives the younger generation an
appreciation for our family's philanthropy, at a time when
many educational institutions are struggling to meet their
capital and expansion needs while remaining competitive for
the 21st century. This event may inspire others to get
involved, and not necessarily financially, with the worthy
institutions in our communities. I think my
great-great-grandfather would appreciate that."
The 2.44-acre Keyser Quad sits at the heart of the
Homewood campus and has been trod upon by countless
students, faculty, staff and visitors. Commencement was
held there from the 1950s until 2000. It has been the site
of various donor functions, universitywide ceremonies,
Spring Fairs and even protests, from anti-abortion to
anti-war. On Sept. 13, 2001, hundreds gathered there for a
candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of those who perished
in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and
the Pentagon. More recently, the Keyser Quad has been the
site for the JHU Summer Outdoor Film Series. Informally,
the Keyser Quad has also served as a cricket field, rugby
field, Frisbee field and football field, among others.
Gaylord Clark, professor emeritus of orthopedic
surgery at the School of Medicine and the great-grandson of
William Keyser, said that he knows his mother, father,
grandfather and great-grandfather would all be proud of
what the quad and Johns Hopkins have become.
"I think it's wonderful that the university is having
this event and celebrating what Keyser did for Johns
Hopkins," Clark said. "A lot of activity goes on [at the
quad], but I think nobody ever realized it had a name."