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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 1, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 32
It's Keyser Quad, Please, Not the 'Upper' One

Two bronze plaques on the 2.44-acre Keyser Quadrangle mark the contributions of the man who assembled the land for the Homewood campus.

Rededication honors man who created Homewood campus

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 landscaping.

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 Hopkins.

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 Homewood site.

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 born.

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."


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