Celebrating Presidents’ Day

In honor of Washington’s Birthday and Presidents’ Day, we remember past presidents who have visited Rollins.

Calvin Coolidge, January 1930

From left to right:  Rollins President Hamilton Holt, Mary E. Bacheller, Grace Coolidge, President Coolidge, Alexina Holt (wife of Pres. Holt), and Irving Bacheller

Hamilton Holt promised that the former President (widely known as “Silent Cal”) would not be asked to speak or accept an honorary degree if he came to Rollins.   This prompted one newspaper to comment that “Calvin Coolidge, past president of the United States, wrote yet another chapter in the legend of his taciturnity” with his visit to campus.         The Coolidges attended a program in the College’s recreation hall, where they heard some “delightfully whimsical reminiscences” from trustee Irving Bacheller, a speech from Hamilton Holt, and a performance by the Rollins string quintet.


Franklin Roosevelt, 1936

President Roosevelt accepts an honorary Rollins degree from Hamilton Holt, accompanied by Military Aide Col. E. M. Watson and Eleanor Roosevelt

The Roosevelts were longtime friends of Hamilton Holt (called “Hammy” by FDR).  A local columnist wrote that “the First Lady was graciousness personified,” and the President “was in a happy vein. . . In his speech which was largely serious, he took occasion to crack a few jokes that brought a ready response from the packed Chapel” (Winter Park Herald, 3/27/1936).  One such happy moment seems to have been captured by the New York Herald Tribune (below):


Harry Truman, 1949

President Truman sets his stone in the Walk of Fame, accompanied by Hamilton Holt

In January 1949, Hamilton Holt wrote to President Truman, telling him that this would be his last year at Rollins and going on to say, “When you first became President you remember that you promised to come here and let Rollins honor itself by conferring upon you an honorary degree.”  Truman kept his promise, accepting his degree before giving a brief address, in which he stated that “America’s hope, and the hope of the world, is in education.”


Ronald Reagan, 1976

A student presents Nancy Reagan with roses, in honor of the Reagans’ wedding anniversary

While campaigning for the 1976 Republican nomination, Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, visited Rollins, appearing before a crowd of 2,200 at the Enyart-Alumni Field House.  This was the date of their 24th wedding anniversary, which they celebrated at Winter Park’s Langford Hotel.

The Reagans, as featured in The Sandspur (3/19/1976)

We have been honored to welcome these leaders to our campus.  Happy Presidents’ Day!

~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

2 thoughts on “Celebrating Presidents’ Day

  1. And Chester A. Arthur came to Winter Park in 1883, but, alas, didn’t set foot on the Rollins campus. Great post and handsome photograph of the Coolidges and the Batchellers. I guess Herbert Hoover was the only president “Hammy” missed during his administration. Or did he?

    1. Dear Thad,
      The only president he missed was Herbert Hoover, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. We appear to be missing some of their correspondence, but it seems that Hamilton Holt invited him to campus several times, beginning in 1927, when Hoover was serving as Secretary of Commerce.

      Thirteen years later, apparently in response to yet another declined invitation, Holt wrote Hoover, “I would say, if I dared, that you are a very slippery fish!” But in closing he said, “Still I am not going to give up hope and as long as you don’t return my letters unopened, you will get an invitation every little while to come to Rollins, until the drop wears away the stone.”

      ~ Darla

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