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From the Archives: Hall of History Dedication, November 1997

Members of the extended International House community, including relatives of Harry Edmonds and three generations of the Rockefeller family, gathered on November 4th [1997] to dedicate the recently completed Hall of History in the Davis Hall Foyer. 

The dedication of the 12 panels, which contain historic photographs and documents tracing the history of the House and those associated with it, occurred 75 years after ground was broken for construction back in 1922.  The event, attended by more than 200 trustees, alumni, residents, staff and friends, began with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by Chairman John C. Whitehead, Honorary Trustee David Rockefeller, Executive Committee Chairman William D. Rueckert, President Donald L. Cuneo, longtime Trustee Abby M. O‘Neill, and alumna Kathryn W. Davis ’30. After viewing the exhibits, the six made remarks in dedication of the Hall.  “The history of this House really reflects not only the parallel history of our country, but the history of the world,“ said Chairman Whitehead. “If you look at the names and faces in the pictures, you’re struck by how many people of great significance to America and to the world have been associated with this House.”  David Rockefeller, who was first elected to the Board in 1940 and chaired the Executive Committee for many years, was introduced by Whitehead as “New York’s number one citizen.”  Rockefeller, the youngest son of founder John D. Rockefeller, Jr., recalled dinners of his youth with I-House residents in the family’s home at 10 West 54th Street.  “International House has been an important institution in the life of our family for as long as I remember,” he said, adding that his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, bother John D. III, and wife Peggy had all served as Trustees. “It has been much more than just being on the Board of an institution, because we felt such a wonderful affinity with the residents and with the marvelous group of people on the Board and staff of the House.”  Acknowledging Trustee Abby M. O’Neill, “a wonderful person and dear friend as well as my niece” who joined the Board in 1958, Rockefeller noted with pride that her son, Trustee Peter M. O’Neill ’92, had attended his first Board meeting earlier in the evening, marking “four generations of our family as active members of the Board.”   Rockefeller noted that Trustee Bill Rueckert, whose grandfather Cleveland E. Dodge served on the original building committee and on the Board for 57 years, now chairs the Executive Committee. “Both your grandfather and my father would be awfully pleased to know those early roots have continued,” he said.  In her remarks, Abby O’Neill asked Rueckert when one of his young children would be joining the Board. “We’re keeping a tradition going,” she reminded him.  Kathryn W. Davis, 1995 recipient of the Harry Edmonds Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement, spoke briefly at Whitehead’s behest, recalling her and late husband Shelby Cullom Davis’s courtship when they resided at the House in 1930. “My only regret is that I didn’t meet more foreign students because we became too engrossed with each other,” she said.  “How did he court you?” a resident called out from the audience.  “We held hands going to class,“ the 90-year-old Mrs. Davis replied.   “That was a different era,” Whitehead observed.  Rueckert spoke of the House’s rich history and commented that, in addition to himself and Peter O’Neill serving as fourth-generation representatives of their respective families, there are nine current Trustees in various categories with multi-generational ties.  “I-House has been very successful in fulfilling its mission for nearly 75 years,” he said. “The leadership and success and traditions of the past helps all of us who are leading the House into the future.”  President Cuneo said that the completion of the historical displays was the realization of his wishes “to convey the extraordinary history of the House and those associated with it to new generations of residents, alumni and friends.”  Chairman Whitehead congratulated Cuneo and John A. Wells, Director of Public Relations, for their success in creating the Hall of History, and encouraged the residents to study the panels carefully.  “I charge all residents to make the most of your years here,” he concluded, “and to recognize that I-House is an important part of the transition you are making from being a citizen of your country to being a citizen of the world.”