From the I-House Archives: Happy Birthday, Harry Edmonds!
Harry Edmonds and International House staff, 1927/ I-House Archives
Happy Birthday, Harry Edmonds!
Born in 1883 on a farm in Elmira, NY, Edmonds studied engineering at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, where he met and married Florence Quay. After graduating in 1904, he and Florence moved to New York City, where he began working as a secretary for the Y.M.C.A. It was here, after a fateful encounter with a Chinese student in 1909, that the early idea for an International House began to take shape. Taken aback by the student’s isolation, with the encouragement and help from his wife Florence, Edmonds began inviting international students into his home for Sunday suppers to share food, conversation, and hospitality. This led to the establishment of the Intercollegiate Cosmopolitan Club in 1912, whose mission was to unite students from all backgrounds and nationalities. The club quickly outgrew the Edmonds’ apartment and moved to Earl Hall at Columbia. Post-WWI, the need for more space and resources became critical, and Edmonds expanded his efforts and began calling on the Dodge family, who were instrumental in bringing the Y.M.C.A. movement to the United States. While the Dodges helped purchase the six lots on Claremont Avenue, Harry began to energetically pursue the support of the John D. Rockefeller Jr, who with his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, became vital to funding and planning International House.
Claremont Ave, ca. 1915/ I-House Archives
After it opened its doors in 1924, a movement began. Propelled by Harry Edmonds and backed by the Rockefellers, International House Berkeley was opened in 1930, followed by International House Chicago in 1932, and Cité Internationale in Paris in 1936. Although he “retired” in 1935, Harry continued to travel the world and act as a vocal advocate for International House and its mission until his death at age 96.
Harry Edmonds dedicated his life to spreading international friendships and promoting world peace. It is safe to say that without this man’s focused persistence, we would not be here today. Here’s to you, Harry!
1939 trip to Japan/ I-House Archives
Of this experience he wrote, “It was not only a feast of food but of friendship, which we enjoyed to the full and will never forget.”