Nobel Peace Prize Recipient. Nicholas Murray Butler received notoriety after being awarded the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with American Jane Addams. According to the Nobel Committee, he was given the coveted award for being “President of Columbia University, and a promoter of Kellogg-Briand Pact.” In 1925, Butler became President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and was affiliated with the International Court at the Hague with an understanding of international law, being chairman of the Lake Mohonk Conferences on International Arbitration. In an attempt to prevent another world war, the Kellogg-Briand Pact or the Paris Pact, for the city in which it was signed on August 27, 1928, was an agreement to make aggressive war illegal. Although twenty-two nations sign the pact, history shows that this document, as well as other peace-seeking documents signed after World War I, had little authority with rising aggressive military forces in Europe in the 1930s. From these many meetings, he became an adviser to seven presidents along with being a friend of statesmen in foreign nations, with critics questioning his friendship with some of the foreigners. Born the son of a manufacturer, he excelled in his education and entered Columbia College, which would become in 1896 Columbia University in New York City. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1882, a master’s degree in 1883, and in 1884, a doctorate majoring in philosophy. This followed with him going to Paris and Berlin to study. While in Germany, he became friends with Elihu Root, who would later become the United States Secretary of War, Secretary of State, and the recipient of the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize. It was through Root that he was introduced to Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who would both later become United States Presidents. By 1885, he accepted a position at Columbia College as an assistant in the philosophy department. In 1887 he became president of the New York School for the Training of Teachers, which became part of Columbia University. From 1890 to 1891, he was a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and served on the New Jersey Board of Education. In 1901 he became acting President of Columbia University, and in 1902, he became the university's president, serving for 43 years, which credits him as the longest serving president in the history of Columbia University. While president at Columbia University, he made many improvements such as a major expansion in the size of the campus, increase enrollment of students, adding many new buildings, adding many educational departments such as Journalism, Dentistry, and a business school. Salaries were increased to attract the best of the scholars for professors. In 1928 Columbia University consolidated with the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, becoming the first academic medical center in the world. From his political standpoint, he was very active in the Republican Party, becoming in a convention delegate in 1888 and remaining one until 1936. Historians claimed that Butler, Root,Taft, and Roosevelt constituted a powerful political quartet in the first years of the 20th century. In 1916 he was the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States with Taft being the candidate on the ticket for president. Since Roosevelt did not obtain the Republican nomination, he ran against them on a third party ticket causing the Republican voters to be split, thus the Democratic Party candidate, Woodrow Wilson, would be narrowly re-elected United States President. Within six months, United States Congress declared war on Germany. He did not support Root for a presidential candidate in 1920, nor did he secure the 1924 or 1928 candidacy for himself, hence neither them lived in the White House. By then, his interest turned to the challenge of achieving world peace, for which he was recognized with the Nobel Prize. For his Nobel Peace Prize, he received eleven nominations in a two-year period. Being a widower for four years with a daughter, he married for the second time in 1907. After World War II in 1945, he was pushed to retirement as he had gone blind with his health declining; he died two years later. His two-volume autobiography, “Across the Busy Years: Recollections and Reflections,” was published in 1939 and 1940. A part of a huge library of books that he authored includes “Building the American Nation” in 1924, “Between Two Worlds: Interpretations of the Age in Which We Live” in 1934, and “Why War?” in 1940. From 1923 to 1940, he wrote a Christmas greeting to the public in the “New York Times.” In 1937 he was awarded the International Mark Twain Society Medal for educational accomplishments; the medal was inscribed "To the American Plato" and presented to him by his friend Benito Mussolini. He received decorations from fifteen foreign governments; of honorary degrees from thirty-seven colleges and universities; and a member of more than fifty learned societies and twenty clubs. On the campus of Columbia University in honor of him is Butler Library and Butler Hall, for student housing, and starting in 1915 the Nicholas Murray Butler Medal has been awarded every five years by Columbia University.
Bio by: Linda Davis
TWELFTH PRESIDENT OF