Alger Adams

Biography of Rev. Dr. Alger L. Adams '32, D.D.'83

It was September 1928 when a bright, promising young man from Omaha, Nebraska arrived in Geneva, only to discover that Hobart College, which had granted him a scholarship, would not house him because he was black.

But despite the de facto segregation of the era and the financial plight of the Great Depression, this young man excelled. He triple-majored in Greek, English and psychology, served as an assistant in the psychology department and published his undergraduate research in the American Journal of Psychology -- all while washing dishes in local restaurants, polishing fixtures on campus and working other jobs to support himself. And with the encouragement of the African-American community in Geneva, which welcomed him with open arms, the Rev. Dr. Alger L. Adams ’32 became the first black man to receive a degree from Hobart, graduating magna cum laude and named to Phi Beta Kappa.

After graduation, Adams was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship, joining the ranks of the greatest names in African-American art and literature in the 1930s and ’40s, like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, W. E. B. DuBois and Ralph Ellison. Although his academic distinctions won him a scholarship to the Harvard School of Business, Adams ultimately decided to attend the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan -- both because of his commitment to the priesthood as well as his understanding of the scarce opportunities available for an African-American with an MBA in 1934. He graduated from the seminary and between 1947 and 1955 helped build two churches, St. Francis (now St. Francis & St. Martha’s) in Greenburgh, N.Y. and St. Augustine’s (now Holy Cross) in Yonkers, N.Y.

While studying for the clergy, Adams met his future wife, Jessie Wells, and in 1950 the couple purchased a weekly paper, The Westchester County Press. Their daughter, Patricia Adams, noted that it always bothered her father to accept pay for his work in the church, and eventually he left the active ministry. Though he continued to minister in interim and part-time positions, Adams was drawn to civil rights causes through the development of the newspaper, which he built to give the African-American community a cohesive voice.

As Adams and his wife ran The Westchester County Press, they developed and built The Creative Printery in 1962. Specializing in the publication of high school and college newspapers, The Creative Printery offered a teaching environment for students to learn about printing and production. During this time, Adams earned a master’s degree from Teachers College at Columbia University, which led to some colleges accrediting the work students performed at The Creative Printery.

In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Adams wrote two novels, painted 12 oil paintings (10 of which were displayed in Houghton House during Reunion 2002), played the piano and the guitar, and was active in a variety of civil rights, professional and community organizations and initiatives, including as a lifetime member of the National Association For The Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 2008, Adams’s sermons and other manuscripts were auctioned at Swann Galleries.

In 1983, HWS awarded Adams an honorary Doctorate of Divinity, in recognition of his remarkable career and service to his community. His legacy as the first black graduate of Hobart College resonates today in the Colleges’ “commitment…to encourage and to seek diversity in its student body,” according to the citation conferred with the degree.

Hobart continues to honor its first black graduate through the annual Alger Adams Excellence Award Dinner, held each February, celebrating those students of color and international students who, like Adams himself, have had to overcome major obstacles to become academically successful.

The Rev. Dr. Adams passed away in 1992 at the age of 82.

Rev. Dr. Alger Leroy Adams '32, D.D.'83

This page recognizes the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Alger Leroy Adams '32, D.D.'83 and the high-achieving scholars of color who continue a tradition of excellence. The first African-American graduate of Hobart College, Adams rose above major societal obstacles to attend and excel at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Congratulations Alger Adams Scholars

Click to listen to an audio greeting from Patricia Adams, daughter of Alger Adams.

The Reverend Nita C. Johnson Byrd
Dean of Spiritual Engagement and Chaplain

Khuram Hussain
Dean of Hobart College

James Burruto
Director of Academic Opportunity Programs

Renée Grant
Associate Director of Intercultural Affairs

Patricia Adams, daughter of Alger Adams

Student Artists Recognize Alger Adams

After seeing a portrait of Adams and being told his life story, students were asked to create an artistic rendering or expression of him.

Click on the artist's image to view their work.

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Geneva in Adams' Time

The Paintings of Alger Adams

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🎉🎉 STUDENT FEATURES 🎉🎉 . . Scholar Name : Tatianna Thorndike Suriel . . Tell us about yourself: . . Class of 2020 Majors: Women's Studies and Anthropology-Sociology. Minor: Spanish and Hispanic Studies. . . On campus I am a civic leader as an HWS Tutor Corps Tutor Coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club through CCESL, a Study Mentor through the CTL, a Sociology Teaching Fellow through the CTL and Sociology Department, a Student Assistant in the Salisbury Center for Career Services, and a member of the Senior Gift Campaign Committee. Most recently I have been named to the national honor society, Phi Beta Kappa and am also a part of Hai Timiai, William Smith's senior honor society. My career goals include working on corporate social responsibility team, to help corporations invest in their communities for a better future. Something fun that I like to do is participate in water sports - windsurfing, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, and wakeboarding! . . What does being an Alger Adams Scholar mean to you ? . . Being an Alger Adams Scholar to me means recognizing that the color of my skin does not detriment my academic abilities. As well as acknowledges that Alger Adams and many individuals that have come before have paved the way for students like me. While I may not have undergone such hardships and challenges to get to where I am today, I am thankful for the people that made my own experience untroublesome. . . . . . . . . . . . . #hobartandwilliamsmithcolleges #studentscholars #williamsmithcolleges #studentscholar #revdralgeradams #algeradams

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Alger Adams Scholars - Classes of 2020

2020 Graduates

  • Davida Eyam-Ozung '20
  • Gianna Gonzalez '20
  • Collin Hudgins '20
  • Rizky Kafrawi '20
  • Kevin Lin '20
  • Grace Mailey '20
  • Dhiraj Mukkamala '20
  • Roslyn Patel '20
  • Morgan Perry '20
  • jess ramtahal '20
  • Christina Rozario '20
  • Christina Sieben '20
  • Tatianna Suriel '20
  • Duinya Syed '20
  • Divya Tewari '20
  • Brandy Vargas '20

Alger Adams Scholars - Classes of 2021

  • Tolulope Arasanyin '21
  • Dillon Carey '21
  • Kevin Cervantes '21
  • Aman Cumberbatch '21
  • Steven D'Alterio '21
  • Shreeya Desai '21
  • Michael DeVaney '21
  • Albright Dwarka '21
  • Giselle Miranda '21
  • Amelia Smith '21
  • Jamal Spear '21
  • Sheila Uria '21

Alger Adams Scholars - Classes of 2022

  • Julia Bellamy '22
  • Keyon'Dre Betaudier '22
  • Margaret (Maggie) Bonomo '22
  • Kaitlyn Brathwaite '22
  • Olympia Canales '22
  • Andrea Delgado '22
  • Salim Fabio '22
  • Grace Faulkner '22
  • Madison Kaenzig de Denus '22
  • Hope Lee '22
  • Lillian Lin '22
  • Natalie McCarthy '22
  • Cameron Miguel '22
  • Anu-Shree Rajagopal '22
  • Shayna Riggins '22
  • Joshua Salazar '22
  • Jacob Sampson '22
  • Thomas Shung '22
  • Wyatt Solarte '22
  • Maya Striuli '22
  • Aaron Tsuchitori '22
  • Isabel Urquiza '22
  • Nuzhat Wahid '22

Alger Adams Scholars - Classes of 2023

  • Aicha Bah '23
  • Needhi Bajaj '23
  • Litzy Bautista '23
  • Justus Bey '23
  • Hrithik Biswas '23
  • Grace Bott '23
  • Olivia Broomes '23
  • Misty Chien '23
  • Lauren DeVaney '23
  • Abdoulaye Diallo '23
  • Fatou Diokhane '23
  • Ashley Edwards '23
  • Cezanne Henriquez '23
  • Brisamar Hernandez '23
  • Anne Husband '23
  • Jenna Hyman '23
  • Irini Konstantinou '23
  • Gabriela Nieves '23
  • Jason Ramos '23
  • Aliscia Richardson '23
  • Zyanya Rizzo '23
  • Tia Thevenin '23
  • Alexandra Venero '23
  • Natalia Welker '23
  • Katerina Yacoub '23