finley johnJohn Huston Finley

3rd President of CCNY

Inducted 1998 Inaugural Group

John Huston Finley is the only member of the Communications Hall of Fame who never attended City College as a student. A distinguished academician, however, he was the president of the College from 1903 until 1913 and later went on to lofty heights in journalism, joining The New York Times as associate editor in 1921, and becoming its editor-in-chief in 1937. He held that position for only a little more than a year, when health problems caused him to take the title of editor emeritus. A year later, at the age of 76, he was dead.

Finley was born on Oct. 19, 1863. He was valedictorian of his class at Knox College, Galesburg, Ill., and took post-graduate classes at Johns Hopkins University. He was secretary of the Illinois State Charities Aid Association from 1889 to1892, when he was

finley john on campes president taft
Walking on campus with
President Taft, 1912

appointed president of Knox College. In 1899, he went to New York, temporarily leaving academia for the world of publishing. He spent a year with two monthly magazines, Harper’s and McClure’s, before returning to campus life. He taught politics at Princeton University from 1900 to 1903, when he was named City College’s third president. In 1913, after leaving CCNY, he was named president of the University of the State of New York and New York State’s Commissioner of Education. During World War I, he headed the Red Cross Commission to Palestine.

During his decade with The Times, Finley was also president of the American Geographical Society. Because the newspaper assiduously chronicled the adventures of the great explorers, aviators and scientists of that era, he got to know many of them. He collected their signatures on a globe of the world that he gave to the Society in 1929.

In “The Story of The New York Times,” author Meyer Berger reports that Finley “wrote with an easily identified classic style” and that he “was widely beloved for his smiling charm.” He died in his sleep at his home at 1 Lexington

finley john walk in carl schurz park
 “John Finley Walk” in Carl Schurz Park

Avenue on March 7, 1940, and Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, a close friend, ordered all flags in the city be flown at

half-staff for 10 days. At the time of his death, he had received honorary degrees from more than 30 colleges and universities, in addition to 13 decorations from 12 governments. Finley, according to Berger’s history of The Times, “was famous in Manhattan streets as the hatless pedestrian with the blue thistle in his lapel.” That image has been memorialized on an elevated walk named for him in Carl Schurz Park, overlooking the East River near East 86th Street. There, two wrought iron cutout silhouettes, each attached to a pole, show a man in full stride. The man is wearing a hat, but make no mistake. Above the figure appear the words “John Finley Walk.”