Colgate's 12th president, George Langdon, dies at 78

Back to All Stories

George D. Langdon Jr., Colgate’s 12th president, died Sunday at age 78.

Langdon served as the university’s president from 1978 to 1988. He oversaw a period in which Colgate solidified both its reputation for academic excellence and its financial standing.

During his tenure student application rates rose 32 percent, and 27 faculty positions were added. Langdon was among the college presidents who helped found the Colonial League for football, which later expanded to become the Patriot League.

The league was designed to promote a healthy balance of academics and athletics by allowing campus presidents final authority in determining policy.

George D. Langdon Jr. Langdon helped lead successful fundraising efforts that enabled Colgate’s endowment to grow from $28.4 million in 1977 to $129 million in 1988.

His administration oversaw important additions to campus including Frank Dining Hall, Sanford Field House, Cooley Science Library, and expansion of Case Library.

As a tribute to Langdon, Colgate had established the George Dorland Langdon Jr. Endowed Professorship of History, which is currently held by Graham Hodges.

“George believed deeply in the outstanding quality of the Colgate experience and he shared that vision so well with so many people on and off campus,” said Gary Ross, Colgate’s dean of admission who had worked as an assistant to Langdon.

Before becoming president of Colgate in 1978, Langdon was at Yale where he was deputy provost and lecturer in history. He had earlier taught history and American studies at Yale and at the California Institute of Technology. He also taught history at Vassar College where he served as special assistant to the president.

A 1954 graduate of Harvard College, Langdon earned his master’s at Amherst College and his doctorate as a Coe Fellow at Yale.

After leaving Colgate, he was named the ninth president of the American Museum of Natural History and served there until 1993. He continued his career as a consultant to several institutions and also served on the board of The Kresge Foundation.

Langdon was born in Putnam, Conn., on May 20, 1933. He was married to Agnes Domandi, who taught German history and literature at Colgate during his tenure and remains very interested and supportive of the university. Surviving children are George Dorland Langdon III, Campbell Brewster Langdon, and Mary Charlotte Domandi.

Details about services and
arrangements are not yet available.