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They Didn’t Pick Nick

This election cycle featured two Columbia alumni running for president, Barack Obama '83CC and Mike Gravel '56GS, and one Columbia alumnus running for vice president, Wayne Allyn Root '83CC.

Columbians are no strangers to the White House: Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt ended up there, and Dwight Eisenhower listed it as his address after his stint as Columbia’s president.

But let’s not forget another Columbian who hoped to migrate to Pennsylvania Avenue. Nicholas Murray Butler 1882CC, 1884PHD, Columbia’s president from 1902 to 1945 and a mover and shaker in Republican politics, threw his hat into the larger executive ring for the election of 1920. Though Butler attracted titles and honors with apparent ease (38 honorary degrees and a Nobel, for example), the delegate votes needed for the Republican nomination would prove more elusive.

In the end, as Columbia professor Michael Rosenthal ’67GSAS relates in Nicholas Miraculous: The Amazing Career of the Redoubtable Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, for Butler “there remained only the need to deny that he had ever been interested in the presidency in the first place.”

— Kate Cusack

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