Delaware Valley University maintains a close relationship with its founder, Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf, who died in 1923.
You might say he rests in the heart of its Doylestown campus.
A room in the university’s library — which bears his name — contains a replica of Krauskopf’s home office, going back nearly a century. There are a desk, a chair, a lamp, stocked bookshelves — and in a small crypt on the wall, an urn that contains his ashes.
“I do get mileage out of promoting it,” said Peter Kupersmith, library director. “Students are fascinated. Many of them think the building is haunted, and I say, ‘Yes, we’re haunted, but by a very nice presence who is very interested in your success as a student.’”
It might be a bit unusual for a college to have such a collection, but by no means is it unique.
Temple University’s founder, Russell Conwell, and his wife, Sarah, are buried in Founder’s Garden, at the intersection of Liacouras and Polett Walks on the main campus in North Philadelphia.
Other schools haven’t tried to tap that market. The University of Pennsylvania doesn’t have such a place, and none is under discussion, a spokesperson said.
Nor does Pennsylvania State University, which has an extremely large and active alumni base.
“We don’t offer a service like that at this time,” a university spokesperson said.
At Delaware Valley, which emphasizes the sciences and agriculture, the founder’s ashes are between two menorahs and under a lamp, meant to signify eternal light, Kupersmith said. The room features some of Krauskopf’s books and artwork — including four portrait-head statues of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, William Shakespeare, and John Milton.
Krauskopf, who had been a senior rabbi for Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Philadelphia, came to the United States from Germany at age 14. In 1896, he founded the college, then called the National Farm School. It was meant to attract struggling Jewish families from urban areas to learn farming, according to his biography on the university website.
He conceived of the school after a visit to Russia, where he and Leo Tolstoy discussed social problems that needed to be addressed. Krauskopf also associated with other important leaders, including President Theodore Roosevelt, Kupersmith noted.
He led the school until his death in 1923, while speaking out on controversial issues, including “human rights, slums, child labor, conservation, poverty, housing reforms, equal and full employment, proper education, and quality of life improvement,” according to the university.
“He was truly a visionary and a man ahead of his time,” current university president Maria Gallo says in a video as she looks through Krauskopf’s collection in the library.
In his will, he asked that the contents of his personal library from his home on Pulaski Avenue in Germantown be given to the school. It included 5,000 books, art pieces, manuscripts, and furniture. He asked that the books be placed “in the same order, shelf for shelf, which they occupy at my own home.”
Titles from his collection include The New Encyclopedia of Social Reform, Child Labor in City Streets, and The Cry for Justice.
“These books are to be the property of the National Farm School,” the will stated, “and are to be used within the building only. They are to serve for reference and study, not for circulation.”
His wife later decided to add the furniture and art pieces from the home library.
Some of Krauskopf’s descendants remain active at Delaware Valley, which has changed its name several times since its founding and became a university in 2015.
His great-grandson Joseph “Chip” Krauskopf currently serves as vice chair of the school’s board of trustees. Krauskopf, 58, an entrepreneur and technology consultant who lives in California, said he doesn’t know why the decision was made to place his great-grandfather’s ashes at the school all those years ago.
But he’s always loved visiting the library, steeped in tradition.