“Beyond the Log: Williams Presidents in the Gentleman’s Era” (pdf) is a product of the Williams Oral History Project, led by Bob Stegeman ’60. It features a discussion with Professors Fred Rudolph ’42 and John Hyde ’52, along with former President John Chandler about Williams presidents from Paul Ansel Chadbourne (1872-81) to Tyler Dennett (1934-37). Let’s spend three weeks discussing it. Day 5.
Fred Rudolph: There’s no question about what Dennett didn’t like about the place. In a 1975 honors thesis on the gentleman’s Williams, Guy Creese ’75 documented the background of the student body that disturbed Dennett: In the Class of 1929, thirty-six percent had traveled in Europe; 1930, twenty-nine percent; 1931, thirty-six percent. That’s a pretty fancy group. In 1930 there was a Chapin Library exhibit of rare books to which seventeen students contributed. In 1935, thirty-seven percent of the upperclassmen had cars. In 1938, almost eighty percent of the freshmen families had servants. In 1938 only twenty-five percent of the students had summer jobs. Fifty-five percent came from families with two or more cars. In 1934, forty-four of the 775 students were in the New York Social Register, and four in the Boston Social Register. The Williams Record had fashion issues dealing with men’s clothing. There were three men’s clothing stores on Spring Street for a student body of less than 800. The Stork Club ran ads in The Williams Record.
When Dennett arrived as president, Lehman Hall had just been built. It had beautiful pine paneling and big fireplaces. And the top floor had modest little rooms for scholarship students. The other student rooms—handsome and spacious—commanded the highest rents on campus. At the end of Dennett’s administration, the squash courts were built. What a symbolic statement! I don’t know how many colleges in the United States had squash courts in 1938, in the midst of the most serious economic depression in history. Tyler Dennett knew that Williams didn’t need them, but the people who gave them insisted. Well, that’s the environment that Dennett hoped to do something about, the environment that he perceived as having little connection with the real America.
1) Guy was an Ephblog author. Hope he comes back someday!
2) People are still reading and talking about Guy’s thesis, more than 35 years after he wrote it. Want your thesis to live as long? Write about Williams.
3) Bob Magill Jr. ’65 wrote:
QUESTION c. 1990, a book was out that tracked the top 5 college preferences of the children of the social register in large cities on the East Coast, from the years 1900 to 1950. The only college, besides Harvard Yale Princeton that was in the top 5 in more than one city was Williams (Boston and NY). The authors stated that Williams was considered “the national liberal arts college” and an exceptional alternative to HYP with the best educational facilities for a small liberal arts college. I only have some of my notes on this book — does anyone know the title, the author(s), etc? I asked Fred Rudolph over the weekend at the reunion and he could not remember either.
Can anyone help Bob?
4) I think that having students from extremely rich families want to go to Williams is a very, very good thing. If the Hollander twins had not wanted to go to Williams, we would not have Hollander Hall. How much admission preference, if any, should be given to such “development” admits is an open question. (Such cases used to be called “Morty Specials” by the admissions office. Has the nomenclature changed yet?)