“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 10.

John Chandler: It’s often remarked that Dennett enlivened the faculty with new appointments.

Fred Rudolph: Yes, Dennett really did some interesting things with faculty. In 1938 Howard Mumford Jones in the Atlantic Monthly referred to Williams’ faculty as the liveliest in New England. Tyler Dennett recruited people who were being kicked out of other places because of their politics. Among that group you get people like labor economist Bob Brooks from Yale, economist Robert Lamb from Harvard, and political scientist Fred Schuman from the University of Chicago. Dennett was bringing in exciting new faculty members such as Max Lerner, a well-known liberal and contributor to The Nation and the New Republic. At the same time Dennett was trying to get rid of deadwood.

Would anyone today call the Williams faculty the “liveliest in New England?” Probably not. And that is a good thing! The more that Williams faculty focus on Williams students — and the less they focus on the opinions of, say, the readers of the New Republic — the better for Williams.

Do you think that Maud Mandel will try to “get rid of deadwood?” Do you think she should?

When was the last time that Williams recruited a (tenured?) professor from Yale, Harvard or the University of Chicago?

I think that the most prominent (expensive?) senior appointment in the last few years was Joy James. The resulting disaster is a clue as to why senior appointments are often problematic.

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