The Tufts College Divinity School was established in 1869, and in 1906 changed its name to the Crane Theological School, which remained the name until the school was closed in 1968.
In 1906, the school received a much-needed gift of $100,000 from Albert Crane, A1863, in memory of his father, Thomas Crane, a trustee from 1852 until his death in 1875. The school was subsequently renamed the Crane Theological School.
Lee Sullivan McCollester became dean of the school in 1912 and brought the school through some of its leanest years, before retiring in 1932. During World War I, the school's buildings were taken for use as barracks and training facilities and Dean McCollester held classes for the handful of students enrolled in his living room for the duration of hostilities. By the mid 1920s enrollments were rising again, and in 1925 the school's name was officially changed to Tufts School of Religion - Crane Theological School. This name continued to be used until the 1960s when it was once again known simply as the Crane Theological School.
There was ongoing debate about whether or not the school should be graduate level only or accept students straight out of secondary school to study for the ministry. For most of its existence the school was an undergraduate professional school, though in later years it succeeded in attracting a growing proportion of students at the graduate level. The school's leadership was concerned that requiring a B.A. for admission would deter worthy candidates from entering the school, while others at the university felt that adequate preparation for a ministerial career required the breadth of a B.A. as well as the specialized training of the B.D. For many years the school offered a combined B.A./S.T.B. (Bachelor of Sacred Theology) degree which was in effect a combined undergraduate and graduate degree. In 1954 the school became strictly a graduate school.
Enrollment at the school reached an all-time high in 1937-38 with sixty students, and in 1941 the school hosted the annual Universalist Convention. Denominational representation in the student body had grown to encompass seven different faiths other than Universalism. While enrollment remained strong in the ensuing years, at roughly forty students, the school struggled to retain full-time faculty, with the majority of positions being filled by part-time faculty shared with the Faculty of Liberal Arts.
In the 1950s and 1960s, discussions were ongoing within the denomination to merge the Crane School with the divinity school at St. Lawrence University, another Universalist school. Tufts was skeptical of the proposal because of the increased role that the denomination would play in the merged institution. An agreement could not be reached, however, and the plan was abandoned.
The decision to close the school was reached by the trustees in June of 1967, to take place the following year. A number of factors contributed to the decision, though the trustees cited the school's failure to maintain its status in religious education. The continual deficit operations of the school undoubtedly also played a part at a time when the university as a whole was facing financial difficulties and the need for retrenchment.
Over the course of its ninety-nine year history, the Crane Theological School granted a total of 485 degrees.