Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


TRUSTEES. To the vast majority of faculty and students, the "Trustees of Tufts College," as they had been designated by the charter of the institution in 1852, were an awesome and shadowy group of mysterious individuals whose functions were not clearly known but who occasionally met on the campus behind closed doors, and whose proceedings were a deep, dark secret. The major contact with the Tufts community was a secretary who resided somewhere in the recesses of Ballou Hall and handled faculty contracts and conducted other college business. Those few who were interested in such matters noted that the trustee bylaws had been amended in 1953 to provide also for an assistant secretary.

In 1955 John P. Tilton was elected secretary following the retirement of Harvey E. Averill, and Marie M. Donnelly was appointed as the first assistant secretary the same year, and served until her retirement in 1968. One of her primary responsibilities was to maintain the records of the corporation and to guard their confidentiality.

Leonard Mead became secretary upon the death of Tilton in 1959 and served until he became acting president in 1966. Until 1977 the office was held briefly by a series of individuals, including John F. Mitchell (1966-1967), James M. Steindler (1968-1970), Caroline B. Anderson (1970-1974), and John A. Dunn (1974-1977). Joseph J. Lambert, who had been associated with Tufts since 1968 and in 1974 was Director of Resources, was appointed Overseer to the Corporation to coordinate the work of a system of Corporation Visiting Committees created in 1974 by the trustees. Under Lambert's guidance an enlarged and more effective trustee visiting program was begun. He worked not only with the existing Fletcher and University Libraries Visiting Committees but with new committees for the medical and dental schools. In 1977 he became secretary of the corporation, replacing John A. Dunn so that the latter could be freed to engage more fully in institutional planning.


At the time that Tufts officially became a university in 1955, there were three standing committees among the thirty trustees — an Executive Committee which usually met monthly, a Finance Committee, and an Educational Policy Committee. An ad hoc Committee on Development was created in 1957 as part of a major fund-raising effort (the Tufts University Program) and was made a standing committee in 1959. Although its name was changed back and forth frequently between "Development" and "Resources," the committee's function of strengthening the financial resources of the institution remained constant. Among its members were Arthur J. Anderson, an alumnus, a trustee since 1943, and chairman of the board from 1949 until his death in 1964. A Committee on Buildings and Grounds was created in 1962 and lasted until the trustees were reorganized in the 1980s.

Anderson was succeeded by another alumnus, Robert W. Meserve, a prominent attorney and at one time president of the American Bar Association as well as a leader in Tufts alumni affairs. He served the university as chairman of the trustees for five years.

For the first time in many decades, the trustees decided in 1968 to conduct a thorough self-study which involved a review of all aspects of the board's functions, organization, responsibilities, and relationships to the Tufts community. In order to provide for maximum input, student representatives were included on the committee established to conduct the self-study. However, the committee did not go into actual operation for several months because student government was in turmoil after the Student Council had dissolved itself, and the Tufts Community Union which succeeded it was slow to adopt a constitution and to provide machinery for selecting student representatives to the committee. In all, the committee held eleven meetings and made a report to the full board in the fall of 1969. It was under the leadership of Alexander N. McFarlane, who became chairman of the board that fall, and who took an active interest in the self-study.

The committee's recommendations resulted in a general liberalizing and democratizing of trustee organization and operations. The charter and bylaws were amended between 1970 and 1973 to provide for a thirty-one member board (including the president, ex officio). The system of ten alumni trustees elected by the Alumni Association was continued. However, the twenty trustees elected by the board, beginning in 1970, were redesignated as "charter" rather than "life" trustees, and were to serve a term of ten years, with eligibility for reelection. The term "life" trustee, with no specified


term of office, had been first used in the early 1930s, and was used in 1938 in connection with the balloting for election of Leonard Carmichael as president. The service of all trustees elected after 1969 was to be terminated at the age of seventy, at which time they would become emeritus. In that capacity they did not have the privilege of voting or holding office.

The practice of soliciting recommendations from the entire Tufts constituency for those new trustees to be elected by the board had been started informally during the Wessell administration, and in 1969 was made a part of formal procedures with faculty, student, and alumni participation. An ad hoc Committee on New Trustees was created to screen the names of candidates and to make nominations to the full board. The charter and bylaws were also amended to clarify and liberalize eligibility and voting privileges for alumni trustees. This eliminated the requirement that an alumnus had to have held a degree for ten years before becoming eligible for election as an alumni trustee and must have held a degree for five years before becoming eligible to vote directly for alumni trustees.

Aside from technical matters associated with the trustee organizational structure, the most significant recommendation had to do with closer relationships and improved communication with other elements of the Tufts community. The committee recommended that "procedures should be set up to provide for fuller and more regular contacts" with representatives of both faculty and students. In order to improve communication, the trustee self-study committee recommended that periodic (annual) non-legislative open meetings be held on the Medford campus. This was put into effect in 1970 and lasted until 1976, when student interest declined. Questions were solicited in advance, with one or more trustees prepared to answer them, and opportunity was given for general discussion from the floor. The student temper at the time was illustrated by a petition signed by twenty-five students requesting that all requirements for an undergraduate degree from liberal arts or Jackson be abolished, so that "everyone's degree from Tufts University will be different." The trustees declined to endorse this testimonial to student individualism. The self-study committee also recommended that there be faculty, alumni, and student presence and participation on all standing trustee committees, without vote. This, too, was put into effect (in 1970). The committee went even farther by recommending that an ad hoc three-member Committee on New Trustees be enlarged, be made a standing committee, and include both faculty and students. This was intended not only to broaden participation but to encourage


the selection of "some trustees from youthful age groups." The trustees amended their bylaws accordingly in 1973, but in actual practice the committee remained one staffed exclusively by trustees.

The student participants on the self-study committee made a report to their constituency and were generally satisfied with its recommendations. Their principal objection to student participation in trustee committee meetings was the fact that they were not given voting privileges. The elimination of the five-year waiting period before alumni could vote was considered a step in the right direction but should have been extended even farther to allow the franchise to all undergraduates; waiting four years to become alumni seemed "somewhat artificial." The students wished also to have some or all of the charter trustees elected directly by the students and faculty.

Neil Chayet, one of the younger alumni trustees in the early 1970s, was not only strongly supportive of increasing "participatory governance" from outside the ranks of the trustees but in 1972 insisted on appointment of a trustee committee to review the results of the 1969 self-study and to make "a continuing study" of the functions and composition of the board and report its findings "from time to time." In 1975 he favored membership of both faculty and students on the board itself, but no action resulted from this suggestion.

One matter which did involve action in 1975 was the approval by both the trustees and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of "Restated Articles of Organization." The document did not replace the original Tufts charter of 1852, with its various amendments and special acts, but clarified, simplified, and modernized it. This reflected "the requirements and benefits of the latest law and practice applicable to nonprofit corporations." An Audit Committee was also created in 1975.

All told, the trustees of the 198os were operating in efficient and generally harmonious fashion, responsive to the Tufts community, with a workable organization. The flurry over making the trustees more "democratic" in their structure died down. The bylaws of the trustees were revised in 1982 and the committee system was simplified. The Executive Committee was continued, with enlarged powers, and the three other standing committees were redesignated as Administration and Finance, Development, and Academic Affairs. The Audit Committee as well as the Committee on New Trustees was continued. Visiting Committees or Boards of Visitors were


authorizedwhen appropriate, and special committees were also provided, as needed. Alumni input was assured, and both faculty and students had access if occasion warranted. Channels of communication were not only open but were used by all to mutual advantage and to the advantage of the entire institution.


[] See Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 180, section 7.

  • Light on the Hill, the second volume of the history of Tufts University, was published in 1986, covering the years from 1952 to 1986. This doucument was created from the 1986 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume II.
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 Title Page
1. Setting the Stage for the Second Century
2. Long-Range Planning
3. Bricks and Mortar 1952-1967
4. The End of Theological Education at Tufts
5. Ever-Widening Curricula for Liberal Arts and Engineering
6. Jackson College: A Search for Identity
7. Defining the Role of the College of Special Studies
8. The Arts and Sciences Faculty I
9. The Arts and Sciences Faculty II
10. The Central Library
11. The Changing Character of the Student Body
12. Fraternities and Sororities at Tufts: A Cyclical History
13. A Beehive of Activity: From Trustees to Students
14. From Wessell to Hallowell
15. The Hallowell Administration: Years of Trial and Tribulation
16. The Hallowell Administration: Continued Trial and Tribulation
17. Educational Ventures, Successful and Otherwise
18. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
19. Medical and Dental Education I
20. Medical and Dental Education II
21. Taking Stock of the University in the 1960s and 1970s
22. The Mayer Administration: A Preliminary View
23. The Mayer Administration: Consolidation and Expansion