Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


AFTER MONTHS OF DELIBERATION and some agonizing, Tufts officials decided in 1964 to disregard the recommendations of the UUA and continue the Crane School even if it meant reduced aid, or no further aid at all, from the denomination. After all, the school was under the direct control of the Tufts trustees and not the UUA. Hersey was instructed by the president to state that Crane would continue, whether or not merger with St. Lawrence was effected. Crane would continue "to exist as long as Tufts was in existence." Wessell respected Universalist and Unitarian traditions, but the Crane School had to be capable of offering even the PhD to any qualified applicant, regardless of religious affiliation. There was, in Wessell's view, both an historical and a moral commitment to continue the school; it had the potential for receiving both increased support and an improved student body. And a ministry trained in a broad university liberal arts environment was indispensable to a well-educated clergy. Mead added the practical eventuality that if the school were closed its endowment, small as it was, might be lost.

The Tufts trustees were encouraged from many directions in their decision to continue the school. The national women's organization promised increased scholarship aid and the Massachusetts Association of Universalist Women continued to provide funds for the same purpose. Gifts to Crane had doubled in 1964 over preceding years, and exceeded $10,000. Letters of encouragement and support poured in advocating a renewed and strengthened Crane.

So the trustees and administration made one more attempt to put the School of Religion on a viable footing in 1964-65, with approval of a plan in the fall of 1964. The publicity called it "a new Crane." Wessell made a determined effort to seek advice from liberal clergy in eastern Massachusetts by arranging a conference to discuss the school. An accelerated effort was made to recruit students, secure additional funds, enlarge the full-time faculty, increase scholarship assistance, and revamp the entire curriculum. Frederick A. Pope, Jr., an outside professional consultant from the Episcopal Theological


Seminary of the Southwest, in Austin, Texas, was employed in 1964 to review the curriculum.

Robert L'H. Miller, who had first joined the Crane faculty in 1952 as a part-time instructor, and who was an alumnus, was made an Associate Dean in 1965 to supervise the production of a revised course of study. Plans for a frankly experimental program emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach were sent to a trustee committee for their information, and 7,000 flyers were distributed to recruit students. Miller even submitted a detailed set of recommendations for refurbishing the Crane School buildings in anticipation of an enlarged faculty and student body.

The Crane library was transferred to enlarged quarters in the new Wessell Library shortly after it had opened and a search was begun for another professionally trained librarian to service the theological school library, Seaburg having resigned to accept a pastorate in Boston. The relocated library was allocated a combined stack area and reading room, but relations were considerably strained between the University Librarian, Joseph S. Komidar, and the Crane library committee. When plans for a new library for the university were being discussed as early as 1960, Komidar insisted that the Crane collection be integrated into total library holdings and that the school be considered as no more than a department. The Crane committee had insisted on autonomy, including a separate budget, and argued that an independent theological library was essential for accreditation. The Crane committee considered the Komidar plan "utterly unacceptable," so a compromise was worked out giving the school separate facilities in the new library; however, the University Librarian retained budgetary control and eventually won his battle. When the school closed, the collection was indeed broken up and much of it became part of general library holdings.

There was talk of either dissolving the Universalist Historical Society or consolidating it with its Unitarian counterpart (finally accomplished in 1978). If dissolution took place there was the possibility that its unique and valuable library could be placed on permanent deposit at Tufts, thus greatly strengthening the still inadequate theological collection. Instead, it was transferred to Harvard in 1975. As part of the plan for an enlarged faculty, James D. Hunt was employed in 1965-66 as Assistant Professor of Religion and Society, and William R. Shealy, Jr., as Assistant Professor of Church History. Full-time faculty to teach Biblical Studies and religious education seemed to be the only important gaps in 1965-66 to round out a balanced total academic offering. It appeared that the requisite


number of full-time faculty for accreditation had finally been reached. The renovation of existing buildings would provide facilities for fifty students.

Plans were under way in 1964 to replace Dean Hersey as part of the "new look" promised for Crane. Provost Mead recommended that the dean take early retirement by 1965 and that in the meantime an administrative assistant be hired to conduct a vigorous recruiting and fund-raising program. But the search for a new dean was ordered temporarily suspended by the trustees, for the president had submitted his letter of resignation. Among the candidates considered, only one, Leon C. Fay, had received both his undergraduate and theological degrees from Tufts. Another had earned a Tufts BS degree and had been awarded an honorary STD.

The findings and recommendations of the Johnson and Taylor Reports naturally injected a note of uncertainty into Crane operations. Enrollment dropped to seventeen degree candidates in 1964, and many of the faculty had already started to make plans to transfer elsewhere. Half the Crane operating budget of $90,000 in 1964 had to be made up from general university funds in order to balance it. Confusion was compounded in 1964 when it had been erroneously reported in the press that the denomination had unanimously voted to close Crane. Hersey spent much time and effort reassuring all concerned that such was not the case. In a letter sent to each Crane alumnus in the summer of 1964 enclosing a copy of the UUA committee recommendations, Mead informed them that no decision had yet been reached about the future of Crane and that in any case it was up to the trustees and no one else to make the final determination.

The action of the denomination stirred to indignation Universalists like the usually mild-mannered Hersey. He alleged that the recommendation of the national committee had been railroaded through without any opportunity for an expression of opposing views; and that the vote in no way should be interpreted as a strong endorsement by the denomination at large. The committee had mistakenly reported that their recommendations had been "approved by all the heads of schools," but Hersey had voted against them.

There was a general sense of outrage and a feeling of betrayal among Crane alumni that the recommendations of the Johnson and Taylor Reports regarding the fate of the schools had been disregarded. Kenneth Patton, minister of the Charles Street Meeting House in Boston, reported that its trustees had voted unanimously that Crane should continue. Alfred S. Cole, who had resigned from


the Crane staff a decade earlier, wrote a letter of strong support for continuing the school, addressed to the president, claiming that it would be "disastrous" to allow the influence of Crane to fade away.

With the fate of both Crane and the St. Lawrence school in more doubt than ever, the question of possible merger which had been considered on and off for years, was raised again. Hersey and Kapp had discussed it informally in 1961, but the matter had lain dormant until after the Johnson and Taylor Reports had been made public. The Crane Alumni Association urged that the St. Lawrence School be combined at Tufts, with a new name such as the "Hosea Ballou School for the Ministry," in honor of a leading early Universalist and the great-uncle of the first president of Tufts. At Provost Mead's request Hersey even drew up a tentative annual operating budget for the combined school. The dean set the figure at $350,000 for thirty students and $362,000 for fifty.

After the theological school trustees at St. Lawrence had voted in 1964 to close their school the next year, the possibilities of combination with Tufts appeared even more promising. Not all of the initiative came from Tufts. A trustee of the St. Lawrence theological school suggested that part or all of its assets be used to support an enlarged and stengthened Crane. He sent a detailed proposal to President Wessell which, if adopted, would have created the "Atwood-Skinner Center for Liberal Religion." A former fund-raiser for the St. Lawrence school even sent a sizable list of prospective donors from his files for Tufts to use. A St. Lawrence Scholarship Fund of $3,600 was created at Crane in 1965 after the New York school closed.

Assuming that consolidation with the St. Lawrence school at Tufts was a real possibility, Mead worked out a projection in 1964 that boded ill for the future of Crane. His estimated budget was based on cumulating net deficits if the plans were carried out on the scale recommended by the Johnson and Taylor Reports. They would increase from $82,000 the first year to $107,500 the second year to $140,000 the third. A maximum of no more than $25,000 annually could be assured from the denomination, and even that turned out to be a greatly overestimated figure in actuality. Only minimal aid to Crane from that source continued after a visiting committee from denominational headquarters decided that "less immediate relationship and mutual responsiveness" was to be expected from Tufts. The possibility of reduced aid had been anticipated by the Tufts administration in view of its decision to keep Crane alive in spite of the recommendation of the denomination, and the repeated assertion by Tufts officials that the Crane School was intended to be nondenominational rather than primarily Unitarian Universalist.



Annual grants to Crane from the UUA declined from about $8,000 in 1965 to less than $7,000 the following year. In addition, Unitarian Universalists were informed that the large endowments and budgets of both Harvard and Tufts enabled the two institutions to assume full financial responsibility for their own theological schools. A closer look at both Crane and Tufts would have given a much different and less rosy picture. Of the twenty-nine full-time Unitarian Universalist students enrolled in Crane the year the statement was made, all but four were receiving financial aid in some amount - a situation which strained the school's resources to the limit. Tuition had to be raised to $1,000, effective in the academic year 1966-67.

The future of the Crane School, so far as enrollment was concerned, looked most promising after 1965. There were thirty degree candidates in 1965-66 - the largest number since becoming a graduate school little more than a decade earlier. In addition, there were six "specials" who were registered on a part-time basis who were not degree candidates; most were taking one or more courses in religious education. There were thirty-three degree candidates a year later, the largest number of graduate students yet registered. If the four special students in 1966-67 were added, there were twenty-seven men and ten women comprising the student body. That academic year was described by the dean as "one of the best and most promising years in the history of Crane." The "new look" approved by the trustees in 1964 had apparently begun to pay dividends, although there continued to be considerable faculty turnover up to the very year the school was closed.

  • 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