Light on the hill: A history of Tufts College, 1852-1952

Miller, Russell


After experiencing many of the same difficulties that beset other divisions of the College during the First World War, the Crane Theological School returned to peacetime conditions with hope and confidence for the future. The enrollment (twenty-four) in the fall of 1923 was the largest since Dean McCollester had taken up his duties in 1912. The relations between the Crane School and the rest of the institution had become so close that it was in reality


"a department of Tufts." The instructional staff taught some classes open to all students, and a few of the faculty of the school of arts and sciences such as Professor William F. Wyatt, chairman of the Department of Greek, offered special courses for the benefit of Crane students. Dr. J. A. C. Fagginger Auer was added to the faculty in 1923-24, as Professor of Church History and Philosophy of Religion, and also taught in the Department of Modern Languages in the school of liberal arts. Professor Bruce W. Brotherston, who resigned from St. Lawrence University to join the Tufts staff in 1930, taught courses in philosophy in both the theological school and the school of liberal arts.

At a conference in the fall of 1924, alumni of the Crane School agreed that a better name for the school would be "Tufts College School of Religion, Crane Foundation." President Cousens also favored the change of name. There were two justifications given for the proposal. The identification with Tufts, which had become much closer over the years, should be recognized in the name of the school. The growing emphasis on social service work and the development of the field of religious education also made a more comprehensive description than "theological" appropriate. In 1925 the school became officially the "Tufts College School of Religion - Crane Theological School," after extensive discussions, including a conference with the widow of Albert Crane. Offerings in religious education were greatly expanded when Rev. John M. Ratcliff was added to the faculty in the fall of 1927.

Dean McCollester, always on the alert for means by which Crane could broaden its services, suggested that the scope of the school could be easily enlarged if an undergraduate Department of Religion staffed by Crane faculty were created and if the school concentrated on professional training at the graduate level. Dean McCollester in the mid-twenties saw a larger field than ever before opening for the school in liberal religious training with the location of the Meadville Theological School in Chicago and the increasing emphasis placed on theological research rather than on the ministry as a profession by the Harvard Divinity School. The dean recognized an opportunity thereby to help educate those in the Unitarian and Congregational Churches respectively. The work of the Universalist Church would always be the "first responsibility" of Crane, but associated ministries would be welcome. Like the


engineering school at about the same time, the Crane School saw the advantages of increased advertising. Students from denominations other than Universalist had begun to put in an appearance by 1926.[62] 

Housing for the Crane School was a sore point for many years after the First World War, for Miner and Paige Halls were diverted to other uses when the College was turned over largely to military uses and were not returned to the school after the war. Crane headquarters remained in Packard Hall until 1927 and in the mid-twenties Paige Hall became temporarily a Jackson dormitory; Crane students were housed in Dean Hall. Both the dean and the Board of Visitors to Crane were strongly in favor of having a new building constructed for the exclusive use of the school, but its size


did not seem to warrant such an expense.[63]  Instead of a new building, the Tufts School of Religion received, between 1927 and 1929, the first floor of a renovated Miner Hall, a chapel attached to Paige Hall, and the Fischer Arcade connecting the two main buildings.[64]  It was at the same time that the enlarged gateway and the Memorial Steps leading down to College Avenue on the easterly slope of the campus were authorized. The addition of the wing housing the Crane chapel made possible the utilization of the ground floor for the Crane theological library which had been located in Packard. Dean McCollester had earlier proposed that the theological collection be housed in Eaton Library and that no distinction be made in the rules governing the use of books. This was another expression of the fact that Crane was an intimate part of the College.

The School of Religion, housed in rehabilitated and enlarged quarters and appealing increasingly to those outside the Universalist denomination, prospered in the 1920's under the leadership of Dean McCollester. The enrollment had climbed to thirty-six by 1928-29, and it was not necessary to raise tuition for new students until 1931 (from $250 to $300). The makeup of the relatively small faculty underwent but few changes. In 1931 Rev. Alfred S. Cole replaced Dr. F. O. Hall in the Department of Homiletics. Relations with the school of liberal arts remained generally satisfactory, although the Crane faculty, after reviewing its own curriculum, found that there were still areas of pre-ministerial preparation at the undergraduate level that needed more attention than was possible by adhering strictly to the A.B. requirements. Consideration was given in 1928-29 to creating a distinctive undergraduate degree (Ph.B.) for the Crane School's undergraduates, while


continuing to award the S.T.B. for those completing the professional course.

With an eye toward strengthening the work of the school in new directions and developing new programs, the Trustees created the office of vice-dean in 1929, on the recommendation of Dean McCollester, and elected Professor Skinner to the new post. The dean left no doubt that he was grooming the new vice-dean to take his place eventually, and Cousens added his blessing by noting that the elevation of Skinner was "wise and necessary and desirable." Dean McCollester submitted his resignation in the fall of 1932, effective the following February, and Vice-Dean Skinner took his place as planned.[65]  The dean could retire with much satisfaction, for during his administration he had seen the Crane School develop from a group of four students in makeshift quarters to forty-five students in adequate and attractive dormitories and classrooms. The Trustees in 1935 approved a proposal by Dean Skinner in behalf of the Crane faculty to honor the retired dean by undertaking to raise a fund with which to endow the Lee S. McCollester Professorship of Biblical Literature.

Throughout his presidency Cousens maintained a sympathetic interest in the Tufts School of Religion and its problems, but he did not hesitate to recognize its weaknesses. One of the policies of the new dean which he enthusiastically approved was the admission of students who could pay "actual money for tuition." It had always seemed to the president that the extension of so much financial aid to theological students in the past had "tended to pauperize them and resulted in a general lowering of the calibre of the students while in college and in their professional standing after leaving college." Cousens was also dissatisfied with the combined School of Liberal Arts-School of Religion degree program, preferring the creation of a special degree for those registered in the Crane School who were "not ambitious to pursue the long course for the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology." He could not be satisfied until


Crane became a bona fide graduate school. Cousens was heartened by the expressed determination of Dean Skinner to weed out those who did not seem intellectually or temperamentally suited to the ministry. The dean promised that the final result would be "a better grade of student than we have had in recent years." Skinner was perfectly aware that the peculiar system of double enrollment resulted in the admission of students who did not always possess the formal academic qualifications expected of liberal arts students, but he was positive that some of the School of Religion students who did not meet conventional requirements were among the best men in the school. The outspoken dean not only stood as the champion of his students but called to the president's attention the latter's own criticism of rigid entrance requirements that blunted or even blocked the chance of promising students to obtain an education beyond the secondary school.[66] 


[62] Most of the students enrolled in the school in 1928-29 intended to enter the Universalist ministry, but there were several training for the Unitarian, and one each for the Episcopal, Methodist, and Congregational ministry. The growing cordiality and cooperation between the school and the Unitarian denomination was sufficiently important to deserve special mention in Dean McCollester's last annual report, in the fall of 1932.

[63] President Cousens, like several of his predecessors, was in favor of razing Packard Hall but wished to use the space between East and West Halls for an Administration Building or a Student Union Building, or both, rather than building a new home for Crane. He contemplated the possibility of returning Crane to West Hall, where the divinity school had resided before Miner and Paige Halls were built.

[64] Rev. Theodore A. Fischer, a graduate of the divinity school in 1896, was a generous contributor to the College and provided the money for the arcade. The Department of Modern Languages occupied the second floor of Miner Hall and was still located there in the mid-1960's. Packard Hall became the headquarters of the Department of English.

[65] McCollester did not sever his connection with the College but continued on the staff as Professor of Biblical Literature and Dean Emeritus and adviser to the Crane staff until his death in 1943. He also continued for several years as the College chaplain. His work in Biblical literature was continued by Rolland Emerson Wolfe, who joined the Crane staff in 1934.

[66] The Crane faculty in 1935-36 were proud of the fact that seven of the forty-five students in their school had attained superior academic averages that year - a much higher proportion of students than in the school of liberal arts.

  • Light on the Hill, the history of Tufts College, was published to coincide with the centennial of the institution in 1952. A second volume was published in 1986. This edition was created from the 1966 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume I.
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