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

Miller, Russell


The Braker bequest to Tufts had come about in rather unusual fashion. Fletcher had among his clients and closest personal friends Henry J. Braker, a New York drug importer, real estate owner, and manufacturer who originally left in various trusts (most of them charitable) some $2,500,000, reduced, after several business losses, to $1,400,000. In 1905 Fletcher had interested Braker sufficiently in the College to persuade him to visit the Hill, meanwhile pointing out to him the need of the College to develop the fields of economics, finance, and business administration. Braker, who was not a college graduate, was impressed. He set foot on the Tufts campus long enough one afternoon to hear Fletcher deliver an oration at the celebration of the semicentennial of the opening of the institution. Braker's will, which was probated after his death three years later, provided half a million dollars for Tufts. The sum was to be known as the "Henry J. Braker Fund" and was to be "securely invested." The income was to be used for "the establishment and maintenance of a School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance in the said College"; or, if such a school, department, or course of study should already have been established, the income of the fund was to be used for "its maintenance and expansion." President Hamilton confidently informed the Trustees in his annual report for 1907-8 that the Braker School of Business Administration would be opened "in the near future," and the news was made public in 1910. The College was immediately flooded with inquiries, including requests for positions, catalogues, and course syllabi. A multitude of suggestions poured in for staff appointments, many of them from alumni in the business world, and included everything from deanships to those wanting to install


steam heat in the new building that was to be constructed. The dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration was among the many who offered their services to help organize the school.

The announcement of the imminent opening turned out to be grossly premature; in fact, the Braker School never came into existence at all. Tufts received none of the Braker bequest until 1913, and the balance arrived two years later.[2]  The income accumulated while one plan after another was worked out and eventually discarded. All kinds of possibilities were discussed. Hermon Carey Bumpus, who had succeeded Hamilton as president in the fall of 1914, engaged in an extended correspondence with Fletcher about the proposed school for the next two years. They considered also the idea of opening a separate school of public administration to train experts in local and municipal government. Fletcher began immediately to search for a dean for the Braker School. His most acceptable candidate was Henry C. Metcalf, who had held the Cornelia M. Jackson Professorship of Political Science at Tufts from 1899 to 1919 and who had resigned to accept a position in the New School for Social Research just established in New York City. Metcalf proved unavailable, and Fletcher was still looking for a dean to head the new school when he died in 1923. It was at first intended that when the school was established it would be located in Boston; to that end, the so-called Estabrook property on Huntington Avenue near the medical and dental school buildings was acquired by the College. Part of the property was to provide room for the future growth of the medical and dental schools. There was also some thought given to installing the Braker School in a building near the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Neither idea proved feasible.

The Trustees took a positive step in the spring of 1920 by voting to establish the "Braker School of Business Administration in connection with the School of Liberal Arts," with students to be admitted in September 1920. The name of the proposed school was changed to the "Braker School of Commerce, Accounts and


Finance" a few weeks later (to comply with the exact provision in Braker's will), and it was to be established "in connection with the School of Arts and Sciences." Several curricula were worked out which were intended to mesh with the undergraduate program.[3]  But the school did not open as scheduled. The reason given to the Trustees by President Cousens, who had inherited the project from his two predecessors in 1919, was failure to secure the proper man to head the school. The story was actually more complex than this. The strong-minded president of the Trustees had met an equally determined new president of the College. When Fletcher died the two men were still at odds over what the nature of the new school was to be.[4] 

Fletcher was justifiably proud of the fact that it was he who had single-handedly secured the Braker bequest. It had to be understood therefore that it was to be administered under his explicit directions. The proposed school of commerce and finance, according to Fletcher, was his idea entirely. Because it was being established with "the largest gift of the kind ever made for a similar purpose," the school was to be "of the very highest class" and would not only redound to the benefit of the whole College but become so famous that it "would attract some of the foremost men in the country, who would be glad to lecture without charge." The income of the fund supporting it "could not, under any pretext, plan or scheme, be diverted from its own uses. It cannot be used to bolster up other departments, or to make up annual deficiencies." The annual income from endowment alone was expected to be $25,000, and the administration as well as the financing of the school was to be completely separate from the other parts of the College. Fletcher was insistent that it was not to be affiliated in any way with the school of arts and sciences, and that it was to be an exclusively graduate school. He had in mind an institution comparable to the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania.[5] 



Cousens' ideas about the nature and purposes of the proposed school tended to change over the years, but they were distinctly not the same as Fletcher's. His original idea was to offer a combined course of five or six years leading to both a liberal arts and a professional degree. Immediately after the Trustees had voted to establish the school, Cousens sent a letter to the president and secretary of every Tufts Club informing them of the good news and expressing pleasure that it would now be possible "to offer courses in business administration to the students at the Hill." A few months later he announced that his conceptions had "crystallized somewhat." He decided that the school should make a "small beginning" rather than try to do everything at once. He was inclined to think that its efforts should at first be confined to the field of finance. Courses to prepare the student to take his place in the financial world were to be open for degree credit to undergraduates in the school of liberal arts, with special work of graduate level for students properly prepared. He saw the school not as an autonomous professional training facility of exclusively graduate level, drawing its students from far and wide, but as an adjunct to the school of liberal arts, with its central student body composed of Tufts undergraduates. When a vacancy occurred in the chairmanship of the Department of Economics in 1923, Cousens briefly entertained the idea that a man might be found who would serve at first as head of the department and later become dean of the Braker School.

Cousens and Fletcher sparred back and forth for four years, and no step was taken to implement the Trustee vote. Another reason for the delay in planning for the school was the introduction of Cousens' proposal for a general reorganization of the College into three parts. It was thought advisable to wait and see where the Braker School would fit into such a plan. Then Cousens announced that he was tentatively prepared to recommend the opening of the school in September 1925, with the work to be limited at first to advanced courses in the Department of Economics. Then another possibility occurred to him. Braker's will had left an alternative besides establishing a school per se. Why not take advantage of it? The bequest had provided that if a school, department, or course


of study which offered the equivalent of a "School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance" already existed, the income of the fund could be used for it. President Cousens convinced both the Finance Committee and the Executive Committee that at the time of Braker's decease the Department of Economics offered "a broad group of subjects" which, in his opinion, "covered the subjects of Commerce, Accounts and Finance." Therefore the income of the Braker Fund could properly be used "for the maintenance of the Department of Economics and for further additions to the teaching staff of that Department, its equipment, scholarships and fellowships." The income was to be thus used, beginning in 1924-25, until the Trustees voted otherwise. The dilemma of the Braker School had apparently been resolved.

The president had, within a month, arranged for the enlargement of the Economics Department, including the creation of four graduate teaching fellowships for 1925-26. The fellows were to receive tuition and $1,000 a year while working toward the Master's degree and teaching part-time. The program was so successful that beginning the next year the number of fellowships was doubled. They were granted to qualified graduates of any recognized college, without restriction as to sex. Fellowship holders were not expected to complete their degree requirements in one year and were therefore eligible for reappointment for a second year. The fellows conducted two discussion sections each in the introductory course in economics. The system of Braker Fellows met with such enthusiastic response that similar positions were created in the Departments of English and History, and one graduate teaching fellowship was provided in the Department of Chemistry.[6]  Between 1925-26 and the end of the program in 1937 (a victim of economic recession), seventy individuals from twenty-five states and forty-five colleges had participated in the various graduate fellowship programs, and several of them served as faculty residents in dormitories while


earning their advanced degrees. The income of the Braker Fund was also used for the purchase of library materials for the Department of Economics.

Cousens did not abandon his hopes for a full-fledged school at some future date. He considered the steps taken by the end of 1925 as only "a beginning toward the establishment of the Braker School." However, it never came into being exactly as either Braker or Fletcher planned it. The Trustees did attempt to carry out the spirit if not the letter of the bequest. They established the Henry J. Braker Professorship of Commercial Law in 1926, and in 1927 constructed, with some $203,000 of accumulated income, a classroom and office building bearing the donor's name.[7]  Braker Hall was built to house the Department of Economics and to provide space for the Braker School if it should ever be established.[8]  The new building served the immediate purpose of enabling the Departments of Government, History, and Philosophy to move from overcrowded Ballou Hall, although the latter was used in part as a classroom building until it was renovated and turned over exclusively to administrative offices in 1955.


[2] The first portion amounted to $350,000. Because the residue of the estate was insufficient to provide the remaining $150,000, property in New York City was accepted in lieu of the cash balance, on Fletcher's recommendation.

[3] Professor Harvey A. Wooster, then chairman of the Department of Economics, produced one of the most detailed plans. Another called for a minimum operating budget of $50,000 a year.

[4] It was principally because Metcalf feared that he would be caught in the crossfire between the two men that he declined to accept the deanship.

[5] At one time he considered the notion of opening the Braker School to high school graduates, again to those with two years of college. He discarded both possibilities. Shortly after President Hamilton had been informed of the bequest, Fletcher had made it clear that it was to be a graduate school, and when Hamilton assisted Fletcher in searching for a dean in the next few years, Hamilton made a point of that fact to all who inquired.

[6] Those outside the Department of Economics were supported from other than Braker funds. Five of those who held graduate fellowships in the 1920's or 1930's were serving in administrative or teaching capacities at Tufts in the 1960's, including Professor Lewis F. Manly, chairman of the Department of Economics, and Mr. Paul Wren, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Trustees. See "Teaching Fellows at Tufts - Thirty Years Later," Tufts Alumni Review, Vol. 10 (Spring 1964), p. 17.

[7] Professor Clarence P. Houston was elected to the professorship and also resumed that year his post as head of the Department of Physical Education.

[8] The Braker Fund still existed in the 1960's, as provided in the original bequest, and its earnings continued to be used to support the Department of Economics. The department introduced the courses which Henry J. Braker specified, and in 1963-64 was authorized to grant the Ph.D. in Economics in addition to the M.A. it had given for many years.

  • 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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