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

Miller, Russell


The seven students who reported in 1854-55 for academic duty were presumably impressed with the faculty-student ratio. With a president (who doubled as a teacher) and three colleagues, the new institution might have seemed ridiculously overstaffed. Yet by the time of Hosea 2d's untimely death in 1861 the College had graduated thirty-six young men and could boast of fifty-three


students in attendance. The interior of "College Hall," as the main building was sometimes called, at first bore few of the visible appurtenances of an institution of learning, higher or otherwise. "Not a map or drawing, or even a blackboard, adorned the bare walls. There was no library, no laboratory, no philosophical apparatus, no museum, - nothing but a building, four professors, and seven students. Probably no college has ever begun operations with fewer resources than Tufts College had at the start of 1854." Hosea 2d was perfectly aware of all this, but his hopes were high; two months after the College opened, he wrote his brother Levi that "our principle is to work, work, and to let the work speak for itself before the world. With only the germ of a library, and with no philosophical apparatus, I am still persuaded that we are making our students more thorough scholars than those of other colleges which I have visited. The smallness of our classes gives us a peculiarly favorable opportunity for effecting this result." He also noted that he had "full reason to be perfectly satisfied with the plan of instruction, and with the thoroughness and promptness of the Professors."

The three colleagues who embarked with Hosea 2d on the Universalist experiment in higher education were William A. Drew, Benjamin Franklin Tweed, and John P. Marshall.[6]  Drew, who taught ancient languages (Greek and Latin) and classical literature, and was the first secretary of the faculty until he resigned from the College in 1857, was a graduate of Bowdoin College and the son of a clergyman in Maine who edited the Gospel Banner, a Universalist newspaper.[7]  Drew was lame and had to use crutches to make his way about the Hill. During his first year he occupied the College Edifice with the seven students living there, then moved to Medford. He accepted his teaching position with two provisos: that he receive one-sixth of all tuition paid by students in his classes in excess of the number of thirty (which never happened), and that he


have permission to engage in outside activities to supplement his income, provided such activities did not interfere with his College duties. The Trustees accepted both conditions. He resigned when he found his salary (to have been increased from $800 to $900 a year in 1857) inadequate.

B. F. Tweed, born in Reading, Massachusetts, had been a public school teacher and principal in the Boston area. He became a member of the Tufts faculty the same year that he received an honorary M.A. degree from Harvard in recognition of his outstanding work as a teacher. Until his resignation in 1864 he served as Professor of Rhetoric, Logic, and English Literature. He was popular as a lecturer and much in demand as a speaker both before and during his stay at Tufts. He started out with the modest salary of $400 a year, additional compensation having been offered him in 1855 in the form of a house lot on which to build. In 1856 his salary was doubled after he threatened to take a better-paying job. Tufts retained his services until he accepted a professorship in Washington University, St. Louis.

The member of the original faculty destined to serve the longest was John P. Marshall, who first held the title of Professor of Mathematics and Natural Science and then the Professorship of Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology and served the College until his retirement in 1898. He was made Professor Emeritus in that year and was the first faculty member to receive a retirement pension ($1,000) from Tufts until his death in 1901. He had been principal of Lebanon Liberal Institute, a Universalist academy in New Hampshire, and had held various teaching and administrative posts in several school systems in New England. When the College was opened, he at first commuted from Chelsea. His name will reappear more than once, for he was acting president after Ballou's death and served in many other capacities.

By tradition and usage in Hosea 2d's day, college presidents had teaching as well as administrative tasks. In pre-Civil War America they customarily taught either Intellectual Philosophy, or Moral Science and Political Economy, or their equivalents, to the senior class.[8]  Hosea 2d actually taught in three areas, under two


professorships. During his presidency no Professor of Moral Science and Political Economy was appointed, so he combined as much of those disciplines as he could into his course in Intellectual Philosophy. In addition, he was Professor of History. Hosea 2d's love of language was equaled only by his devotion to history as an academic discipline. He taught both ancient and American history, and Tufts College thereby became one of the few institutions of higher learning in the United States before 1860 to include this subject in its curriculum.

Others of the early faculty of the College should also be mentioned. Alpheus Augustus Keen, who succeeded Drew as teacher of ancient languages and classical literature, was also the secretary of the faculty until his death in 1864. With a salary raised to $1,200 by 1860, Keen was the only member of the early Tufts faculty to have received more money than the president of the institution. Jerome Schneider, the first holder of a Ph.D. on the faculty, was employed by Hosea 2d to teach foreign languages. He was a European by birth and education, having come to the United States from Basle, Switzerland, and was originally employed in 1856 on a part-time basis. In 1858 he became a full-time faculty member and throughout his long stay at Tufts (he became Professor Emeritus in 1906), he taught Greek and Latin as well as French and German at one time or another. Until housing was provided for him on the Hill, he commuted from his home in Boston and was reimbursed for traveling expenses. For many decades faculty taking a leave were required to arrange for a substitute whom it was their responsibility to compensate. Professor Schneider gave the president and Trustees no end of trouble when he departed suddenly for Europe in 1881, made no provision for the teaching of his classes, and then neglected to pay the substitute that the College was compelled to hire. It was only after the Trustees threatened first to withhold his salary and then to dispense with his services that a species of settlement was made, in 1885. Thereafter, Schneider's salary was reduced and he was required, over his protest, to share the work in the Department of Greek with a new colleague.

Another faculty member in the early days of the College was William R. Shipman, chosen in 1864 to fill the post of Professor of Rhetoric, Logic, and English Literature vacated by Tweed. Like Marshall and Schneider, Shipman was long associated with Tufts


and held many responsible positions. He was particularly active in Universalist educational efforts and had been principal of Green Mountain Liberal Institute in South Woodstock, Vermont. He had also been instrumental in the establishment of Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont, in 1863, serving for many years as president of its Board of Trustees and as the academy's chief fund-raiser.

In 1864-65 Heman A. Dearborn, of the Class of 1857 and the first alumnus of the College on the faculty, was appointed Professor of Latin Languages and Literature so that Schneider could concentrate his efforts on Greek and modern languages. In the same year that Shipman was appointed, Benjamin Graves Brown, a Harvard graduate who had been employed in 1861 as Tutor in Mathematics, was appointed to the first endowed chair in the College, the Walker Professorship of Mathematics, and served until 1903. Dr. William J. Walker, a wealthy physician of Newport, Rhode Island (and not a Universalist), was a strong supporter of collegiate mathematical instruction and gave substantial amounts to Harvard, Amherst, and Williams as well as to Tufts. He gave approximately $200,000 to the College in several installments, invested in four separate funds. The bulk of the income was used to support the professorship; part was used to establish five scholarships in his honor.


[6] Enoch C. Rolf, M.D., was originally to have taught Hygiene and Physiology, which was listed as a requirement for sophomores. However, there is no evidence that he ever had any association with the College.

[7] Detailed and generally accurate biographies of the faculty and administration for the first forty years of the College are to be found in the History of Tufts College, published in 1896. For further information about this History, see the Bibliographical Note at the end of this work.

[8] See George P. Schmidt, The Old-Time College President (New York: Columbia University, 1930), for a lively account of the typical nineteenth-century college executive.

  • 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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