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

Miller, Russell


While the engineering curriculum was being developed in the 1870's and the relationship between the divinity school and the College was being discussed, Miner submitted his resignation to the Trustees, effective in February 1875. This act was taken after much deliberation and was in no way unexpected. From the time of his election in June 1862, doubt had been expressed as to his ability to hold both a full-time pastorate and the presidency. For over a year he tried to serve both his church and the College full-time. Early in 1864 a delegation from the Second Universalist Society (School Street) conferred with the Executive Committee of the Trustees, arguing that Miner's duties "were more than ought to be performed by any one man, and more than he could do." He was preaching in the morning at the College and in the afternoon at his church. The result of the discussion was compromise whereby the Society would require his services only half of each Sunday. The College, in return, agreed to defray the expense of his services half the day at the College and to employ another clergyman to handle half the School Street assignment on Sundays. Miner was still responsible as a pastor for the multitude of other duties that fell to a clergyman. It was also agreed that the College would reimburse Miner, as a non-resident president, for the expenses of his horse and chaise in commuting on Sundays. Miner's transportation facilities, while he was on the campus, were housed in the barn behind Middle (Packard) Hall. The Treasurer's Reports contain precise records of the cost of this "fringe benefit" over the years of Miner's presidency.

Miner found his double job a demanding one, for in the summer of 1865 he expressed doubts to the Trustees as to how much


longer he could continue "to serve two masters." The reaction of the Trustees was not only to give him a vote of confidence but to impress upon him the prejudicial effect the termination of his services would have on the College.
They agreed to take whatever measures were necessary to retain him; the most tangible step was the decision to pay him a salary ($3,000), effective January 1, 1866. His academic assignments were also lightened somewhat; his classes were strictly limited to seniors, and during 1866-67 he supplied the College pulpit only one Sunday in four during the first term, and every other Sunday during the second term. Even then, he found it necessary to be absent much of the time on church business, especially during 1871-72, and his activities that year were further curtailed by illness; for several weeks, Professor Shipman conducted the president's classes while he was on leave of absence to recover his health.

The first step that led to Miner's eventual resignation was a


request from the Second Universalist Society to the Trustees in the fall of 1874 that he devote himself entirely to the service of the Society, which had moved into new quarters on Columbus Avenue in 1872. For several weeks a veritable tug-of-war ensued between the Society and the College to retain his services. In October he resigned his pastorate, but he was so urgently requested to reconsider that he acceded and announced his plans to resign the presidency. The decision was enthusiastically received by his parish, which immediately voted him a salary of $6,000. The resignation was accepted "with unfeigned reluctance" by the Trustees and was accompanied by an extensive Minute of Appreciation that appeared in several newspapers. In order to clear accounts, Miner was reimbursed by the College for $338.16 that he had personally lent various students to help them pay College bills. However, the College did not lose Miner's services. He continued as a very active Trustee until his death in 1895 and contributed in many ways to the strengthening of the institution.

Less than a month before his resignation from the presidency of the College was to take effect, Miner transmitted to the Trustees the first Annual Report to have been printed and made available for public distribution. He had seen Tufts graduate its eighteenth class and could report that these men were filling, "with credit to themselves and honor to the College," prominent and responsible positions in many professions - theology, law, medicine, and business. A high proportion had entered teaching; some had become principals of academies and others were masters of high schools and grammar schools. The internal order of the College had been "highly satisfactory," in spite of an occasional lapse of student deportment. Academic standards had been not only maintained but improved, and the basic purpose of the College had not been lost sight of: Not so much to train men for particular positions as "to build up such intelligent, manly, and well-rounded character as shall be an adequate foundation for preparation for any position." This was being achieved "not by following tradition and blind custom, but by conforming to the growing light and generous spirit of the age."

The College under Miner's leadership had not departed markedly from the traditions established, however shortly before, by his predecessor and the original faculty. True, an engineering course


had been established, and a divinity school had been organized, but the core of the College remained its classical curriculum. When President Miner offered his resignation in 1874, the work of the freshman and sophomore years was still prescribed; limited electives were permitted upperclassmen. The academic offerings were organized into nine departments, exclusive of the divinity school. There was considerable overlapping within departments because so many subjects were frequently taught by the same instructor; in fact, few departments consisted of more than one man. Professor Marshall's Department of Chemistry also included work in mineralogy, botany, and geology, with lectures on the side in Animal and Vegetable Physiology, and zoology. The geological features in the neighborhood of the College were exploited, and excursions were made during the spring term to study formations and collect specimens. Much attention had to be paid to elementary chemistry, for most entering students had no acquaintance with the subject.

Professor Schneider's classes in Greek for freshman and sophomores read from Thucydides, Plato, Lucian, Herodotus, and Sophocles and periodically wrote short prose compositions. A handful of students elected Greek in their upperclass years. The professor of Latin Language and Literature, whose course included Roman History and Antiquities, was pleased with the quality of the work done by the freshmen with their assignments from Livy and Horace but less happy with the performance by the sophomores, particularly in Latin composition. Their study of Horace and Tacitus was satisfactory, and three upperclassmen elected advanced Latin and read from Juvenal and Cicero. Throughout the Latin assignments, emphasis was put on thorough understanding of selected readings - grammatical analysis, etymology, idiom, and allusions - rather than on extensive and superficial coverage.

The two-man Mathematical Department offered plane and solid geometry, and algebra, to the freshmen; trigonometry (including surveying) to the sophomores. Examinations lasting from three to four hours climaxed each semester's work, and reasoning rather than blind memorization was stressed. S. W. Sutton, Walker Special Instructor in Mathematics, and a graduate of the Class of 1872, was convinced that much more was being accomplished than in his own undergraduate days. The Walker Professor of Mathematics, Benjamin Graves Brown, taught physics to the juniors and seniors and


repeatedly called attention to the lack of a laboratory in which demonstrations and experiments in mechanics, hydrostatics, pneumatics, heat, and static electricity could be provided. Work on optics for the seniors was severely limited because the room fitted for experiments in that field was unheated. The second half of the term was devoted to astronomy - but with no observatory available to show how astronomical instruments were used or to view the heavens.

The Department of Rhetoric, Logic, and English Literature, to which Intellectual Philosophy was added (as an upperclass requirement), consisted, administratively, of Professor William R. Shipman, who doubled as librarian. Intensive study of grammar, an average of six themes per year, and introduction to the masterpieces of English literature were included in the freshman and sophomore courses. Intellectual Philosophy ("a mental science rather than metaphysics") and logic were included in the upperclass course of study. The most popular elective, and the natural carry-over from theme-writing, was Declamation and Oratory. Professor Moses True Brown, who presided over this department, was proud of the fact that Tufts had established the first full Professorship in Elocution in any New England college when he was appointed in 1866. However, Oratory was offered for only half of the academic year. He was equally proud of the fact that Oratory was considered a separate department at Tufts and was not "attached to the department of English Literature or Rhetoric, to be persistently ignored by the professors." He insisted that Oratory, systematically taught, was as much of an art to be cultivated as music or painting. An analysis of the three-page outline of the course which Professor Brown submitted to the Trustees is evidence of the thoroughness with which he dealt with the subject. With missionary fervor, he recommended that Oratory be allotted as much time as other studies, and that it be made a regular elective. J. W. Adams of Boston also gave instruction twice a week "in the culture of the voice and in vocal Music"; the side benefits reflected favorably in reading, elocution, and in pronunciation of foreign languages by those students taking advantage of his services. The program for seniors was rounded out by lectures in Political Economy, given by the president; the customary Evidences of Christianity was still a regular part of the presidential offering.

German, French, and Italian comprised the offerings of the Department of Modern Languages. The first two were required for both the philosophical and engineering curricula. Italian was elective, beginning in the junior year. Although some attention was given to pronunciation, no direct effort was made to develop oral facility in any of the foreign languages. Language teachers of a later era would certainly challenge the statement that "the futility of such endeavor in a college course has been demonstrated by a general experience." Introduction to the literature in these languages and a venture into comparative philology were all that was attempted after grammar and sentence structure were mastered. Professor Charles E. Fay considered the greatest deficiency to be the lack of French and German in the preparatory schools; as a result, valuable time was wasted in college learning the elements of those languages. He felt strongly that a college-level course should presuppose secondary school preparation and that the teaching of a language at the elementary level should not have to be the task of the College. Many an educator since has supported this contention.

President Miner had made it clear in his Inaugural Address, delivered on July 9, 1862, that he was not going to be an innovator. He did "not propose to ask . . . acceptance of any new doctrines in regard to education. . . . Our work is not revolutionary, but regenerative. We have not founded here a New School in Science and Literature, but a new instrumentality for the furtherance of the Old Schools. We pay our homage to the older institutions. . . . We aim to secure for our own young men . . . the same benefits which other institutions are securing to the young men of other sects." At the same time, President Miner had made a bid for the patronage of that segment of the population who professed no formal religious faith and attended no place of worship, but whose sentiments were likely to coincide with those of the Universalists. Tufts College could thereby serve the "very large portion" of citizenry who did not find the orthodoxy of other sects congenial.

Much of Miner's address had been taken up with stressing the value of "a sound and generous culture" as a foundation for professional life. As he put the matter, "a liberal education is the best investment, financially considered, that the passing generation can make for the next." He referred his hearers to "the masterly discussion" of liberal education in his predecessor's Inaugural and


insisted that he (Miner) was "contented to be but a gleaner on the borders of the field" which Ballou had "so thoroughly harvested." Miner recognized that Tufts was, as yet, only a junior partner among the institutions of the educational world. But the time had already come, he said, "when a young man is asked, at least by the wise, not where he graduated, but what he can do. Sound learning consents to wear no local brand." Tufts, he was convinced, was doing its share in offering a worthwhile liberal education.

If the Trustees wished that a man with these sentiments could continue to serve the College, their next president fulfilled that wish, and more. Under President Elmer Hewitt Capen,Tufts ceased to be "only a junior partner among the institutions of the educational world" and began to assume a position more akin to the conception of the university held by those conversant with the changing face of higher education in late-nineteenth-century America.

  • 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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