Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
McCollester, Lee S., 1859-1943
|Lee Sullivan McCollester, (1859-1943) A1881, D1884, D1899, third dean of the Crane Theological School (1912-1933), was an dedicated alumnus, professor, and administrator, who was considered the "Mr. Chips" of Tufts College.|
Born in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, June 5, 1859, McCollester began his formal education at Melrose Seminary in Brattleboro, Vermont. He first attended Butchel College in Akron Ohio, where his father, a clergyman, was president of the school. However, he transferred to Tufts at the end of his sophomore year. McCollester received a B.A. (1881) and a S.T. B. (1884) from the college and the Divinity School, respectively. He had studied under Charles H. Leonard, the first dean of the Divinity School. During his last year of theological study, McCollester worked as minister of the Claremont, New Hampshire, Univeralist Church. During that time he was briefly married to Lillian A. Wright, who died in 1884.
McCollester was recruited by the Church of Our Father in Detroit, Michigan, in 1889. He served as the urban church's pastor for twenty-four years. There, he established a life-long friendship with Henry Ford. Tufts conferred an honorary S.T.D. (Doctorate of Sacred Theology) on McCollester in 1899.He returned to Tufts, accepting the deanship of the Crane School of Theology, in 1912. At the time of his arrival, there were only four divinity students. In order to secure his services, the college agreed to several conditions pertaining to the reorganization of the school and McCollester's personal salary. Tufts was unable to meet all of McCollester's financial demand, requiring A. B. Fletcher, as a result of his personal interest in the theological school, to guarantee a personal gift of $1000 a year to the new dean until the funds could be raised from other resources. McCollester revitalized the theological school, altering the curriculum to focus more on practical usage, and increasing the enrollment under his leadership. McCollester was made dean emeritus upon his retirement in 1932. His second wife, Lizzie S. Parker, whom he married in 1889, was descended from one of the first students to enter the college. She died in 1928.The McCollesters had three children, including Parker McCollester, A1911, who was a life trustee of the college. McCollester retained the title of Professor of Religious Literature and continued to serve as the college's chaplain (1919-1940). He last act at the college, in early December 1943,was reading from Dickens' Christmas Carol for a Tufts College Women's Club gathering in Goddard Chapel.
From 1906 to 1923, McCollester was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Universalist General Convention, chairing the board for twelve years and serving as president of the Convention for four years.
He was also president of the Michigan Universalist Convention from 1895 to 1905 and librarian and president of the Universalist Historical Library. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Phi Beta Kappa.
McCollester, after being dissuaded from his original idea of building a home on the Hill next to the theology school, resided at 48 Professors Row, until retiring to Claremont, New Hampshire. He died December 26, 1943, following a heart attack, in Stamford, Connecticut.
McCollester House, located on Edison Avenue, was named in his honor.
Source: VF; LOH1, 334-336; SHC