Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


Sawyer, Thomas Jefferson, 1804-1899


Thomas Jefferson Sawyer (1804-1899), H1895, successfully advocated for the establishment of a Universalist institution of higher education and theology in 1847.He served as Tufts' first president of the Board of Trustees, the first dean of the Tufts Divinity School, and Packard Professor of Theology.

Sawyer was born in Reading, Vermont, on January 9, 1804. At nineteen, he attended Chester Academy and then Middlebury College, teaching school while finishing his studies. Following his graduation in 1829, Sawyer, determined to enter the Universalist ministry, began studying theology with a Reverend Balch in Winchester, New Hampshire. Due to considerable previous preparation, Sawyer was ordained within a month by the General Convention of New England. During this time he first expressed his determination in the building of a denominational school.

In 1830, Sawyer took charge of a small congregation in New York City. The following year he married Caroline M. Fisher, with whom he had seven children. In 1831, he also became editor of the "Christian Messenger."Sawyercontinued to preach in New York City, keeping his church open during the cholera epidemic of 1832, until 1845 when he accepted the position of principal of the Clinton Liberal Institute in Oneida County. Sawyer helped organize the Universalist Historical Society, of which he served as secretary and librarian, collecting over three thousand volumes for its collection.

Sawyer, citing the educational needs of the denomination, called for a convention in New York City in 1847. The outcome of this Universalist meeting was the founding of Tufts College, along with the Canton Theological School and St. Lawrence University. Sawyer served as the president of the first board of Trustees of each of these institutions.

He continued his work and preaching in New York until 1869 when hewas called to take charge of the newly established Tufts Divinity School as the Packard Professor of Theology. He was formally made dean of the school in 1882.He retired from active work as an instructor, as a result of failing eyesight in 1884, and in 1892, was made professor emeritus.

Sawyer was twice elected president of Tufts, but declined both times. In 1895, the college conferred a degree of LL.D. on Sawyer. He was also made an honorary member of the college's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Sawyer died at his home on Professors Row on August 5, 1899, as a result of old age.

Source: VF

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Numeric Entries
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Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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