Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Skinner, Rev. Otis Ainsworth (1807-61)
Otis Ainsworth Skinner (1807-61) raised the $100,000 subscription which allowed for the chartering of Tufts College in 1852.A signer of the constitution of the Tufts College Educational Association in 1855, he was also the first Secretary of the Board of Trustees. He was deeply involved in choosing the site for the school's campus, as well as selecting Tufts' first President, Hosea Ballou 2nd. Furthermore, until his departure to Illinois in 1857, he served as General Agent of the College. And, from 1851 until his death a decade years later he sat as a member of the Board of Trustees. A memorial plaque, designed by Henry Hering, was placed in Ballou Hall in 1941.It reads:
Skinner was born on July 3, 1807, in Royalton, Vermont. Following his common-school education he taught as a teenager and became an itinerant preacher at nineteen. Age twenty-one found him transferred to New Hampshire and preaching part-time. From New Hampshire he moved among parishes: first to Woburn, Massachusetts, and then to Baltimore, Maryland where he edited the Southern Pioneer. In 1837 he became minister of the Fifth Universalist Society in Boston, and from 1846 to 1848 was minister of the Orchard Street Church in New York City. In 1848 he agreed to raise the subscription to fund Tufts College, and returned to the Fifth Universalist Church in Boston, where, as a contemporary describes, he "accomplished his life's work" and "developed a symmetry of character worthy of all acceptation."
In 1853 he received an honorary degree from Harvard. In 1857 he departed, with his brothers, to Elgin, Illinois, where he soon became president of Lombard College. Though he lacked a higher education, he overcame his lack of qualifications with spirit and drive. His contemporaries praised his work at Lombard: he "possessed an indomitable energy" and, "How inspiring his presence to teacher and pupil!"As can be deduced from the vast number of memorials, obituaries, and articles, Otis Ainsworth Skinner was one of the most prominent Universalist clergymen of his lifetime.
Several descendants of Otis Ainsworth Skinner are associated with the Tufts community. Otis Skinner H1895 was the first actor to receive an honorary degree from Tufts, while his daughter Cornelia Otis Skinner H1935 received the same honor forty years later. Clarence R. Skinner H1945 served as Dean of Crane Theological School from 1933 until 1945. Dorothy Durant Skinner attended Jackson from 1942 to 1943, Dorothy May Skinner J1952 graduated magna cum laude in Biology. Edna E. Skinner was a special medical student from 1899 to 1900, Eugene Carroll Skinner took classes from 1859 to 1861.George Donald Skinner attended the medical school from 1927 to 1928, as did Ralph Douglas Skinner from 1899 to 1903.Several others attended Tufts, but they are too many to list.
The Reverend Otis Ainsworth Skinner was an exceptionally active individual, and one writer strongly believed the Reverend literally wore himself out. He died on September 18, 1861, in Naperville, Illinois, while holding an exchange pastorate at the age of fifty-four.
Sources: VF; TW