Hallowell tribute

Tufts’ 9th president guided institution through tumultuous times

Burton Crosby Hallowell, who as the ninth president of Tufts University was known for his creative leadership during the Vietnam War years, died on November 21, 2006. He was 91.

Burton C. Hallowell © UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES, 1967

A force for social and educational change at Tufts during his tenure from 1967 to 1976, Hallowell maintained strong ties to the university throughout his life. “Tufts has lost a dear friend,” Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow said of Hallowell, whom he described as “a wonderful mentor.”

“From the day I arrived at Tufts, he was generous with his time and very thoughtful with his advice,” Bacow said. “We spoke often about the challenges that he and other presidents faced in the 1960s. Those were difficult times for colleges and their leaders. Burt always maintained a great perspective on his presidency and the evolution of both Tufts and higher education over the years.”

Hallowell, an economist who grew up in Danielson, Conn., received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wesleyan University. He earned his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1949. During World War II, he served as a civilian economist in the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, and in 1942, he entered the U.S. Army as a private, advancing to captain in the Transportation Corps before being discharged in 1946. He returned to Wesleyan in 1946 as professor and chair of economics. Believing that real-world experience made better college professors, he also was a consultant to the president of Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. for 11 years. He also served as a vice president and then executive vice president of Wesleyan.

When he came to Tufts in June 1967, Hallowell took the lead in making changes that reflected the fabric of society during the Vietnam era. Students were often incensed by his refusal to ban military recruiting on campus, but it ran against his notion of an open university. “Just as I am opposed morally to the war, I also recognize a moral commitment to preserve those freedoms that characterize a university,” he said, noting it was critical, in the interest of academic freedom, to allow all points of view on campus.

A peacemaker
Sincerely interested in young people and their passion for reform and relevance, Hallowell favored solutions that encouraged flexibility and teamwork, including changing the composition of various university committees to include student representation and encouraging faculty to hold seminars related to the Vietnam War when it was clear that students were not focused on their daily classes.

During his tenure, students sought, and received, a stronger voice in university governance. The Tufts Community Union, a town meeting forum, was created with the organizing principle that students “have the right to direct power in the decisions which affect them directly, even if their interests are in opposition to those of the administration.”

“I always believed there should be reforms at universities,” Hallowell said at the time. “We radically changed parietals and improved the rights of women and minorities. Our trustees voted for an open meeting with the whole community at least once a year. . . . We felt we had to do everything we could to adjust to a new kind of world.”

Tufts ushered in coed dorm living in the 1971-72 academic year. Hallowell created the President’s Council for Women and Minorities, and an assistant director was hired for the Office of Equal Opportunity to handle women’s issues on campus. The Women’s Center opened in March 1972 and sponsored forums on the role of women in society and at Tufts. A new position of assistant dean for women’s affairs was created in Jackson College, and most notably, Kathryn McCarthy, a physics professor and dean of the Graduate School, became the highest-ranking woman at the university when Hallowell appointed her provost and senior vice president in June 1973.

The undergraduate core
When he presented the so-called “Hallowell Report” to the Board of Trustees in the fall of 1971, Hallowell said the university needed to focus on the education of undergraduates in all its endeavors, including research and social service. He advocated seeking distinctiveness and quality in identifying student needs and the programs to meet those needs and capitalizing on Tufts’ strengths through joint appointments, programs and research collaborations between the Medford and Boston campuses.

“In the past, all liberal arts colleges have been homogenized,” Hallowell told a gathering of Tufts alumni in New Hampshire in January 1972. “We can’t be a part of this anymore . . . we must remove some old programs that no longer serve to make us different, and we must introduce new ones. We have to explore America’s manpower needs in the next 10 to 15 years and shape Tufts to meet those needs.”

Hallowell resigned as president at the end of the 1975-76 academic year, saying he believed university presidents should not serve longer than a decade. After leaving Tufts, he focused on a longtime interest, corporate governance in the United States. He served as a director of seven corporations and participated in panels on corporate governance reform.

One of the five original trustees of the Davis Educational Foundation, which funds projects designed to improve the teaching of undergraduates, Hallowell believed that universities’ teaching mission had been supplanted by their research enterprises since World War II.

“Universities are really built to deal with problems in a rational, civil way,” Hallowell reflected in 2001. “They are lost when it comes to a world of emotionalism and irrationalism. I knew authority would be challenged from the start. That is why I issued a statement in the spring of 1968 about what I thought a university was; about the responsibility of students, faculty and trustees; and the conditions under which these responsibilities could be carried out in a world of chaos and disruption. . . . Besides, presidents don’t have the power to decree. They are only put in strategic positions for exercising persuasion.”

Hallowell, who had been living on Cape Cod, was one of the five founders of the Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore and a trustee of the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. Hallowell’s first wife, Pauline, died in 1998. He is survived by his second wife, Joyce; a son, Robert; two stepchildren, Deborah Fortin and John Glynn; and three step-grandchildren.

Funeral services were private. Memorial donations may be made to Tufts University or Wesleyan University.