Lawrence history through the archives

Julia Stringfellow

(Lawrence archives)

Nathan Marsh Pusey, president
of Lawrence University from July
1944 to June 1953 and namesake
of the Pusey Room in the Warch
Campus Center, was Lawrence’s
tenth president. I recently finished
arranging his collection of materials
from his time at Lawrence, and
he is certainly one of the most
loved and respected of Lawrence
presidents.
Pusey received his B.A., M.A.
and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard
University. He then served as a
sophomore tutor at Lawrence from
1935-1938 while Henry Wriston
was president.
He taught history and literature
at Scripps College and then
served four years as an associate
professor of classics at Wesleyan
University before accepting the
presidency at Lawrence. There was
much celebrating and fireworks
when Pusey and his family arrived
at Lawrence and moved into the
president’s residence, the house
that is now used as the administrative
building Sampson House.
President Pusey actively
worked with the university’s curriculum
and, in the fall of 1945,
introduced a new course known
as Freshman Studies. All freshmen
were required to take the course
that emphasized the discussion of
ideas through the study of works
of literature, art and music. The
course has been an important
part of the Lawrence experience
ever since. Freshman Studies is
undoubtedly Pusey’s best-known
Lawrence legacy.
Pusey was known as the “faculty’s
president’ and actively worked
with the faculty as decisions were
made regarding the university.
Memorial Union, now Memorial
Hall, and the Worcester Art Center,
located where Wriston Art Center
is now, were built during Pusey’s
presidency.
While at Lawrence, Pusey
received an honorary degree from
Ripon College in January 1945. He
also received national attention
during the 1950s for his public
clashes with Senator Joseph
McCarthy.
Pusey left Lawrence in 1953 to
accept the presidency of Harvard
University. This Lawrence-Harvard
connection resulted in Lawrence
being termed “the Harvard of
the Midwest.” The day that the
Lawrence community learned
Pusey would be leaving Lawrence,
students and faculty met at
Memorial Union and, carrying
torches, gathered in front of the
president’s residence and serenaded
Pusey and his family.
Pusey addressed the crowd
and thanked them for their well
wishes. After beginning his presidency
at Harvard, Pusey went on to
receive an honorary doctor of laws
degree from Yale University in
November 1953 and an honorary
doctor of laws degree from Brown
University in June 1954.
Pusey returned to Lawrence in
November 1954 to receive an honorary
degree from the university.
He made several trips to Lawrence
in the following years, including
one to give the annual Honors
Day Convocation address in May
1987, and always remembered the
names of the faculty, staff and students
he had known at Lawrence.
Pusey died November 14, 2001
in New York City at the age of 94.
His permanent legacy at Lawrence
is reflected in the Freshman
Studies program and in the room
named in his honor in the Warch
Campus Center.

(Lawrence archives)

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