Wheaton College, 1834-1957 : a Massachusetts family affair

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Helmreich, Paul C.
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"This volume chronicles the history of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, beginning with its creation as a Female Seminary in 1834 and concluding with the 1955 decision to increase substantially in size, a process that commenced in 1957. This latter event brought to a close 123 years during which Wheaton Seminary and College had remained tied to the precepts and fiscal resources of the founding family, the Wheatons. Founded with the assistance of Mary Lyon, who subsequently established Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Wheaton was intended from its inception to provide serious, "higher education" for young women. From 1834 to 1905, members of the Wheaton family protectfully watched over and provided financial assistance to the institution, a continuum of personal involvement far different from the experience of other institutions, such as Wellesley, Smith, or Vassar, where the direct influence of founding patrons barely lasted a decade. Even after the death of Eliza Baylies Wheaton in 1905, the fiscal legacy of the Wheaton family estate served as fundamentally the entire Wheaton College endowment for the next six decades. The history of Wheaton provides a case example of the educational role of Female Seminaries in the nineteenth century. It delineates the educational pressures and challenges on those institutions created by the growth of public high schools and new four­ year colleges as the century drew to a close. In 1912, Wheaton followed Mount Holyoke by becoming the only other female seminary in New England to make the transition to college status. Shortly thereafter the President and Board of Trustees decided to limit the size of the College to 500 students, thus intentionally creating for Wheaton a niche that would set it apart from the larger Massachusetts women's colleges of Smith, Wellesley, and Mount Holyoke. Not coinci­dentally, this decision also allowed Wheaton to continue to operate within the limits imposed by the small $1.25 million endow­ment provided by the Wheaton family legacy. Through two world wars and the intervening years of monetary inflation and severe economic depression, Wheaton College re­mained committed to the Wheaton family's original vision of quality education combined with ''home-like" smallness in size. But in the years following World War II, expansion of the curriculum to meet the challenges of the post-war era resulted in a student/faculty ratio of 7.5-1, which in tum created fiscal ineffi­ciencies of scale that pointed ever more urgently toward the need to expand the size of the student body. The 1955 decision nearly to double the number of students was forced eventually by a pro-active Chair of the Board of Trustees on a reluctant President. With it also came the conscious recognition that the era of living within the limits imposed by the Wheaton family's philosophical and fiscal legacy had come to an end. The way was now open to begin the process that would allow Wheaton subsequently to become the nation­ally recogniz,ed coeducational college of 1600 students that it is today." --Jacket.
532 leaves.
Includes bibliographical references: leaves 504-513.
Wheaton College (Norton, Mass.)
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