Academic journal article Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Franklin L. Ford

Academic journal article Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Franklin L. Ford

Article excerpt

26 DECEMBER 1920 * 31 AUGUST 2003

AT A MEETING of the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences 6 December 2005, the following Minute was placed upon the records.

Franklin L. Ford served as a major participant in this faculty's business throughout his career, as assistant and associate professor, Allston Burr Senior Tutor of Lowell House, McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History, and as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from fall 1962 through spring 1970. He was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on 26 December 1920, and attended the University of Minnesota, where his uncle Guy Stanton Ford, a leading historian of Germany, served as president and presumably had an impact on his nephew's vocational choice. Graduating in 1942, Ford enrolled for a semester of graduate study at Cornell, then entered the army and, after receiving a commission, joined the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS. There he served with a galaxy of young historians, some recruited by Professor William Langer, who had studied or would regroup at Harvard, including John Clive, H. Stuart Hughes, and Carl Schorske. He returned to Harvard to take his MA. in 1948 and Ph.D. in 1950 in early modern French history. His dissertation became a distinguished contribution to the history of the ancien régime, Robe and Sword: The Regrouping of the French Aristocracy after Louis XIV, published by Harvard University Press in 1953. Ford was well aware that he was venturing into one of the densest historiographical thickets of the West, but intrepidly analyzed the ambiguous role of the eighteenth-century French nobility, which, "if it did not have the strength to suppress revolution, had at least recovered enough strength to make revolution inevitable."

With the completion of his dissertation, Ford briefly joined the faculty of Bennington College, and he and his wife, Eleanor, continued an attachment to the faculty and town long after his teaching stint ended. Ford also followed German history, offering a two-semester sequence on Germany as well as lectures on early modern France, once he returned to Harvard in 1953. For his second book he chose to study a site where both cultures played a formative role. Strasbourg in Transition 1 648-1 789 examined the frontier city from before its annexation by Louis XrV to the French Revolution. As a lecturer Franklin had a dry, ironic sense of humor and a sophisticated way of framing questions. These were happy and productive years: he was a senior tutor at Lowell House, a member of a poker circle that included distinguished faculty colleagues, a stalwart baseball fan, and father of two young boys: Stephen Ford, who graduated from Harvard in 1969 and has had a long career as managing editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and John Ford, who settled in Arizona and developed his vocation as a gold- and silversmith.

While Franklin was a visiting fellow at the Center for Behavioral Studies in Stanford during 1961-62, Nathan Pusey called on him to succeed McGeorge Bundy as dean of the faculty - a position that forty years ago still allowed him to teach his undergraduate courses and the graduate colloquium in European history. He had already served Harvard greatly, by chairing the 1960 Faculty Report on Admission to Harvard College, which urged allocating greater financial aid to strive for a more diverse student body with respect to class, race, and region. This is a report that helped to create the modern Harvard College. As dean, he reshaped and modernized the General Education curriculum, and he oversaw the physical renewal of the campus with the renovation of the Yard dormitories, the conversion of Lehman Hall into Dudley House, the renovation of Emerson, Boylston, and Harvard Halls, and the construction of the Science Center, Mather House, and Peabody Terrace. Through all this, he ably stewarded the faculty's resources.

By the late 1960s, however, the deanship had become an exhausting burden. …

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