NATHAN MARSH PUSEY
AND THE AFFLUENT UNIVERSITY
O n New Year's Day 1953, James Bryant Conant made known his intention to resign, effective January 23—all of three weeks later. In June the Corporation announced his successor: forty-six-year-old Nathan Marsh Pusey, the president of Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin. Why this wholly unexpected choice? Who was Pusey, and what did he offer Harvard?
He came from an old New England family transplanted to Iowa, graduated from Harvard College in the class of 1928, earned a Harvard Ph.D. in Classics in 1935, went off to stints of college teaching at Lawrence, Scripps, and Wesleyan, and in 1944 returned to Lawrence to become its president. This was a small, highly regarded college in Wisconsin, founded in 1847, with strong New England roots. Pusey did well there, recruiting able faculty and taking a public stand against Appleton native Joseph McCarthy when that sinister figure began to hack his way through American politics. All respectable enough; and, it appears, sufficient to secure Pusey a place on the short list of candidates. But enough to make him Harvard's twenty-fourth president? 1
Lawrence board chairman William Buchanan reported that Pusey had done little fund-raising for the college, and noted his cool personality and lack of popularity with students despite his manifest skill as a teacher. Another member of the Lawrence board doubted that Pusey had the administrative ability required by the Harvard presidency: “He is stubborn and uncompromising.” More weighty was Carnegie Corporation vice president (and Harvard president wannabe) John Gardner's “serious doubts that he would have the