Secretary of the Amherst Alumni Council and former Secretary of the Board of Trustees of Amherst College and Amherst College class of 1933
Interviewed on January 18 and 22, 1980
Tape 1, January 18, 1980
Tape 2, January 22, 1980
Rights and citation information
[This transcript was created at the time of the original recordings and may contain errors and omissions.]
J. Alfred Guest
Secretary of the Alumni Council, Emeritus
Secretary to the Board of Trustees, Emeritus
January 18, 1980
Horace W. Hewlett
For: Amherst College
HWH: This is Horace Hewlett talking with J. Alfred Guest, former Alumni Secretary at Amherst College and Secretary to the Board. We’re meeting in my office in Grosvenor House on Friday morning, January 18, 1980.
For the record let me just say, Al, you graduated from Amherst in 1933 and from the Yale Law School in 1936. You’re the third person to have served Amherst as Alumni Secretary. Frederick S. Allis ‘93 was the first, beginning in 1913 until his retirement in 1939. Eugene S. Wilson ‘29 was the second from 1939 to 1946. And you held the office from 1946 to 1971. How did you come to leave a legal career to return to Amherst?
GUEST: As you know, I worked for the Federal Communications Commission in charge of the New York office from 1942 to 1946-- there were three lawyers there and I took the job thanks to classmate Charlie Denny who involved me in the FCC service in December 1942. During the course of my career there I conducted a number of investigations into alleged German submarines signalling off the Long Island coast and illegal broadcasts from various points of this country, which we tracked down. But for the most part, we spent much time investigating the German and Italian foreign language stations in New York that were broadcasting on the minor stations. Some of the participants of the broadcast had dubious records of association with Nazism or Fascism. We carried on investigation, in large measure because the FBI did not have the funds or the manpower to do it. When the war began to lessen down with the end of the war in Japan, the FCC resumed hearings-- FM hearings and TV hearings-- to assign station frequencies to various applicants. I served as the government lawyer and occasionally as the presiding office in hearings in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington. Our most famous case was a very long and exhaustive hearing of many applicants for Channel 13 on the TV dial in New York. TV was in its infancy at that time. I had made good friends in the broadcast field. In the early part of 1946-- with the war ended-- I was looking into the possibility of joining the legal staff of one of the networks.
I acquired an interest in broadcasting and as a result of my experience with the FCC. That was my status when I came back for my delayed Amherst reunion in 1946, which we held at Prescott’s Garage. It was the last few days of Stanley King as President of Amherst College.
I can remember that weekend being told that Jack McCloy ‘16, who was then Assistant Secretary of War (and I think had just been appointed as High Commissioner for Germany), was about to dedicate the new War Memorial, which was on the eastern edge of the campus overlooking Hitchcock Field. The Alumni Fund with the urging of President King voted to reconstruct Hitchcock Field, and to create the War Memorial-- an impressive and simple memorial. To show you what sort of an alumnus I was in 1946, at least on that first weekend, I decided not to go down to join the alumni ceremony to see Mr. John J. McCloy dedicate the memorial, (something I have since regretted). I thought I ought to protect the interests of Prescott Garage and our 1933 reunion headquarters! I point this out to show that although now, we, as employees at the College, work very hard to interest alumni in affairs of the College, one sometimes fails to pay attention to rather significant events which are taking place.
I had no thought of ever coming to Amherst at my reunion in 1946. I had seen a young man introduced earlier that year, in February, at the Hotel Roosevelt at the Annual Meeting of the New York alumni. Stanley King presented Charles Woolsey Cole as the new president, just elected by the Board of Trustees. Charlie did not say anything at the meeting; he simply stood up and waved at the crowd. This was all I had to do with Amherst, except for contributing to the Alumni Fund, until early August 1946. I knew that Charlie Cole was taking over as President on July 1. One day I received a telephone call at Martha’s Vineyard from my good friend Ken DeBevoise of the Class of ‘35. Ken said, “I’ve just been elected to fill an unfilled vacancy of Charlie Cole, the new President, on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council. Charlie became president on July 1. His first action was to appoint Bill Wilson ‘29, former Secretary of the Alumni Council, as Dean of Admission at Amherst. This leaves a vacancy on the Committee because Charlie Cole has resigned as a member of the Executive Committee.” Ken DeBevoise, who had during the War unsuccessfully stood for election for Alumni Trustee, and who was well known, was then elected by the Executive Committee in early July to fill Cole’s vacancy. The immediate duty of the Executive Committee was to find a successor to Bill Wilson, former Secretary of the Alumni Council.
Ken DeBevoise knew I was at the Vineyard and in the course of his phone call said, “Here I am. I’ve been a member of the Executive Committee for a couple of weeks and Secretary of the Alumni Council is the position the Committee wants to fill as soon as possible. I know you’ve been looking around at some of the networks, but I wondered if you’re interested in being considered for the job of Secretary of the Alumni Council.” I said, “I don’t think so.” But Ken continued, “Well, I’ll call you in a few days. Think it over.” At that time I had staying with me at the Vineyard a law school roommate of mine, Mac Diggs, who himself had been Assistant to President Cowley at Hamilton College in the early war years, after having been with a large law firm in New York. Mac was very close to Mahat and to me, and I can remember riding around Martha’s Vineyard in our car for a couple of days while we discussed the idea of going into the broadcasting business in the law department of one of the networks, or considering this unknown possibility way up in the town of Amherst. I remember that I had first decided against the Amherst position. I later found out that both Mahat and Mac Diggs were enthusiastic for it. They said nothing and refrained from urging me as we drove around the island and considered the prospect. And I remember going to the telephone one day to call Ken DeBevoise to say no, I was not interested. For some reason I got Ken on the phone and I said, “Yes, I would be interested.” Ken said, “The Executive Committee will meet in a week or so (whenever it was) at the University Club in New York. The Committee would like to interview you, among other candidates.”
I went down to New York one day. Bill Wilson, whom I had never met, had corresponded with me and said, “You be downstairs in the waiting room, or the reading room, of the University Club (which I had never been in) and I’ll come down and get you around 7:30. We’re having dinner right now.” Sure enough, Bill Wilson returned to take me up to the meeting room. Jack Fuess ‘05, who was Chairman of the Executive Committee, was not present at this meeting. Other members of the Executive Committee were there and the only persons I knew were Kim Halligan ‘30, whom I’d known as an outstanding undergraduate when I was a freshman at Amherst, and Ken DeBevoise. The Committee asked me questions about my career. They wanted to know if I knew anything about public relations. I said no. I was so naive I didn’t even know what public relations meant in 1946. I said I don’t know anything about public relations. All I know is that I’ve run an office of three lawyers, and I described some of the work I was doing. Then the Committee asked me what else I thought alumni could do to help the College. I had some slight experience in this. I was enthusiastic that alumni could do a lot to try to get desirable young men to come to Amherst. I felt we ought to push it harder, and should get into the high schools to make Amherst known, and to seek out good men. The Committee asked me about fundraising. I couldn’t tell them much about that, except I had been connected with the Young Republican movement in Essex County while I lived in Verona, New Jersey, from 1936 until 1940, and I had had some hand in raising money for a political party.
I had about an hour or so with the Committee and then went down stairs. Bill Wilson came down later and said, “You’re elected to the job.” That was very exciting. This is the way I got involved in the job, a position I held from 1946 to 1971.
I had to go to Washington to write a couple of opinions on cases that I’d sat on and to clean up my work. We moved to Amherst on October 15 from Bernardsville, New Jersey, which was a pretty quick move-- disposing of various things and moving our belongings.
I should insert this prior event. Around September 1, Bill and Louise Wilson asked us to dinner at their house on Woodside Avenue. They were kind enough to have in for cocktails a few old friends such as Otto Manthey-Zorn, Dean Porter, and several members of the faculty who had been teachers when I was in college.
The next day I went to Washington to complete my work with the FCC. Mahat stayed on for a couple of days, looking around Amherst to see how it was all going to be. She was excited and delighted with the new prospect. I remember she went to the Helen Hunt Jackson house where Dick MacMeekin ‘34, an old friend, lived. As we later learned, Dick was the outgoing Dean of Admission. He was involved that evening, Mahat tells me, in a conversation with Gordie Bridges and with Lloyd Jordan, the football coach. Apparently they were discussing the development of things with this new young man, Charles Cole, on the scene, and the dismissal of Dick MacMeekin as Dean of Admission. MacMeekin and Jordan were friends of mine. Mahat walked into a rather stilted conversation. They were pleasant to Mahat, but when MacNeekin took Mahat to the door to leave, he said, “Al is making a terrible mistake-- to come to Amherst in the present administration.” This was unsettling to Mahat, as she had been most enthusiastic about our new life in Amherst.
The Guests moved on October 15. On the 16th I went to Walker Hall, which I understood was the Alumni Office. As I walked up the stairs of Walker Hall, a tall, spare, middle-aged lady also walked in. I gathered that she was Miss Blanchard. Immediately, she looked at me and must have seen my picture, because she said, “You’re Mr. Guest?” We walked up to the top floor of Walker Hall together, and I was introduced to Miss Kempkis, another assistant, and immediately began my work as Secretary of the Alumni Council.
HWH: That’s interesting, Al. When you moved to Amherst, did the College have housing available for you?
GUEST: No. Bill Wilson was rather extravagant in his promises of the varieties of housing I would have. In September, before we moved, he suggested I see Mr. Paul D. Weathers, the treasurer of the College. Mr. Weathers’s office was in a small room on the second floor of Walker Hall. I phoned and announced myself. I guess he knew I’d been appointed. I said that Bill Wilson had told me to see him about possible houses available. Mr. Weathers was very careful and in his deliberate way informed me that nothing was available and that the College had no responsibility for housing me. I did see Bill Wilson immediately afterward. He had done some preliminary looking, which included the Ray Stannard Baker house at 118 Sunset Avenue. Mr. Baker had died earlier in the year and his widow, quite distraught, was still in the house with no intention of staying in Amherst. I went down to meet her. Bill Wilson worked out an arrangement whereby I paid the equivalent of $60 a month for the huge house and the Alumni Council would throw in another $50 to make a total monthly rental of $110.
HWH: For that enormous house!
GUEST: Yes. That’s where we lived from October until the next year when we moved to the Allis house at 61 Lincoln Avenue.
HWH: That was the house Freddy Allis lived in before, wasn’t it? Then didn’t Pete Odegard follow...
GUEST: 61 Lincoln Avenue was the house that Freddie Allis lived in. It became known as the Allis House. It was built in 1902 by a member of the faculty at Amherst-- Dutch Newlin. In two or three years Newlin sold it to someone else and eventually it came into the hands of Freddie Allis of the Class of 1893, who was Secretary of the Alumni Council from 1913 to his retirement in 1939. During the war years and following Freddie Allis’s death in 1942 or ‘43, it was sold to Professor Peter Odegard, who lived in it for several years until he went to Washington with the CPA, or one of the war services. He never returned to Amherst. The College then purchased the home from Pete Odegard for the munificent sum of $10,000.
HWH: Really! Were you aware of who any of the other candidates for Secretary of Alumni Council were?
GUEST: No, I wasn’t at the time. I subsequently learned that Ben Terry, of the Class of ‘37, was a strong candidate. Ben Terry had done a beautiful job as a young Class Agent for ‘37 when Bill Wilson came in ‘39. Bill came to know him well, and I think Bill regarded him as a strong candidate. There was another candidate, too, Bill Baily of the Class of 1917. He was one of three Amherst brothers close to the College. He came from St. Louis. I believe both Bill and his wife, Dot, especially, were most interested in the position. Dot Baily, who is still very much alive in St. Louis, has been an avid Amherst person. She has kept up a voluminous correspondence with her former Bishop, George Cadigan ‘33, and with myself, President Ward, and other persons at Amherst. She has had a running, written argumentation with Bill Ward throughout his term on the subject of coeducation, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Dot finally wound up her correspondence as an admirer of Bill. Over age 85, she still writes a steady hand. She lived in Amherst for a few years to see if she would like to stay. During that time she put in a lot of work on the Amherst College Biographical Record.
HWH: Off on a different slant, Al. What do you consider the greatest changes in your work between 1946 and 1971?
GUEST: I suppose the biggest change is size, in everything we do. I went to the Alumni Office in 1946. It comprised Miss Blanchard at a salary of $1800; Miss Kempkis at a salary of $1,600, myself at a salary of $6,500. We had files, old-fashioned typewriters, and a lot of addressograph equipment in the back room. That was our operation. It was the source of all mailings to alumni. We know how large the mailing arrangement is today. It is a mailing arrangement which is far larger than just the increase from 8,500 alumni in ‘46 to 13,000 in 1980. But the advent of computer equipment and the many things it permits the alumni office and development office to do in terms of a breakdown of alumni into all sorts of categories has resulted in many changes. It also permits services in the other areas and in the academic field, and the administrative field. This has resulted in a large expansion of personnel to conduct both College and now, alumni services. In other words, one of the big changes is the number of people it takes to operate the Alumni Office and other offices which have taken on many services. Historically, we’ve never had more than one assistant to the Alumni Secretary-- not until 1968. That is the situation today with Kent Faerber. He has John Jacoby as his assistant, and he has three or four secretaries. Kent Faerber probably needs another assistant for the work he does, even though the mailing arrangements, which used to be part of the Alumni Office are now handled elsewhere. The Faculty Service Center does many things for faculty, for administration, for alumni, and for the Deans which used to be performed in the Alumni Office.
HWH: You did it for the whole College.
GUEST: Yes, we did it for the whole College. We had the faculty list and, of course, the administration, and the Dean’s list. The administration, in the beginning, consisted of a president; Scott Porter of ‘19, as Dean of the College; Bud Hewlett, as Director of Public Relations and shortly Editor of the Alumni Magazine; the treasurer of the College, and the comptroller of the College. And that was about the sum of the administration at Amherst in ‘46.
I’m not sure that I’ve covered all the reasons for the changes, certainly there is the change of personnel, and type of equipment used, and the quantity of work today as compared to what the College used to do. The new technical equipment has made changes in the Alumni Office and many services are now performed elsewhere. Essentially the duties of the Secretary of the Alumni Council in terms of services to alumni and the Alumni Fund remain primarily the same.
HWH: What are the general areas of the Alumni Secretary’s responsibilities?
GUEST: One should say that the Society of the Alumni spells out the functions of the Society, of which all alumni are members. The Society explains the purposes of the Alumni Council, (the smaller executive branch of the Society), which are: to establish closer relations between the alumni and the College, to provide a systematic and universal system of giving to the College, and to advance the interests of the College. That’s the general framework within which an Alumni Secretary works. It allows all sorts of extensions or program availabilities depending on the imagination of the Alumni Secretary and the consent and the direction of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council, which essentially is the “boss” of the Alumni Office and the Alumni Secretary. There are then, three organizations: 1) The Society of the Alumni, comprising all alumni, and with the right to vote for alumni trustees; 2) The Alumni Council, comprising a representative from each class and alumni associations; 3) the Executive Committee. The working unit of the Alumni Council is the Executive Committee, comprising some seven or nine members.
HWH: Did you enjoy the work in one area more than another?
GUEST: I enjoyed the fund-raising aspect-- the Alumni Fund-raising aspect. I always have. I would say that the Alumni Fund-- the annual Alumni Fund, which went from $90,000 in 1947 to about $600,000 in 1971, covering my term-- occupied at least one-third to one-half of my time. The appointment of Class Agents, the organization of the Alumni Council, the stimulation of the Class Agents to work for the Fund, the preparation, in conjunction with Bud Hewlett’s office, of written material to send to alumni, to stimulate them and educate them on the needs of the College, certainly occupied half of my time, perhaps more. I was careful to try to keep the Alumni Class Agents system intact. If there was a resignation, or the thought of a resignation, I tried to replace the outgoing Class Agent early in the game, at least in the early fall of the year before the Alumni Fund went into its major effort, which was generally March through June 30. Seeking out the right person to take over as Class Agent is both vital and time-consuming.
In addition to the Alumni Fund, Bill Wilson, the outgoing Alumni Secretary, quickly introduced me to another function of the Alumni Office which I did not know about. This was the whole area of career counseling. Bill was a member of the ECPO (Eastern College Personnel Officers), during his career. He kept in close contact with Alumni in his early years, and then in 1945-46 at the end of the war. He introduced me to this new world. I joined ECPO and I enjoyed the work very much. Our office had a procedure of notifying, especially seniors, that this service was available. We also had underclassmen advise us in writing the kinds of jobs they had as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors, in the summer. We secured their consent to make this information available to other undergraduates for summer employment. In addition, we set up a series of career conferences held once a year, usually in early February, where we invited alumni back to Amherst, alumni who had some distinction in a variety of fields-- publishing, sales, science-related projects, lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc. We appointed an alumnus as chairman of the Conference who introduced the program on a Friday night. We also scheduled a talk on Friday by two or three people in the area of production, sales, technical work; then a further breakdown on Saturday, which usually lasted through the day, in small groups-- for example, people in publishing, such as Chal Roberts or Al Friendly, both with the Washington Post, would have sessions with undergraduates interested to hear someone on the firing line discuss what it was like to move into the news work career. On Saturday afternoon the conferences ended with a teaching panel and with a medical panel. In fact, the medical panels are where I first made the acquaintance of Cal Plimpton-- in 1954 or ‘55-- when he as a doctor served as chairman of the medical panel of three or four doctors. This provided the opportunity to talk to science-major students interested in the medical world. The career conference served for advice and experience to students by alumni in many fields.
I would say that fund-raising and career-counseling were two of the functions of the Alumni Office that I thoroughly enjoyed. There were other areas of shorter duration, such as Amherst Holiday. This was a program to devote Thursday and Friday of Commencement Weekend (which at that time was Commencement-Reunion Weekend) to some substantive sessions involving members of the faculty on a wide variety of subjects in the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. On top of that, we set up an Alumni College, which we tried on Monday and Tuesday following Commencement and Reunion. Then we created Alumni College to take up the entire week following Commencement with five days of sessions and lectures by members of the faculty, each of whom would conduct daily hour sessions for five days. We’d have two sessions at 9AM on Monday through the week; two sessions at 11 AM through the week; and one session at 2 PM, or in the evening, so that an alumnus had to make his election as to which of two courses he wanted at nine and eleven. The evening sessions were of more general interest, with all alumni students attending. This was an exciting project to put together, and there was always enthusiasm for those who attended.
HWH: They were very popular, too. Good turnouts.
GUEST: Well, they were, except the whole week’s session after Commencement was a little tough in the sense that only a limited number could attend. We had about 60 to 70 men and women. Seemingly most alumni simply could not take a whole week off. They were exciting sessions, however, even though we had a rather small group.
I think I must say one of the exciting things, and Bud Hewlett and George May were involved in the early stages of it, were the Charter flights, which began in the spring of 1961. At that time we had a two-week vacation at the College in March or April. Amherst was one of the very first colleges to try the charter of a whole plane-- then Dc-7s, with seats for only 78 passengers and at first an affinity restriction to alumni who lived in the Amherst-Springfield area. We were able to run a couple of those flights. After three years 707s came along and we had seats for 165 people to fill. I had several sessions with the lawyers of Pan American and was able to a degree to persuade them to extend their strict affinity rules at that time to permit alumni in the state of Massachusetts, then to permit faculty, then to permit alumni in the Northeast, to be eligible. Finally, all airlines abolished the requirement of affiliation and permitted anyone, without the need for affinity, as they are today.
These were a lot of fun, because they made it possible for several of us to travel to London, Paris, or Rome. These flights cost an alumnus $200 or less per seat. We simply discharged them in London or Paris to do their own thing and they could reboard at either place.
HWH: That was great fun, and I suppose the main reason that finally stopped the College from chartering a whole plane in the past few years resulted from the jets that would seat anywhere from 350 to 450 people.
GUEST: Yes, and in the last couple of years there has been a large increase in fuel costs. Also it became cheaper to travel on an all-inclusive package operation rather than a charter plane to one or two places.
I know that these flights had an educational aspect for the alumni passengers. When a group travels together for two weeks, one ends up getting to know persons he never knew. You do the same things together, you talk together. We had what we like to call an Amherst congeniality, a spirit of sharing. And I have had reason once or twice to know that these flights have resulted in some benefaction to the College which might otherwise not have come about. These flights are now in the hands of Kent Faerber and the Alumni Office. They have been a useful side product of the office.
Another program which seems to be suspended at the moment, was the Alumni Visiting Committees inherited from Dutch Newlin and Freddie Allis, then from Bill Wilson. The Alumni Visiting Committees were borrowed by President Pease from Harvard. He brought the Harvard technique to Amherst where 10 or 12 of our departments had visiting committees composed of alumni. Academic departments were willing to gather on a Friday afternoon on the fall alumni weekend, following a general luncheon, for an afternoon meeting in music, or fine arts, the library, political science, philosophy, etc. From five to perhaps 20 members of the alumni body would meet with the faculty of a department for an hour or two. The program introduced alumni to more than an athletic event. Alumni came on Friday and through these visiting committees gained an opportunity to see faculty, to get to know the faculty, and to get some educational or academic sense of the subject and the academic process at the College.
HWH: As I recall, each alumnus could choose the committee he’d like to serve on.
GUEST: Yes, we gave alumni the occasion to express their choice of three or more departments. If they knew their order of preference we would try to assign them to the department they listed as first choice. If that department did not meet in a particular year, we would give alumni their second choice. We had a list of about five to six hundred alumni who were on an active list to receive these invitations. These were formal invitations from the Alumni Council to become associated with one of the departmental committees. If an alumnus did not return for three years, we would remove him from the list. We would then replace the alumnus with another. It was a time-consuming job, but it was one of those that I enjoyed and I thought were valuable to the College and to alumni relations.
HWH: As I recall, some committees were more serious about their activity than others. Some of them had secretaries or presiding officers who made fairly extensive reports back to the Alumni Council.
GUEST: Yes, we advised the Chairman that we did not encourage him to write a report of criticism of the work of the department, but to report upon what was presented to them, the questions that were asked, and perhaps a report on the positive reactions, or the positive experience they’d had at a meeting. I think some faculty in more recent years, when they’ve been interrogated on the subject of visiting committees, believe that the administration, through the Alumni Council, was meddling in the work of the departments. This was not so. My own feeling is, if these visiting committees are ever resurrected, it is the function of the Alumni Office to converse separately with the chairman and members of departments to tell them what part these meetings have had in the past and what they might have in the future in providing alumni with an opportunity to experience the academic side of the College. I’m sure that there are other aspects of my work at the Alumni Council besides my number one point of fund-raising, Class Agents, and Career Counseling that I enjoyed.
HWH: Well I recall, Al, that you’ve had considerable pleasure of visiting alumni out in the field.
[END OF SIDE ONE, BEGINNING SIDE TWO, Tape I.]
HWH: Al, we were just talking about the things that you enjoyed doing most-- going back to that for a moment: we had talked about your visiting alumni associations and I think you started to speak to alumni visiting you.
GUEST: Well, as I said, I would like to say that my connection with alumni and my wife’s connection with alumni, both at Amherst and out in the field, is certainly one of the rare and exciting experiences that an Alumni Secretary at Amherst can have. When you realize that you can travel throughout the country to alumni meetings, which you with the local officers of the Associations have had a major share in arranging, with the President or a Dean or members of the faculty, the outcome is a closer acquaintance and friendship with alumni in a wide variety of classes, and certainly in a wide variety of occupations. I have enjoyed that. I know that I have not done all that could be done by a properly staffed office to organize and promote these meetings.
But I would like to refer briefly to a number of items which have covered my career and let me just do it this way: I shall never forget the vote of the Trustees and the Executive Committee back in 1951 that something should be done to establish and obtain the funds to build an Alumni House at Amherst College. And I remember in the fall of 1953 meeting Frank Lay, of the Class of 1893 from Rockford, Illinois, at the Springfield station-- these were the days when everybody traveled by railroad and not by airplane-- and I drove him over the Notch and somewhere between South Hadley and the Notch I was able to convince Frank Lay about the desirability of an Alumni House. By the time we came down the hill from the Notch, on Route 116 on the way to Amherst, he said, “Yes,” he said, “I can give you $100,000 for a house.” He thought it was a good idea. The result of that was the construction of the Alumni House in 1955 which did provide a haven for alumni on busy weekends. It also provided space for Career Conferences, and for more extended use by faculty and social receptions. At the present time, Career Counseling has offices in and operates entirely out of the Alumni House. I know how much alumni have appreciated the use of the Alumni House after a football game and on numerous other occasions.
Another occasion I shall never forget was the arrival of John Kennedy in 1963 on the occasion of the demolition of Walker Hall and the ground breaking ceremony for the Frost Library. The occasion was also the celebration of fifty years of the Alumni Council. On the morning of JFK’s arrival in Amherst, Seelye Bixler in Johnson Chapel addressed the annual meeting of the Alumni Council on “Fifty Years of the Alumni Council” to a packed house. I need not go into details there except that every once in a while Bud Hewlett would come to the rostrum in Chapel to make an announcement that JFK’s plane was delayed in a high fog or something in Springfield. Seelye would go on and recount more aspects of the history of the Alumni Council. He rather kept the alumni both usefully occupied and entertained, I think, through these two or three announcements about the impending arrival at Hitchcock Field of JFK. There is a larger story on “JFK” day at Amherst. Bud Hewlett and I were on the committee to organize the program, and it was a great occasion. I think it was the greatest single day that I remember at Amherst. It was the visit of the President of the United States to Amherst College, on a Saturday in October, just exactly four weeks before he was killed in Dallas.
HWH: Do you recall, too, how patient that crowd was down at the Cage, where he spoke? They’d waited and waited.
GUEST: Yes, we also had a full house at the Cage waiting, and hoping the fog would clear and finally let the President’s plane arrive at Westover, and then that the fog would clear to allow him to take off in his helicopter to land, which he subsequently did, with two other helicopters accompanying him, on Hitchcock Field. As I say, there is a great deal more we can talk about that.
Bud Hewlett and I spent a week entertaining the advance guard of the Secret Service, at his house or my house, while they would canvass the buildings and the places that were safe or needed special protection for the President’s arrival. The Secret Service spent a long time looking for a white Lincoln convertible car, which was what President Kennedy was always looking for on such a visit. They couldn’t find one at the Lincoln agency in Springfield. Finally they were able to track down a white Lincoln which had been sold by the Lincoln agency four years before to someone in Longmeadow. The Secret Service finally procured the white limousine from the Longmeadow owner for the President’s use for the rest of the day as he drove around Amherst town to various events. When he stopped at our President’s House, I remember JFK and Cal Plimpton in their shirt sleeves, locked in discussion. Another useful alumni project is the New Year card. The practice, which began in 1923, of sending a New Year’s card on or about January 1st to all alumni from the Alumni Council is still continued. In the beginning, and, I think, occasionally in the early years, the greeting on the card was prepared by the President or a member of the faculty. Bud Hewlett selected the “picture” for the card. There developed less of an inclination on the part of faculty or administration to write the greeting. The Alumni Office now asks a member of the faculty to prepare a greeting and the practice is to use an appropriate quotation from Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson or other literary figure.
HWH: One other aspect of the New Year card, Al, which should be recorded, is the contribution of drawings that Tom Funk, your classmate, made for so many years.
GUEST: That is right. I don’t know what his years were, but he certainly contributed original drawings of scenes of Amherst for more than ten years.
HWH: At least.
GUEST: Another program that we began in 1950 was Parents Day. A trustee, Ted Eames ‘22, headmaster of Governor Dummer, once asked, “Have you ever thought of having a parents’ day at Amherst?” We discussed the idea with the Executive Committee and the President, and Parents Day was launched in ‘50 or ‘51, and has been continued by the College ever since. We selected an ideal date in October on a fall weekend. We agreed on holding it every other year, so that in the career of an undergraduate, his family could come twice as semi-guests of the College. As many as a thousand parents return. In the early years, we held sessions simultaneously in Johnson Chapel and in Kirby Theatre. There was no place large enough to hold all parents. A typical example: I can remember Jack Fuess presiding in Johnson Chapel at a meeting of slightly more than half the parents, while Bill Wilson delivered that famous talk of his, “Your Son Is Not Normal.” At the same time, the Dean of the College, Scott Porter, presided down below at Kirby Theatre while Arnold Arons described to a slightly smaller number of the parents the compulsory physics course which was part of the so-called New Curriculum. The meetings were timed so that Arnold Arons would finish in Kirby at the same time that Bill Wilson would finish in Johnson Chapel. Then Arnold Arons would run up the hill for Kirby Theatre to be introduced now by Jack Fuess, and Bill Wilson would run down the hill to Kirby Theatre to be introduced by the Dean of the College. Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of interest in Parents Day and it has been continued.
Other major items of the Alumni Office are the Alumni Address List and the Biographical Record. The Address List, or Directory, was printed every two years, except that the gap was a little longer when we printed the Amherst College Biographical Record. This was a complete Who’s Who of alumni living and dead. We published one in 1951, one in 1962, and one in 1972. In between these volumes, we would then publish every two years the Amherst Address List. The main part of the Address Directory is a list of all living alumni, listed alphabetically by class, and their addresses. There are also a geographic index and an alphabetical index. In the 1966 edition we also included an occupational index. We have never developed any empirical evidence as to whether or not the Address List or the Biographical Record are worth the financial cost. The 1951 Biographical Record cost about $30,000, and I believe we charged $10 for it. We recouped two-thirds of the amount. By contrast, the 1972 book cost $90,000-- we charged $15-- and we received $50,000 income in cash from alumni who purchased it. The net cost was $40,000 for the 1972 Biographical Record. My own feeling is that even at a cost of $40,000, and even if only a dozen people at the College use the Biographical Record regularly, it has been worth the cost. I have noticed that many alumni turn to their bookcase and haul down the Biographical Record. It does have a lot of information handily available about every alumnus of Amherst. I do not have a printing or publicity knowledge and relied a lot on Bud Hewlett as to the composition and the layout. I should say that the last Biographical Record was prepared with the use of a computer. We did this before the computer was at its present level of both accuracy and availability and adaptability. The Alumni Office is now issuing a 1980 Address List or Directory and is in the process now of sending a questionnaire to alumni. Out of alumni of some 13,000, the Alumni Office has already received 9,000 replies with accurate home and office addresses and telephone numbers, and a very significant number of orders at $7.00 apiece. My own view unless we run into some sort of trouble, is that the address list of 1980 will be self-liquidating in terms of purchases meeting the costs. Delivery is due May 1, 1980. That’s all I need say about the Address List and the Amherst College Biographical Record. Those were major projects, taking place in some form every other year.
HWH: I think the last was ‘76.
GUEST: ‘76 was the last one, yes.
HWH: Actually it came out in ‘77.
GUEST: Yes. I should say that another enjoyable operation of the Alumni Office was Tinker Hill, backed by Heinie Kingman, Eustace Seligman, and Francis Plimpton. We bought 100 acres of Tinker Hill, thanks to the urging and good offices of Steve Rostas, the ski coach who involved Bud and me in 1948. We found that there was snow in April in 1947 on the northern slope of Tinker Hill. I took Eustace Seligman and Francis Plimpton to show them what a wonderful project this would be. They were filled with enthusiasm with this snow, when there was no snow any other place. We raised some money, largely from Eustace Seligman, I think $10,000, and Charlie Merrill, $2,000, to hire two undergraduates and Lefty Griswold in the summer of 1947 and ‘48 to cut down trees and clear the 100 acres of Tinker Hill, against the Holyoke Range. We also had the services of Lefty Griswold to go to Boston with Steve Rostas to buy a White truck for $800 which Lefty converted into a ski tow. He put on a wheel and gear adjustment, drove it back to Amherst, and then drove it to the top of Tinker Hill. He installed a rope and had the tow operating. During the winters of 1948, 1949, 1950, I remember Chuck Longsworth, Spike Beitzel, and many undergraduates who used Tinker Hill. We put up a couple of wooden shacks at the base, had a fire going, and we all took a hand at selling tickets. But we never found snow as satisfactory as we did when we were all sold on the deal in April 1947. Eventually Tinker Hill went out of business simply because there wasn’t snow enough. But Spike Beitzel and many other leading guys in the classes of ‘49 and ‘50 and ‘51 and ‘52 used it.
HWH: What happened to the land?
GUEST: That land, if I’m not mistaken, is still owned by Amherst College and Steve Rostas still believes that with the use of modern snow-making equipment, it is feasible. Tinker Hill is still there. All the fine work of John Kendall, of the Class of 1951, who cleared the upper half one summer, to the top of Tinker Hill, is now overgrown. I don’t know that it is being used in any way for ski facilities. But it’s still there and it may have possibilities, but it certainly was a lot of fun in 1949, ‘50, ‘51, and ‘52.
HWH: I recollect that Steve Rostas was reluctant to give it up and tried very hard to persuade the College-- meaning you and alumni-- to install a snow machine.
GUEST: That’s correct. Steve had had connections with J-Bars and other ski-lift manufacturers and he thought that we ought to put in snow machinery. Those were in the days when you had to have huge condensers for snow-making equipment. This has changed now. Most of the snow-making operations on all of the slopes simply have a way of hosing a fine spray in a freezing air, with a whirling fan. But Steve has hung on to the idea of doing something with Tinker Hill.
HWH: I’m glad you brought that in-- I overlooked it.
Al, there’s something else. To get back to an aspect of fund-raising. In recent years considerable emphasis has been put on special reunion gifts. They’ve been very successful, too. Do you think this is an area that ought to be emphasized more?
GUEST: I certainly do. I think reunion giving should be emphasized much more heavily than was the case when I was staff person in the Alumni Fund. When I was in charge, the Class Agent did his best to bring reunion giving to two or three times the non-reunion annual giving. But now we have the beautiful example of the Class of 1952 at its 25-year occasion when $300,000-plus broke all records and has never been approximated since. It has inspired my own Class of 1933 to organize our 50-year effort at least three years in advance of the reunion. A committee has been formed and briefed. It is now searching out a big seed-money gift, or gifts, three years beforehand to start the 50-year fund. We shall seek to enlist the services of our well-to-do alumni to make a $500-gift, the $1,000 annual commitment for three years in advance, with the understanding that a classmate’s Alumni Fund gift in no way should be decreased by any advanced commitment for the 50-year gift. I think we have an opportunity to raise very significant amounts in the ten-, the twenty-, the twenty-five-, the thirty-, the forty-, and the fifty-year class, if we can get organized early enough. As indicated, we are in the process right now with my own Class of 1933.
The Alumni Fund, as you know, now produces $1,200,000, which is twice the amount that it produced when I left in my last year as Secretary of the Alumni Council. I think that $2,000,000 is a possibility in the next few years.
I do not really know how effective a college campaign effort is going to be in the years 1980-’85, taking into account 1) the economic and international turmoil, 2) the new emphasis on reunion giving, and 3) the likely emphasis to continue an Alumni Fund during the period of the capital fund. But if there is anything that has been proved, it is that Alumni Funds must increase. I have to say that increases must take place in view of an unabated inflation rate of ten to twelve percent for the past several years and probably for the future. The Alumni Fund is now bearing a considerably lower percentage of the total cost of the education of an undergraduate. With tuition and costs now near a $9,000-range, and with the Alumni Fund bearing a smaller percentage of the total cost, any of us involved in Amherst College, whether alumni, administrators, or faculty, or whether we’re directly related to the Alumni Fund, must do everything possible to increase it.
HWH: You know better than I that a great deal of the work for the College is done by alumni volunteers, not only in fund-raising but in special events. Did you have any problems indentifying or persuading volunteers to serve the College?
GUEST: No, which is one of the gratifying things about working for Amherst College. I had the advantage of dealing with the president of a class, the secretary of a class, the Class Agent. Often when I was seeking volunteer help, such as the chairman of a visiting committee, or an official of an alumni group in Chicago, or Tucson, or Miami, I had the advantage of consulting officers who already had demonstrated their interest in supporting the College. Independent of that, it was fun for me and educational for me to try to discover alumni to work for Amherst who had not served in any significant way, or on any committee, for the College. It is a challenge to try to find persons who may be encouraged to have an interest in the College by getting them to work for the College. For instance, we have the Career Conference with as many as forty alumni returning to the College. They feel and know they are performing a service to the undergraduates by returning and talking of their careers. That’s one area of service. Then the other areas of service, of course, are the Alumni Fund Committee, the Executive Committee, and special committees which may be appointed from time to time on long-range planning, or revision of the laws and regulations of the Alumni Council. And I must confess that I have had a hand in suggesting names of persons to the Committee to Nominate Alumni Trustees. That committee makes the final decision, but it has always asked me to make suggestions. I have done this by contacting the Class Agent and the Class Secretary for names of persons who might be considered to be named by the committee to run for trustees.
We haven’t talked at all about the Trustees-- and I am not sure at all that we’ll be able to do that today.
HWH: Well, Al, I think this is a good point to get in the fact that while you retired as Secretary of the Alumni Council in ‘71, you then became Secretary of the Committee on Deferred Gifts and Bequests. And while you continued to do that, you continued also to serve as Secretary of the Board until 1974.
GUEST: That is correct. Yes, I took over in ‘72 as Secretary of Deferred Gifts and Bequests. I have to go back to 1950 when Eustace Seligman expressed an interest in what he called the “I Keep the Income Plan.” It was subsequently changed to the Committee on Endowment by Stanley King and Eustace Seligman and the Trustees in 1951. And I had rather a loose connection with this Committee on Endowment from that time until the official creation of the Committee on Deferred Gifts and Bequests. I was working in the Alumni Office on deferred gifts somewhat before 1971, too. Deferred Gifts started formally with a November letter in 1967 from John J. McCloy, who was then Chairman of the Board of Trustees, to all alumni, in which he announced the establishment of a committee on deferred gifts and bequests. So that actually I’ve been connected with the field of deferred gifts and bequests since it began. I say this because I am not at all satisfied that my influence in the area of deferred gifts and bequests was of tremendous benefit to the College in terms of dollars and cents. It is a very slow-moving business. One who takes over this work with the immediate expectation that there are alumni out there desiring to make some sort of deferred gift-- whether it is of a painting, or real estate, or securities originally purchased at a low cost value and that have increased-- is certain to be disappointed that such gifts are not more frequent. I have never been satisfied that I moved very far in this area. There is an article I wrote for Amherst in 1975 on the subject. The article included a listing of gifts, bequests, and benefactions received by Amherst in a two-year period of 1973-74. I then enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing the wide variety of bequests that come in through the transom and from alumni and wives where there has been no direct solicitation or approach with anyone from the College. But that’s another story about what we do in the field of gifts and bequests and what we did do in the field of deferred gifts and bequests until Dick Park, of the Class of ‘49, came permanently to the College as a full-time employee and Secretary of the Deferred Gifts and Bequests Committee in 1978.
HWH: He’s the first to have been named full-time to this responsibility.
GUEST: That is correct. I also had some other projects that I continued and I think it’s a wise thing to have, if we can afford it, to have someone devoted solely to the program.
HWH: It’s fair to point out, I think, Al, that you will never know the result of some of your efforts, ever, and some of them you will know, but at a much later date.
GUEST: I think that probably is true. One does not know whether he had anything to do with a benefaction when it does come in. I have seen gifts of two hundred thousand dollars come to Amherst College, and to my knowledge not a single Amherst person ever called on the donor. At most, he might be known by some persons in his Class. This happens enough times so that I think I can say, with some humor, that maybe we are better off not doing anything about deferred gifts and bequests!
HWH: Do you recall-- this was not a deferred gift or bequest, but along the same line-- do you recall one alumnus having been un-approached coming up with most of the money for the Robert Frost Library? That was out of the blue.
GUEST: I think this alumnus was approached. And if I may say so, I also happen to think that a classmate of yours, Minot Grose, without most people’s knowledge, was effective in providing the circumstances for the large gift which made the Frost Library possible. This was done by a meeting of Nat Grose in January with the prospect-- in January of the year that Cal Plimpton became president of Amherst-- I think it was in 1961. It was followed up well by Cal Plimpton and resulted in a very large gift which completely covered the cost of the Frost Library.
HWH: Al, we’re not going to be able to do all we have here. I’d just like to ask you one more question, and then let’s try to set another time when we can get to your work with the Board. If that’s all right with you.
GUEST: Sure. I would like to do that.
HWH: I would like to wind up the alumni end of it, that is the Alumni Office end of it, by asking you for comments about Helen Blanchard who served Fred Allis, Bill Wilson, and you, from 1928 until her retirement in ‘62.
GUEST: I can’t say enough about Helen Blanchard. I have no doubt but that any areas where I’ve been effective if at all in alumni work were bolstered largely by Helen Blanchard and her knowledge derived from her very careful training as a young woman when Fred Allis was Secretary of the Alumni Council. She also was invaluable to Bill Wilson, and invaluable to me in her strict New England way in reminding us gently what was done in the past. I learned that what was done in the past often means that there is an experience for some of the things that I tried to do. She often raised a question as to whether it was wise to go into something, and she did it in an inimitable “Blanchard” way. Sometimes she was right and sometimes she gave way to the novelty of an idea. It was invaluable to have experience, which was often Freddie Allis’s experience. Freddie Allis built the quality of the alumni relationship to this College. He made college-alumni relations outstanding, and he remained in perhaps the number one spot in this kind of relationship. This was Freddie Allis’s work and Helen Blanchard carried some of it along to others. We paid her $1,800 when I came to the Alumni Council. The budget for the Alumni Council was $15,200 in 1946-47.
I should say a word about alumni publications, because that was a lot of fun. When I came there was an Amherst Graduates’ Quarterly which had been in existence ever since Ernest Whitcomb founded it in 1910 with Professor Genung. Professor Genung was the great editor of The Graduates’ Quarterly, followed by George Whicher, another great editor. Bill Wilson took over the editorship when Walter Dyer ‘00, the next editor, died. Then I came in 1946, I was able to convince Bill, although I think he liked it, that he had better continue as editor of The Graduates’ Quarterly. All I inherited in the way of a publication was the Alumni Council News, which was a magazine-type newspaper publication which I found one of the headaches of my work as Alumni Secretary. I didn’t like to meet the kind of deadline involved in writing. I regarded myself as a poor writer for the kind of material for that magazine. I remember we had an editorial on the first page each time. The only good editorial I thought I wrote was one about tobacco barns and the tobacco country and the harvesting of tobacco in the fields in Hadley. I had a little fan mail on that-- I felt quite comfortable. But otherwise it was really a hard thing to do. When Bud came, with his background in public relations and in writing, he and I mutually agreed that we ought to re-examine The Graduates’ Quarterly. A Graduates’ Quarterly which would combine The Graduates’ Quarterly and the Alumni Council News and come out with something that was modern and up-to-date seemed possible. We were lucky to have the support of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council to form a committee of J. Dana Tasker, Class of ‘25, as chairman; Roly Wood of the Class of ‘20; George Whicher, the outgoing chairman; Lyman McBride of the Class of 1932; Bud; and myself. We met in New York a few times. There was complete congeniality and input by everybody. The final determination, which was enthusiastically adopted by the Alumni Council, was to come out with a new magazine to be circulated to all alumni, without charge. The new magazine was the Amherst Alumni News of which Bud Hewlett was the editor. The first edition was in 1949.
HWH: May ‘49.
GUEST: That magazine has been published ever since, with the name changing from Amherst Alumni News to Amherst (I have some doubt of the name Amherst). I know the alumni magazine has done an enormous amount and more than any other single written regular publication, or any one-time publication, to keep alumni informed of the College. We have had almost universal endorsement, and I can say this because I have had nothing to do with it except the occasional survey of the work of the Secretaries who provide the Class Notes section of the Alumni News.
HWH: This ends our first session and we’ll try to get together for another.
[END OF TAPE I
Final draft completed April 22, 1980]
[BEGINNING OF TAPE #2]
This is Horace Hewlett interviewing J. Alfred Guest-- our second session-- on Tuesday, January 22, 1980, in Room 25 in Grosvenor House.
HWH: Continuing from where we left off, Al, instead of starting with your service as Secretary of the Board of Trustees, why don’t we finish off some of the points that we didn’t get into in our previous discussion about your activities as Secretary of the Alumni Council? One of them that you mentioned was the formation of the New England Colleges Fund.
GUEST: There had been some discussion in the early 1950s among the colleges, and Amherst was a party to it, that the private colleges of New England ought to organize in some fashion to solicit corporations of New England, and maybe national corporations, for support for the private colleges. There had been some experimentation and formation in various states, but there had never been a regional organization. Bud Hewlett and I were invited to come to a luncheon session in Boston, with John Meck, who was then treasurer of Dartmouth, presiding. Lou Eaton, Jr., of the Class of ‘40, was acting secretary, in a fashion, of this meeting. We discussed how we would go about making a case for the private colleges, how we would go about soliciting corporations, and how we would go about dividing up among the participating colleges the contributions made by corporations. Although there have been changes since, I think we adhered to that same policy which was set down in 1953, of having two persons conduct a solicitation, we’ll say of the Aetna Insurance Company or some other business in Brockton, or Fall River, New Bedford, Boston, Worcester, wherever-- even New York-- two persons, each of them representing different colleges, and where possible, one of the persons was a president of one of the colleges. Whether it be Colby or one of the Catholic colleges in the Boston area-- and they were very active in this organization-- we would call on corporations to make our case. We developed a regular schedule of visitations as a result of this 1953 organizational meeting, following a constitution and by-laws which were drafted at that stage, providing this method of solicitation. We also included the method for dividing the proceeds contributed each year. We took half the proceeds contributed and if there were twenty-five private college members in the New England Colleges Association, we divided that half equally in twenty-five parts. The remaining half of the contributions was then divided in a proportional sense depending upon the number, the total number, of liberal arts graduates of these institutions, and the ratio that the liberal arts graduates at each institution against the total number of graduates. This was the system and I think it’s the system that still obtains, with minor modifications.
HWH: As a matter of fact, Al, that’s the formula that you and I worked out.
GUEST: We did, Bud, we worked it out and I know we were enthusiastic about this method of dividing the proceeds. You may not be aware, Bud, of what Amherst’ s share was, but Amherst has been for many years now receiving something of the order of $30,000 as its share. My estimate is that over the twenty-seven years of the organization Amherst has received close to a half million dollars. Dartmouth, of course, has received a considerably larger amount because of a larger number of liberal arts graduates. It has been a successful program. We came to know other presidents and also other representatives, the representatives of other colleges. We would spend one day of solicitation, usually in a selected town or several towns if we could cover New Bedford and Fall River in one day. NECF was something Bud Hewlett and I helped to organize, and it still continues.
HWH: I think it was interesting that John Meck from Dartmouth was interested in having it formed on a regional basis, because there was so little corporate activity in New Hampshire.
GUEST: I think you’re right. New England was small physically and the regional basis for solicitation had an appeal. We were also able to make a pretty good case that any firm doing business in New England could benefit from liberal arts graduates of these colleges. I think that that about sums up NECF.
HWH: Let’s go on then to comments, I’m sure you have some, of what used to be the James Dinners and then became the Davis Dinners in New York.
GUEST: I remember I was Class Agent for 1933 in 1935-36, so as Class Agent I was invited to what was then called the James Dinner. This was an elaborate dinner, with tuxedos, in New York at one of the Clubs, to which all Class Agents and members of the Alumni Fund Committee were invited. I remember I was quite dazzled at this first meeting I attended, before I ever returned to work at Amherst while I was at the Law School and serving as Class Agent. Mr. Arthur Curtiss James, who had been generous to Amherst in a variety of ways, was the host of the dinner. It was rather a special dinner for the Amherst Alumni Fund, developed by Fred Allis. I don’t think many institutions had such an affair. It was the kick-off, around February 1, of the Alumni Fund. Mr. James picked up the bill and did, until his death, at which time Eustace Seligman and I called upon Arthur Vining Davis, of the Class of ‘88, who was the founder of the Aluminum Company of America and a very wealthy person. We called on him and explained the James Dinner and told him that we would like his sponsorship, to call it the Davis Dinner. He consented, and the Davis Dinner was the dinner to which all Class Agents and Alumni Fund Committee members were invited. Mr. Davis seemed also, properly, if he would afford it, if he would consent to pay for it, inclined to invite other alumni-- and we did. We tried to vary it somewhat, but we invited alumni who had served on committees or done something for the College. I have to say, occasionally, we included someone we thought might be a well-to-do person who would be caught up with the enthusiasm of the work of the Alumni Fund.
Mr. Davis held these dinners at the Union Club, of which he was a member in New York. He continued these dinners until his death around 1962. It was at one of these dinners, actually, where President Plimpton and Mr. McCloy, then Chairman of the Board of Trustees, announced the Amherst Capital Program, which was in existence from 1962 to 1965. The staff man who very carefully and efficiently organized that successful campaign was Charles Longsworth of the Class of 1951. So much for the James and Davis dinners.
HWH: Well, while we’re on food, we seem to have focussed in on that, you used to conduct some Senior dinners, for seniors here at the College.
GUEST: Yes, shortly after I arrived at Amherst, it seemed to me that we ought to organize some way of being able to tell the seniors about the Alumni Fund. Anyone who has been an undergraduate of the College knows how little he knew about the Alumni Fund or even cared about it. So we put together what we called Senior Dinners and we held them at the old Faculty Club in Amherst, the so-called White Homestead next to the Gymnasium, and we would formally invite the seniors to attend these dinners. The largest dinner we had was, of course, for the largest class of 1950. We spread the dinners over Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, inviting one third of the Class to each of those dinners. We would invite officials of the alumni organization, such as Shorty Ells, who was at that time president of the Society of the Alumni, and then Chairman of the Board, or Ken DeBevoise, who was a member of the Executive Committee and then a Trustee, or Leonard Moore, who subsequently became president of the Society of the Alumni. Several of us would talk about the alumni organization and its part in the affairs of the College. Also we reminded them there was such a thing as the Alumni Fund and how important it was to the College. We knew perfectly well most seniors didn’t care very much about the Alumni Fund. I think most of them knew, when they were invited to this affair, that they were going to hear the pitch for the Alumni Fund. But we always gave them a free, steak dinner, which “helped” these meetings, and then brief remarks by some of the gentlemen I've described. Those were usually held in March or early April of senior year. We devoted the rest of the college year for solicitation of seniors through a new senior Class Agent and his associate agents or assistant agents. At that time we did it on a fraternity basis with one assistant agent for each fraternity, and one or two assistant agents for those who were not members of any fraternity or the Lord Jeff Club. We produced as much as 70 to 75 percent participation, albeit $1.00, $2.00 was the usual gift. Occasionally there’d be a $25.00 or $50.00 gift. We thought it would be helpful, and I think it proved to be helpful, to the Class Agent after he graduated and after the Class graduated. This was the last and only time that the entire class would be assembled in one place to hear about the alumni organization and the Alumni Fund. In my opinion it carried through and was helpful to Class Agents.
HWH: You mentioned fraternities a moment ago. During your residence in Walker Hall you were across the hall from Art Davenport, who was Fraternity Business Manager and also the Secretary of the House Management Committee. Do you have any comments on the activities of Art’s office?
GUEST: I was always impressed by the activities of Art Davenport’s office and Betty Meakim, who was there a substantial part of the time as his secretary. As Bud says, he was across the hall from me. I had known there was something called the Fraternity Business Management about 1938. In fact, a classmate of mine, John Wright, was the first Fraternity Business Manager, for two years. Then Art Davenport was selected as his successor and he continued until the end of the War as Fraternity Business Manager and beyond that time. But with the War, from 1944 to 1945, an alumni committee and also a faculty committee which was discussing the post-war College, came up with a suggestion to the Board of Trustees for the foundation of the House Management Committee. The Fraternity Business Management and Art’s duties with respect thereto, had to do with the joint purchase of and the consequent money-savings of furniture and equipment used by the fraternities; and also the training of the treasurers of the fraternities in the intricacies of running the orderly financial affairs of the fraternities. Art did a good job on that. I think the treasurers of fraternities have never been as well equipped and indoctrinated with the elemental features of accounting as they were under Art Davenport. Then in 1945 the Trustees adopted the House Management Committee Report. The House Management Committee was not involved in the business aspects of the College. It was involved in rushing rules, the selectivity of undergraduates for fraternity membership, and in the general conduct and demeanor of the fraternities as social units. Under the House Management Committee, there was one undergraduate, often the house president, and also one alumnus, so that the total House Management Committee comprised approximately 26 persons-- 13 undergraduates and 13 alumni. I think the Lord Jeffery Club, which was not a fraternity, was also represented by an undergraduate and an alumnus. Sometimes I thought that this House Management Committee continued alumni membership on it a little too long. When I was associated with Art Davenport in College Hall, I can remember Harold Cranshaw and Sena Butts, Tic Miller-- these were all members of what seemed to me to be fairly ancient clubs, all of these men were 55 years or older, and there seemed to me to be a minimal number of younger men. Changes were made along this line and I have always felt that Art Davenport’s position as Fraternity Business Manager and House Management Committee, at least in the fraternities of those times, helped to make them workable, orderly, and with a minimum but nevertheless effective discipline. I know that we had visitors from many college campuses. Art had considerable correspondence with other colleges which had fraternities who were curious to know what the FBM and the HMC were all about. All of this system, and under Art, began to run into trouble about 1965 when college campuses began to run into trouble in the sense of a desire on the part of undergraduates and faculty to have a larger part in the governance of the College. I believe that it was around 1967 or ‘68 when Amherst, again like many colleges, was in the very peak of unrest, discontent, strikes, and demands on the part of students especially, that Art Davenport resigned his position as Secretary of the House Management Committee and the Fraternity Business Manager. Since that time, we have had a minimum of administrative organization of the fraternities. I think that fraternities have suffered as a result, in terms of their ability to have a continuity of organization and understanding of the purpose of fraternities on the campus.
HWH: I think, Al, that the continuity you mentioned of alumni coming back for meetings of particularly the House Management Committee gave undergraduates a sense of alumni presence and was a plus factor in involving alumni with the College, along with whatever positive result came to the fraternities themselves.
GUEST: There’s no doubt about that. Today there is no such contact. As a result I think that for the undergraduates in nearly all of the fraternities, whether or not they’ve since become locals or maintained their national affiliation, there is almost no interest or concern or contact with alumni, such as there was when, at least once a year and perhaps two or three times a year, these representatives of the thirteen fraternities and the Lord Jeffery Amherst Club returned to Amherst for consultations on rushing rules, social conduct, and the smooth running of the fraternity organizations.
HWH: While you were Alumni Secretary you also served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees. Was this a useful combination of duties?
GUEST: Let me make just one observation before talking about the trustees, and I’m not sure that I included this in my earlier remarks. We did start “This Is Amherst” in about 1952. We have had two to three “This Is Amhersts” ever since. This was our major...
HWH: Each year.
GUEST: Each year. This was our major attempt to bring alumni back to Amherst to see the students, the faculty, and the administration in operation. They were at least two-and-one-half- day affairs-- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning-- and I think they were effective. They must have been effective, because they are still continued. This was not original at Amherst. I can remember learning that Williams had just experimented with a program known as “Williams Today,” and they, through that program, attempted the same thing. I’m sure it existed at other colleges. The first year or two we had “This Is Amherst,” the Alumni Office deliberately selected the alumni to come back because we had no other basis of selection for selecting an alumnus who would benefit and enjoy it. We tried to spread the age, we tried to spread the occupation, we tried occasionally to have persons of wealth, we tried to have school teachers-- a variety of people back. After each “This Is Amherst,” after the faculty had talked about their roles and the Deans and undergraduates, the Alumni Office sent to every attendant a brief review of the weekend and an invitation to submit names of individuals those attendees thought might benefit from “This Is Amherst.” As a result, something like the Visiting Committees which we described earlier, we began to build a list of alumni who had been suggested by other alumni to return. I continued this until my termination of the Alumni Office duties in 1971. They were much appreciated and I believe they were one of the most effective programs we have had in terms of bringing alumni back to the College to see what the College was like, today.
You asked me about my role as Secretary of the Board of Trustees and whether I thought there was an advantage in being Secretary of the Board of Trustees and Secretary of the Alumni Council. I suppose a brief statement as to how I became Secretary of the Board is in order. I can remember in December 1946, following the October in which I was appointed, President Cole came to me and said that Bill Wilson had been Secretary of the Board of Trustees since 1939, and his predecessor had been Freddie Allis since 1927, then also Secretary of the Alumni Council. Allis succeeded one of the Estys of Worcester, a lawyer, in that job, who had been Secretary of the Board for fifteen years prior to 1927. Then Charlie Cole asked me if I would be considered for Secretary, I tended to think no. It sounded to me like another duty. I think Charlie did this because Bill Wilson, now Dean of Admission, thought it was improper for him to continue as Secretary of the Board. Cole also had the precedent with both Bill Wilson and Freddie Allis as Secretary of the Board. Perhaps, since I was a lawyer, he thought it would be a good idea to continue the custom. Anyway, I said, yes, and at the January meeting of the Board of Trustees in Washington I was voted to be Secretary. I think the April meeting was the first time I served as secretary. I was Secretary of the Board of Trustees for something like 115 meetings-- I think until November 1974 when I discontinued my duties.
Obviously, being Secretary of the Board was advantageous. The Trustee meetings were pretty much based upon the report of the President of the College, which he always prepared and had typed and circulated to the full membership of the Board two weeks ahead of the meeting, in which all things which required trustee action, such as tenure, or salaries, or such things as concerned the president and in his view warranted further discussion of the Board, were contained in the President’s Report. Charlie Cole’s reports were fairly complete in presenting the matters that the Trustees should discuss.
My job as Secretary of the Board was pretty much minute taking and the reproduction of these records as soon after the meeting as possible. I actually prepared a draft of the minutes on the Monday following the Saturday meeting-- Friday and Saturday meeting-- and those drafts were submitted to the President of the College, first Charlie Cole and then Cal Plimpton, and to the Treasurer of the College, for review, for suggestions or inaccuracies. I would say that I found the preparation of the minutes to be a drudge. I think that most people who serve as secretary of any committee, involving full minutes and reproduction of them, finds it a difficult job. It was difficult for me because in taking minutes at trustee meetings, I often found that I didn’t have the time to listen to, or weigh, or size up the presentation of an argument or a speech by one of the Trustees. Not that that was my function; my function was to take the minutes, and I did. I’ve often thought that if I had had a day book of some sort, as Stanley King did all his life, and made some observations about members of the Board of Trustees, it might have been of some value to a future historian to have the views of a person who had the continuity, anyway, of attendance at Trustee meetings covering three presidents and a very large number of trustees.
I think that you, Bud, had occasion to ask me and to discuss some significant things, out of the ordinary or of significance to the College which happened on the Board of Trustees. There are a lot of things, including the management of the Folger Library and the succession of two directors of the Folger Library that we had, and there were other things including salaries and tenure.
I would say that the largest things that I can recall, beginning with the most recent one, was the Trustee decision on coeducation. Then, a series of meetings and two or three special meetings of the Board beginning in 1968, when the tensions of the campus rose: the abolition of required chapel; the strong sentiment of the undergraduates, backed by the faculty, for so-called parietal hours; when the black population increased at Amherst and the so-called demands, and they were demands, of the blacks; and of the existing College Council of undergraduates and faculty for further governance of the College; and when the pressures of the faculty to be represented on the Board and the pressures of the undergraduates to be represented on the Board. I would say those are the two most historic times that I encountered in the period that I was Secretary of the Board of Trustees. In other words, coeducation and the pressures and the discontents of the ‘sixties which hit Amherst most largely in 1968 and which hit many other college campuses about the same time.
HWH: Well during that period, Al, you served under five Chairmen, I think-- Al Stearns, Richmond Mayo-Smith briefly, Shorty Ells, Jack McCloy and June Merrill. Do you feel you could comment on their differences of style, of leadership?
GUEST: I will try to. I have just remarked that I went into this job as Secretary of the Board of Trustees, and for quite a time had a little difficulty in finding out just what the role of Chairman of the Board was-- and I’m not sure that I ever found out or that I have any strong comments on it. But, beginning with Al Stearns-- Al Stearns was over 70 years old, he was a former headmaster of Andover, he was the son of a former president of Amherst College, and to me he was a venerable, respected person. He had written that book, An Amherst Boyhood.
[END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE II - BEGINNING OF SIDE TWO]
HWH: Al, you were talking about Al Stearns.
GUEST: Dick Gregory-- Mr. Gregory-- and Al Stearns came down to our house towards the end of ‘46 or in 1947 before I was made Secretary of the Board. Mahat and I were kind of overwhelmed to think that a Trustee and the Chairman of the Board would come down to see us. I think, perhaps, Mr. Richard Gregory had something to do with it, because I had known him in Montclair when I lived in Verona. We were good friends and, of course, my classmate, Dick Gregory his son, was a very good friend of mine. But Al Stearns was a quiet person, so far as I, my contact, was concerned. I cannot say what sort of a meeting he ran because he resigned within a year or two at most after I was Secretary of the Board. He seemed to me to run an orderly meeting, and with occasional dry humor. I know he ran an orderly meeting and he adhered pretty much to the script the President had presented. I do not know whether his predecessor (that is, Charlie Cole’s predecessor, Stanley King) produced the same sort of presidential report. I guess I was more in awe of Al Stearns, perhaps because of my novelty in the position and because of his age and his friendliness to me. I believe he was succeeded by Richmond Mayo-Smith. Dick Mayo-Smith, of the Class of 1909. He was recommended by a committee appointed by the President and Al Stearns to decide who should be nominated to serve as Chairman of the Board. They came up unanimously with the suggestion of Richmond Mayo-Smith, who was the owner and proprietor, I think, of the Plimpton Press in Norwood, Mass.
Dick Mayo-Smith served less than a year and died. Dick Mayo-Smith was a different type of person from Al Stearns. He was, in a way, what one would call the “modern” man. He was the first man to introduce the idea of assembling on Saturday, after the Trustee meeting and before the ballgame, at the Lord Jeff and having a cocktail. This was something new. But he was a businessman and he knew what to do with an agenda and how to move a meeting along. I believe he was chairman only two meetings, or possibly three meetings, when he died.
Another committee was appointed when he died. We had two meetings without a chairman; I think Charlie Cole, the President, presided. Then in ‘52, Arthur Ells, Class of ‘02, known as Shorty, was elected as Chairman of the Board. He had previously been President of the Society of the Alumni and had been appointed to the Board of Trustees. He was a judge in one of the top courts in Connecticut, and he was a likely person to be considered for Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Shorty Ells was a kindly, thoughtful, human being. As I look back, it’s possible that he could have used his position as Chairman of the Board a little more arbitrarily. But it didn’t make too much difference, because the President in his report, and the Treasurer with his report, which were all submitted in advance, had a good opportunity to set the tenor of the meeting and the quality of the meeting and the business of the meeting and the agenda.
Shorty Ells was Chairman perhaps four or five years until 1956, and at that time John Jay McCloy of the Class of ‘16, was elected Chairman. McCloy had been President of the Society of the Alumni back in 1946 when I was appointed. He, of course, had a national reputation, having served as Assistant Secretary of War and then High Commissioner of Germany, and then there was his association with the law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hope, Hadley and McCloy. One felt immediately the “class,” the experience, the grasp that Jack McCloy had at all meetings. He wasn’t always able to attend a meeting. In that case the President usually conducted the meeting. But Jack McCloy again followed the agenda as set forth by-- well, I prepared the agenda, but that was pretty much set by the President’s report and the usual business of the appointment of committees of the Board annually. Jack was very good at permitting trustees to express their views. I think, and perhaps I should have said this earlier, I had had an idea the the Chairman of a meeting was going to be a little more arbitrary and authoritative about the running of his meeting, but I realized that the Board of Trustees was comprised of top men in business, or law, or the professions, or education, who knew their way around. It probably would have been a mistake for the Chairman of the Board to run a kind of a meeting that I rather felt boards of directors of corporations were handled at their various meetings. Jack McCloy permitted a lot of discussion and commanded a lot of respect. I would say that he was an ideal chairman, and he was chairman for a very long time. He took over in 1955 or ‘56, and he was Chairman until 1967. He attended several meetings in 1968, the crucial period, when he was Trustee Emeritus and June Merrill was Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
June Merrill was a member of Sullivan and Cromwell. He was elected to succeed Jack McCloy. He was a fine Chairman of the Board. He’d been a member of the Board for a number of years before he was elected Chairman and then, of course, he was Chairman during the difficult days of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the whole discussion of coeducation, and his views on coeducation were very quickly known to any of us who heard him. He was opposed to coeducation, and yet he was absolutely fair and impartial about his recognition of any member of the Board who desired to speak on the subject of coeducation or of any subject at all. June Merrill had been chairman of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council for two terms, the full two terms of three years each, and he was chairman for six years. He had, of course, a family background of Amherst-- a father and grandfather, and two brothers at Amherst; he was deeply imbued with the spirit of Amherst. This all came through in his conduct as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. This is not a too detailed or clear enunciation of my thoughts of these men. I think we had excellent Chairmen all along the line, and, as I said earlier, my only thought was that maybe meetings could have been run along a little quicker by a more authoritative chairman. I think I was probably wrong.
HWH: How well attended were the Board meetings?
GUEST: Board meetings were well attended. I would say at a maximum, we may have once had five members of the Board of Trustees of eighteen who could not attend. It was more nearly three members-- sometimes two members, or less. As you know, the meetings were all held in Amherst except for the January meeting, the one winter meeting, and it was required by the By-Laws of the Board of Trustees to have one meeting a year in Washington. I would say the meetings were well-attended, participated in by everybody. We sent out all sorts of material and memoranda before the trustee meetings, not only the President’s report but additional materials that committees may have prepared-- on the subject of honorary degrees, for example, of which Charlie Rugg, of the Class of 1911, was chairman for a good many years and who did a very thorough job about presenting names and possibilities both of Amherst and non-Amherst for honorary degree consideration. We met, the Trustees met always in the second floor room, while I was Secretary of the Board, second floor room in Morgan Hall. That was a formal room, studded with books and a long table and, of course, Sabrina-- the statue of Sabrina which had been returned to Amherst College by Dick King and Ken DeBevoise-- and which was placed by President King in the west length of the meeting room of the Board of Trustees. That’s where the Board met.
HWH: Yes, the Hitchcock Memorabilia Room.
GUEST: Right. The Trustees met there nearly every time and the committee meetings on Buildings and Grounds often met in the Babbott Room of the Octagon.
HWH: Do any individual trustees stand out in your mind as being particularly forceful contributors?
GUEST: One could never face meetings of a Board of Trustees without recognizing or dealing with Eustace Seligman. Eustace Seligman was perhaps the hardest-working trustee. He read every word of trustee material ever presented to him in advance; he was always thoroughly equipped to discuss any subject of the College; he was deeply in love with Amherst; deeply concerned about it. Invariably he went around at trustee meetings-- and meetings with faculty and undergraduates-- with a group of several 3x5 cards in his pocket on which he made notations as he talked to people. He never let himself get confined with a single person; he went from one person to another, always asking questions and retaining in his mind, or sometimes on his 3x5 cards, ideas that he’d received in meetings. I’d say that Eustace Seligman was a tremendous Trustee.
Similarly, Francis Plimpton. Both of them were trustees when I went on the Board, both of them were trustees when I left the Board as Secretary, and I would say-- well one could go on-- Francis Plimpton was a very impressive trustee.
Ken DeBevoise, in a way like Eustace Seligman, read every scrap of information which came to him. He was the youngest trustee we had. I think he was first defeated as a Trustee when he was in the Navy during the war. Then he was elected a trustee on or about 1952 at the end of his service on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council. But Ken DeBevoise was deeply versed in the affairs of the College and, as anyone who knew Ken, had a disarming sense of humor and a straight face about many things that involved affairs of the College, personalities of the College. He was an excellent trustee.
Another excellent trustee, of course, was Walter Gellhorn. Walter Gellhorn was what might be called a liberal on the Board of Trustees. He had grown up in his mature years as a professor of law at Columbia and served on governmental committees during the War years after beginning his career as Secretary to Harlan Fiske Stone, Justice of the Supreme Court in 1931-32.
I suppose I’ve mentioned these trustees because they served the longest. There were many thoughtful trustees with original ideas. Phil Coombs was an Alumni Trustee who always had ideas, novel ideas, new ideas which were worthy of exploration. Charlie Rugg was on the Board when I was there. He was a conservative member of the Board of Trustees, but always a quiet, but effective advocate of a point of view.
It’s a little difficult to single out trustees. I think at this stage of the game I’ve missed a number of them who I would say were very good. All of the Trustees were effective. I think we had a marvelous Board of Trustees during the period I was Secretary, and I think we have had since.
As one looks back, one might think that the age of the trustees was older than the present age of the trustees and that we may have had a little too much age in terms of the speed with which the academic and the social affairs of the College have moved, as have the academic and social affairs of the country and the world. It may be just criticism that we were not quite up-to-date on youthfulness on our Board.
HWH: You would feel, then, that setting a maximum age limit was the proper thing to do?
GUEST: I think the age limit of 70 was a proper thing to do. Ken DeBevoise was made chairman of the special committee which changed the selection and terms of the Board of Trustees. As you may know, when we had eighteen trustees, one of them was the President of the College, and of the remaining seventeen trustees, six were elected for a six-year term by the Alumni, by the Society of the Alumni, which comprised all Amherst men, and the other eleven were so-called Life Trustees, selected by the then existing Board of Trustees. That has now been replaced by a system of changing the Life Trustees, the eleven Life Trustees, to six-year terms, with a provision that no trustee would serve longer than two terms or twelve years. This is not far removed from a number of other institutions which had ten-year terms as trustees, and although it’s my recollection that it was not intended, that the new regulations would not take effect with anyone who was then a member of the Board, I think that hereafter it’s a six-year term which may be repeated once. I just raise this question because someone who might have been a member of the Board of Trustees for eight years when the new rules were passed, had an opportunity to be elected by the Board for a six-year term and then another six-year term, which means that the members of the Board of Trustees who had already served a term could be members of the Board longer than the total of two six-year terms.
HWH: Do you think faculty should be represented on the Board?
GUEST: No, I’ve never thought faculty should be represented on the Board of Trustees. I think that one of the virtues of our Board of Trustees is its size, and by that I mean small size. When I first came on, Wesleyan had fifty trustees, which, of course, was too large and they subsequently changed that. Our eighteen trustees seem to be about right. But if you had representation on the Board of Trustees by the faculty, it would probably be by more than one faculty member. In the crucial days of 1968, when there were faculty committees, self-study committees, I think that their recommendation-- at least their conversation-- did mean to include perhaps three trustees on committees. The point is the trustees give careful thought and study to faculty reports and views. And certainly in the so-called troublesome days of 1968, ‘69, ‘70, there were strong movements on the part of the undergraduates for representation by at least one member of the Board of Trustees.
But a Board of Trustees, it seems to me, as a board of trust, should be represented by persons who are not in daily activity, in teaching or administration at the College. The main business of the College is run clearly by the faculty and the administration, and in more recent years, whether formally or not, by the undergraduates of the College. It seems to me that some distance between the persons who are charged in the original charter of the College to manage, to be the trustees of the College, that is, imbued with a trustee capacity, should be persons who are not at Amherst in an active role as teachers or administrators. This is not a point of view with which everyone agrees. It seems to me that there has never been any prohibition or deterrent on the faculty from bringing to the trustees a matter which concerned them. And whether the faculty believe it or not, there’s been a fairly informal relationship of the trustees when they come to Amherst, or in correspondence, and a faculty member who has a particular view can present his view to the trustees and have a hearing on it either by an individual trustee or by the full Board. So I do not favor the idea of faculty representation on the Board of Trustees. I think most colleges have retained that view, although some, I think, may have been persuaded by the unrest of the late ‘sixties to have a member of faculty. The end result has usually been no faculty members and usually no undergraduates, although several colleges have suggested and have implemented, either by custom or by by-laws, that a young alumnus, three years out of college, or an alumnus just graduating from the college, be a member of the board of trustees. Amherst has not gone that far and we have retained our traditional role as set forth in the original charter of the College.
HWH: How about geographical representation on the Board?
GUEST: I’ve never thought geographical representation had anything to do with the business of the College or the philosophy of the College. I remember that Walter Orr, of the Class of 1912, conducted a study way back in the ‘forties about some method of setting up the election of alumni trustees in a way that every so often-- every year or every other year or every third year-- there would be a region, let’s say representing the West Coast or the Midwest, where a trustee post would be represented. On the whole, we’ve had several alumni trustees from the Midwest and from the West Coast, and I have never noted, in my recollection of the deliberations of the Trustees, that the geography of a West Coast alumnus or someone from Indiana (which was Fred Hadley) with a very conservative point of view, ever had any regional bearing on the affairs of the College, except that a person like the late Fred Hadley was naturally conservative and he represented a conservative point of view, perhaps most articulately set forth in the whole business of coeducation. Fred Hadley was deeply imbued with an opposition to coeducation. I think part of his position was one of the reasons why Wabash College in Indiana is now the only male non-church-related college left in the country. He’s been the vice-president of Wabash in support of it. But as far as discussion of the Board of Trustees, his views and the views of a recent trustee from Los Angeles have not had any bearing on the deliberations. I think if it really did have a bearing, the Trustees would recognize it. Now, perhaps, the Trustees recognize the pressures and the diverse undergraduate body because their newest trustee, Bradley Stirn ‘72 (who has a father, Howard Stirn ‘46, and a grandfather of the Class of ‘13, Al Stirn of Staten Island) is young and from the West Coast. He is not a native citizen of the West Coast, but this in a way has recognized both age and geography. So I don’t really think-- I’ve never thought that geographical representation made any difference.
HWH: What do you feel were the most pleasant or rewarding aspects of your association with Amherst?
GUEST: My most rewarding aspects really are my love for Amherst College, my dealing with colleagues at Amherst College, administrators, faculty, and presidents. Both my wife and I, I think, have had a fairly friendly and fruitful and educational relationship with those persons. Then, of course, the contacts. I’m just lucky in being able to have more contact with hundreds and thousands of alumni that I have met in different careers, of different ages, different personalities, and I’ve had the good luck to see these alumni all over the country or in London or Paris or other foreign places. I suppose I’ve always felt, in my position, that I could write somebody in Hong Kong, an alumnus, that my wife and I would be there and some other Amherst people, and would it be convenient to see them. I’ve had a-- well I could go on a long time on what I think is a very happy relationship I’ve had with persons at Amherst and also with alumni out there, and I would say that certainly Mahat would share absolutely my views on this. And she’s been tremendous. She’s been equally interested, as I am, in the College and the governance of the College, with the persons who contribute to the College on the campus, both administrators and faculty, and with alumni around the world.
I suppose it would be worth my saying just a word about the troublesome time that I’ve referred to. I can remember the University of California in 1965 with its first difficulties-- its sit-ins, its undergraduates who shouted at meetings and disorganized meetings-- was the beginning of youthful unrest in this College, and for reasons which are complex and many of which escape me. It was shortly after then that the French schools, particularly the great University in Paris, the Sorbonne, followed this same kind of restlessness and disorganization-- sometimes physical harm-- complaining about the governance of the institution. It resulted in Amherst in a variety of ways. First, there was a complaint about what was called parietal hours. The fourth or fifth meaning in the dictionary of parietal does have to do with the walls of dormitories or buildings, and the undergraduates felt and the College Council came out with the view that the living institutions on the campus and those living in them should have the right to determine when and under what circumstances anybody could come into the building, female or otherwise. That point was made and that point was accepted and it’s accepted at many institutions, particularly in the East-- that the institutions themselves shall determine by their own action or by their own rulings where students live. But the Trustees were criticized on that, as being antique and archaic and not up with the times, and the Trustees eventually accepted the view that I’ve just described as how parietal hours should be managed.
Then came the time of the Blacks, when we changed our admission policy from a time when we had perhaps a half a dozen blacks in a class to 10% of the class. And the Blacks felt that they were under-represented, that their positions were not understood, that we had no curriculum directed to the special culture of the Blacks. And I would say that that position has obtained and been accepted, perhaps accepted is the word, by the Trustees.
[End of Tape II
Final copy finished 5/24/80]
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Oral history interview with Alfred Guest, 1980 January 18, 22, in Amherst College Oral History Project Records, (Box 1, Folder 11), Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library <https://www.amherst.edu/library/archives/holdings/amherst-college-oral-history-project/alfred-guest>
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