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UAI 15.900

Pusey, Nathan M. (Nathan Marsh), 1907-2001. Papers of Nathan Marsh Pusey : an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAI 15.900
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Pusey, Nathan M. (Nathan Marsh), 1907-2001.
Title: Papers of Nathan Marsh Pusey, 1860, 1907, ca. 1915-2001.
Date(s): 1860, 1907, 1915-2001.
Quantity: 9.2 cubic feet (26 document boxes, 1 portfolio box)
Abstract: Nathan Marsh Pusey (1907-2001) was the twenty-fourth president of Harvard University from 1953 to 1971. This collection contains material from his personal and professional life starting chiefly from after his retirement from Harvard University in 1971, to his death in 2001.

Acquisition Information:

The Papers of Nathan Marsh Pusey were acquired through donation or purchase. Whenever possible the archivist noted the terms of acquisition in the descriptions and item lists.
The acquisitions are as follows:
  • 1953 Mason Hammond
  • 1955 D.W. Bailey
  • 1957 Reuben A. Holden
  • 1958 M.A. DeWolfe Howe
  • 1971 Nathan Marsh Pusey
  • 1980 William Bentinck-Smith
  • Accession number: 08490; 1978 October 2
  • Accession number: 10927; 1986 November 21
  • Accession number: 12566; 1992 October 21
  • Accession number: 12616; 1993 January 14
  • Accession number: 14405; 2001 October 1
  • Accession number: 16050; 2004 October 25
  • Accession number: 17292; 2006 February 28
  • Processing Information:

    The Papers of Nathan Marsh Pusey were first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. In May 2007, Dominic P. Grandinetti re-processed the material. Re-processing included integrating several small collections, re-housing materials in the appropriate containers, establishment of a series and subseries hierarchy, and the creation of this inventory. The archivist placed the documents into acid-free folders, re-housed the materials into archival document boxes, and examined the folder contents to establish the date of the material.
    Photograph negatives were scanned onto acid-free paper by the archivist and the reproduced images were added to the collection. News clippings were photocopied and the originals discarded.
    Call numbers beyond the base call number were eliminated. A list of these obsolete call numbers is included in this finding aid.
    The following folders were moved from this collection and properly placed among the Records of the President of Harvard University, Nathan Marsh Pusey, 1953-1971 (UAI 5.169):
  • [Interim Report: Roy E. Larson to Overseers Committee] added to Overseers: Committee on Resources, 1962-1963, Box 272.
  • [Letter from Dean of Harvard Law School to Pusey regarding capital improvement] added to Law School: Dean, 1960-1961, Box 210.
  • [Letter from Secretary to the Board of Overseers to President Pusey regarding Radcliffe Enrollment] added to Radcliffe, Box 25.
  • [Memo to the President regarding Harvard's public relations, from William Bentinck Smith] added to Barn-Bj, Box 5.
  • [Memorandum on Minnesota's Invasion of Harvard College] added to Harvard Club of Minnesota, 1956-1957, Box 96.
  • [Nathan M. Pusey, memo, Dean of FAS, memo to Pusey regarding Arthur Schlesinger's memo (Extralegal Patriot Assemblage)] added to Communism, 1955-1956, Box 65.
  • Insurance policy receipts, retirement plan notices, medical statements, hotel bills, checks, appointment calendars (1971-2001) and duplicate materials were weeded and discarded. A report entitled: Innovation in Liberal Arts Colleges (1968) commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was discarded.

    Conditions on Use and Access:

    Permission of the University Archives is required for access to the Papers of Nathan Marsh Pusey. Please consult the reference staff for further details. Additional restrictions may apply.

    Related Material in the Harvard University Archives




    Biographical Essay

    Nathan Marsh Pusey (1907-2001) was the twenty-fourth President of Harvard University from 1953 to 1971. He was also President of Lawrence College (1944-1953), President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1971-1975) and President of the United Board of Christian Higher Education in Asia (1978-1983). Pusey's tenure as President of Harvard University was defined by the construction of new buildings, expanded fundraising, and emergence of student unrest and the social activism of the late 1960s.
    Early Life and Career
    Nathan Marsh Pusey was born on April 4, 1907 at Council Bluffs, Iowa, to John Marsh Pusey (1866-1908) and Rosa (Drake) Pusey (1877-1947). Pusey's father died when he was a year old, leaving his mother, a school teacher, to raise Pusey and her two other children, John and Esther.
    An excellent student, Pusey attended the Abraham Lincoln High School and became editor of the school paper, President of the Philomathian Literary Society, a member of the debating club, basketball team, and President of the Junior Class. Entering Harvard University on a Charles Elliott Perkins Scholarship, Pusey was known for his methodical work habits and scholarship. He was selected to the Dean's List for four years and elected to the Harvard chapter of Phi Betta Kappa his senior year.
    Pusey's post-graduate activities consisted of a trip to Europe (1929), teaching at the Riverdale Country Day School in the Bronx,New York City (1929), spending a summer studying Greek (1931), and attending the American School of Classical Study in Athens, Greece, as an Archibald Cary Coolidge Fellow (1932).
    Pusey began a teaching career as a sophomore tutor at Lawrence College in 1935. He moved on to Scripps College in 1938 as an Assistant Professor of history and literature. Later, Pusey became a professor of Greek and ancient history at Wesleyan University (1940), where in addition to his history instruction, Pusey taught physics to naval aviation students during World War II.
    Pusey's organizational abilities and administrative skills were recognized when he was elected President of Lawrence College in 1944. At Lawrence College, Pusey increased the endowment, enhanced faculty benefits, and improved the curriculum by adding a new course, Freshman Studies, which emphasized the discussion of ideas through the study of classic works of literature, art, and music.
    Harvard Presidency
    In 1953, Nathan M. Pusey became Harvard University's twenty-fourth president, the first non-New Englander to head the school. Known as a tireless fundraiser and educational reformer, Pusey was charged with the task of improving undergraduate education and the liberal arts program. Pusey's presidency was marked by several major accomplishments. Among these are:
    Initiation of Harvard's first major financial campaign, the Program for Harvard College, which eventually increased the University endowment to one billion dollars. This money was used to improve faculty salaries, expand student financial aid, and begin new building construction.
    The establishment of a "needs-blind" admission policy emphasizing merit and that led to a new and dynamically diversified student body. Under Pusey's direction the number offoreign students,African-American students, and women increased.
    The rebuilding of the Harvard Divinity School with an enlarged faculty, student body, and facilities.
    Aggressive construction of thirty new buildings including: Countway Library Center of Medicine (1959), Loeb Drama Center (1959), Carpenter Center for Visual Arts (1961), Hilles Library (1965), Holyoke Center (1967), Gund Hall (1969), Gutman Library (1969), Science Center (1972), and Pusey Library (1973).
    Under Pusey's stewardship, Harvard University grew. Faculty and administrative ranks increased from 3000 to 8500, student enrollment rose from 10,000 to 15,000, and Summer and Extension School enrollment expanded from 4,400 to 10,000. The operating budget of the University increased from $39 million to $200 million.
    Pusey's years at Harvard University were not without controversy or difficulty. Towards the end of his tenure, the student movements that were having an impact worldwide also came to Harvard. Campus unrest, centered chiefly on protests against the Vietnam War and Harvard's expansion came to a head in 1969. Pusey took a dim view of student demonstrations and sit-ins and was regularly attacked by students and the Harvard Crimson. For Pusey, the ideals of reason and civility on campus were being threatened and had to be protected. In April 1969, when dozens of students took over University Hall to protest the presence of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) on campus and forcibly evicted the Deans, Pusey engaged the police, wearing riot gear, to remove the protesters. The scene of the police battling students was broadcast on television and viewed around the world, drastically altering perceptions of Pusey's administration and overshadowing its many accomplishments. Pusey announced in February 1970 his intention to retire.
    Retirement Years
    After his Harvard Presidency, Pusey lent his name, time, and administrative talents to several charitable organizations. Pusey served four years as President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1971-1975) and was President of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia from 1979 to 1983. He also served on the boards of many charities including Fountain House, a charity that counsels the mentally ill. In addition to his charitable work, Pusey was an active member of the Episcopal Church, a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, and Chairman of the Fund for Theological Education.
    Nathan Pusey led Harvard University during a time of rapid growth and turbulent change. He guided Harvard's post-war transformation and expansion, helped to build the faculty, improved student financial aid, and expanded undergraduate education. Pusey was remembered by his friends and colleagues as a caring and warm person, who made an enormous difference in strengthening every aspect of College life.
    Nathan Marsh Pusey died in New York City on November 24, 2001 at the age of 94.
    Nathan Marsh Pusey married Anne Woodward Pusey (1914-2004) on June 10, 1936. They had three children: Nathan Marsh (b. 1937), James Reeve (b. 1940), and Rosemary (b. 1942).

    Parents and Siblings

    Spouses and children



    Series in the Collection

    Scope of the Collection

    The Papers of Nathan Marsh Pusey document his personal and professional life starting chiefly from after his retirement from Harvard University in 1971, to his death in 2001. Materials related to Pusey's official activities as president of Harvard University (1953-1971) will not be found in these papers.
    The largest part of these papers, consisting of correspondence, speeches, and writings, document important aspects of Pusey's accomplishments at Harvard University and shed light on his leadership roles in various charitable organizations. These papers also recount Pusey's early student days, his administration of Lawrence College, and highlight the many honors, awards, and accolades Pusey received over his lifetime. In addition, these papers contain material referring to the Pusey Family, including Pusey's wife, Anne W. Pusey.

    Inventory update

    This document last updated 2016 November 3.

    Obsolete Call Numbers

    The following list provides a map to old call numbers that were eradicated by the archivist during the 2007 re-processing. All the materials for The Papers of Nathan Marsh Pusey now fall under the single call number UAI 15.900.

    Container List