Nathan Pusey

Nathan Marsh Pusey (April 4, 1907 November 14, 2001) was a prominent American university educator.

Nathan M. Pusey
2nd President of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
In office
Preceded byCharles Hamilton
Succeeded byJohn Edward Sawyer
24th President of Harvard University
In office
Preceded byJames Bryant Conant
Succeeded byDerek Curtis Bok
10th President of Lawrence University
In office
Preceded byThomas Nichols Barrows
Succeeded byDouglas Maitland Knight
Personal details
Nathan Marsh Pusey

(1907-04-04)April 4, 1907
Council Bluffs, Iowa, United States
DiedNovember 14, 2001(2001-11-14) (aged 94)
New York City, New York, United States
Spouse(s)Anne (Woodward) Pusey[1]
ChildrenNathan M. Pusey Jr., James R. Pusey, Rosemary (Pusey) Hopkins[1]
Academic background
Alma materHarvard College
ThesisNomoi tōn Athēnaiōn : a collection of laws from the Attic orators, together with an account of Athenian legislation, a description of the fourth century corpus of Athenian law, and an exposition of its relation to chapters 42-69 of Aristotle's Athēnaiōn politeia (1936)
Academic work
DisciplineEnglish literature
Alma materHarvard University

Early life and education

Pusey was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa to John and Rosa Pusey.[2] He was educated at Harvard College (B.A.), and received M.A. (1928) and Ph.D (1937) degrees from Harvard where he studied English literature and ancient history. During his freshman year in college, he lived in Stoughton Hall.

Educational career

Pusey's first teaching post after he graduated was at Riverdale Country School. He then served at Lawrence College, Scripps College, and Wesleyan University. He served as president of Lawrence College (1944–1953), and later as the 24th president of Harvard University (1953–1971).

During his presidency of Harvard, Pusey overhauled the admissions process, which had been biased heavily in favor of the alumni of New England-based boarding schools, and began admitting public school graduates on the basis of scores obtained on standardized tests such as the SAT. This was highly controversial with the school's alumni population, but set the stage for the diversification of the student body and faculty.

Political positions

Pusey was a devout, lifelong Episcopalian who deplored the “almost idolatrous” secularism of his era.[3] He was an active member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Appleton, Wisconsin during his Presidency of Lawrence College.[4]

Pusey vigorously opposed McCarthyism in the 1950s and supported the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. His clashes with Joseph McCarthy were especially significant because Pusey's position at Lawrence College placed him in the senator's hometown (Appleton, Wisconsin) and amid the political power base of the then-conservative Fox Valley. As president of the college, Pusey held the community's respect, and his vocal criticisms of McCarthy resounded loudly in the area. Pusey was a deeply religious man and a somewhat traditionalist scholar, and he was appalled by the student radicalism that raged in American universities in the late 1960s.

He complained bitterly that "learning has almost ceased" in many universities because of the violent, revolutionary activities of a "small group of overeager young... who feel they have a special calling to redeem society." In April 1969, student activists occupied Harvard's University Hall (the building that housed most of the administrative offices) in protest over the presence of ROTC on campus at the height of the Vietnam War, and in response, Pusey summoned the police to arrest the demonstrators. Although his action was legal, it was widely criticized, and the resulting furor probably contributed to his early retirement in 1971. After his time at Harvard, Pusey was president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1971–1975) and president of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (1979–1980).

Published works

  • The Age of the Scholar, 1963
  • American Higher Education 1945-1970: A Personal Report, 1978


  1. The Harvard Crimson
  2. Yarrow, Andrew L. (15 November 2001), "Nathan Pusey, Harvard President Through Growth and Turmoil Alike, Dies at 94", The New York Times, p. D11
  3. "Nathan Pusey". The Economist. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  4. Whipple, Charles (17 June 1953). "Pusey Has Major Role in Every Controversy but Makes Few Foes". Boston Globe. ProQuest 822323565.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Thomas Nichols Barrows
President of Lawrence University
Succeeded by
Douglas Maitland Knight
Preceded by
James B. Conant
President of Harvard University
Succeeded by
Derek C. Bok
Preceded by
Charles Hamilton
President of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Succeeded by
John Edward Sawyer
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