Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History



Alexander H. Meneely

Dartmouth College Professor of History Alexander Howard Meneely (1899-1961) began his 17-year tenure as Wheaton president when Dr. Park retired in 1944. He was faced with leading the College in a period of post-war confusion and rising costs. By the mind-1950s college education had become an increasingly desirable goal for growing numbers of students nationwide. Noting Wheaton's own steady enrollment growth since World War II, Meneely voiced hs concern that unless college facilities and the number of faculty increased across the country, a crisis in education could result. At the same time he believed that Wheaton should remain a "small" college, continuing to provide student with individualized attention and a homelike atmosphere.

While agreeing with Meneely in principle, trustees acknowledged the changing definition of a small college and voted, in 1955, to increase Wheaton's enrollment by 250 students, according to a plan developed by Dean of the College Elizabeth S. May. This initiative combined with another vote taken six years later, increased enrollment from 525 to 800 to 1000 students. This growth allowed Wheaton to expand and improve its curriculum, faculty, and building program. The construction of "new campus" began in 1957.

Dr. Meneely's predecessors had controlled every aspect of the college. One of Meneely's major accomplishments was the reorganization of faculty committees and granting control of the curriculum to the faculty. He improved faculty living arrangements with the construction of Shepard Court, and instituted formal salary scales.

In 1959, a major lecture series was established through the generosity of Henry Witte Otis, father of two Wheaton graduates. Professor of Religion J. Arthur Martin developed the idea for the Otis Lecture Series to give students, "an opportunity to hear and come to know distinguished theologians and philosophers, and to profit from the inspiration and guidance of a person of such intellectual stature as is usually found in our leading universities." Among the early Otis lecturers were Dr. Paul Tillich and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Meneely Hall, built in 1959, was dedicated to Dr. Meneely.

During his last year as president, Dr. Meneely suffered from cancer, and the administration of the college fell increasingly to the Dean of College Elizabeth Stoffregen May. Dr. May was named acting president upon Dr. Meneely's death, and served in that capacity from 1961-1962 during the search for a new leader.

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