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DENNETT, Tyler 1883-1949

PERSONAL:

Born June 13, 1883, in Spencer, WI; died of a heart attack, December 29, 1949, in Geneva, NY; buried in the Princeton Cemetery in Princeton, NJ; son of Rev. William Eugene (a Baptist pastor) and Roxena (Tyler) Dennett; married Maybelle Raymond, March 15, 1911; children: (George) Raymond, Tyler Eugene, Audrey, Laurence. Education: Williams College, graduated 1904; Union Theological Seminary, B.D., 1908; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1924. Also attended Friends School and Bates College.

CAREER:

Historian, educator, government official, and writer. Served in a Congregational mission, Seattle, WA, 1909-10; Called to the Congregational Church of Los Angeles, 1910-14; Affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Board of Foreign Missions and the Inter-Church World Movement, 1914-20; U.S. Department of State, Washington DC, worked in archives, 1920-22, chief of the division of publications, 1924-29, editor and hisorical adviser, 1929-31; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD, lecturer in American history, 1923-24; Columbia University, New York, NY, lecturer in American history, 1927-28; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, professor of international relations, 1931-34; Williams College, Williamstown, MA, president, 1934-37; Carnegie visiting lecturer, Australia and New Zealand, 1938-39.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pulitzer Prize for biography, 1934, for John Hay: From Poetry to Politics.

WRITINGS:

The Democratic Movement in Asia, Association Press (New York, NY), 1918.

A Better World, George H. Doran Company (New York, NY), 1920.

Americans in Eastern Asia: A Critical Study of the Policy of the United States with Reference to China, Japan, and Korea in the Nineteenth Century, The Macmillan Company (New York, NY), 1922.

Early American Policy in Korea, 1883-7, The Academy of Political Science (New York, NY), 1923.

Roosevelt and the Russo-Japanese War; A Critical Study of American Policy in Eastern Asia in 1902-5, Based Primarily upon the Private Papers of Theodore Roosevelt, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1925.

John Hay: From Poetry to Politics, Dodd, Mead, & Company (New York, NY), 1933.

(Compiler and author of introduction) Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay, Dodd, Mead & Company (New York, NY), 1939.

Security in the Pacific and the Far East: A Memorandum on Certain American Immediate Post-War Responsibilities, American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations (New York, NY), 1942.

SIDELIGHTS:

Tyler Dennett was a Pulitzer-prize winning writer, historian, government official, and college president. Born on June 13, 1883, in Spencer, Wisconsin, he was the first of four children and the only son to survive infancy. His father, Rev. William Eugene Dennett, was a Baptist pastor who taught him the value of hard work and persistence.

While in Asia with the Methodist Episcopal Board of Foreign Missions and the Inter-Church World Movement, Dennett wrote articles stressing the rising expectations in the Far East and the emergence of the United States as a world power with Far Eastern responsibilities. These articles were collected and published in 1918 as The Democratic Movement in Asia, a work that examines the role of American missionaries in promoting democratic values in Asia.

In 1920 Dennett moved to Washington, where he worked in the archives of the Department of State. While there, he researched American policy in the Far East for American commissioners at the Washington Disarmament Conference. Dennett eventually published this research in the book, Americans in Eastern Asia: A Critical Study of the Policy of the United States with Reference to China, Japan, and Korea in the Nineteenth Century. Dennett continued his research. As a lecturer at Johns Hopkins, he had access to Theodore Roosevelt's papers. Dennett became chief of the division of publications and editor for the Department of State in 1924, a position he held until 1929.

Dennett published a second study in 1925, called Roosevelt and the Russo-Japanese War: A Critical Study of American Policy in Eastern Asia in 1902-5, Based Primarily upon the Private Papers of Theodore Roosevelt. This was one of the earliest studies of Theodore Roosevelt and diplomacy. While the study established him as an expert in American diplomacy in the Far East, he is best-known for his biography John Hay: From Poetry to Politics, which won the Pulitzer Prize in biography in 1934. In 1931, he became professor of international relations in the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Three years later, he was elected president of Williams College.

At the time of Dennett's appointment, Williams College was at a turning point. It had been run by Harry Augustus Garfield for the previous twenty-five years. When Dennett took office, the school was academically weak and catered to wealthy graduates of Eastern boarding schools. Dennett saw himself as key to the college's reform. He redesigned the curriculum, balanced the budget, strengthened discipline, and raised faculty salaries. He reorganized the student government and the college administration. He earned a reputation for being brash and sometimes insulting. "He is a holy terror," one student wrote. "He is human and sincere. He is caustic and inconsiderate. He is a real man." Dennett's beliefs and harsh words resulted in many irreconcilable differences with the board or trustees. He was a sharp critic of the New Deal and a strong opponent of the board of directors' power over the college president. Dennett disagreed with the board's purchase of the Greylock Hotel, for which he thought "no educational use is apparent or specifically stated." He eventually resigned. In his letter of resignation, Dennett said, "My reasons are neither personal nor trivial as I view them. My decision was crystallized when the Board…voted to purchase the Greylock Hotel properties. In several respects the vote disclosed to me that between the Board and the President there is insufficient agreement on certain fundamentals to make it possible for me to go forward with confidence or with that sense of security without which leadership is impossible."

Between the years of 1938 and 1939, Dennett worked as a visiting lecturer in Australia and New Zealand. In 1939, he published a compilation of selections from Hay's diaries and letters, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay. He continued his study of international affairs until his death in 1949.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

ONLINE

H-Net Reviews,http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/ (May 23, 2003), Phyllis F. Field, review of Inside Lincoln's White House by John Hay.

Information Please,http://www.infoplease.com/ (May 23, 2003), encyclopedia entry for Tyler Dennett.

Rare Books,http://www.rarebooks.org/ (May 23, 2003), Pulitzer prize biography award list.

Williams College Archives and Special Collections,http://www.williams.edu/ (May 23, 2003), "Resignation of President Tyler Dennett (1937)."*

Dennett, Tyler 1883-1949

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