Kingman Brewster Jr

views updated May 23 2018

Kingman Brewster Jr.

Kingman Brewster, Jr. (1919-1988) served as president of Yale University from 1963 to 1977, greatly broadening the base of that university's student body and strengthening Yale's ties to the community. He then served as ambassador to Great Britain for four years.

Kingman Brewster, Jr., was born June 17, 1919, in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, to Kingman Brewster and Florence Besse Brewster, descendants of one of the state's first families. Following graduation from Belmont High School, Brewster entered Yale in 1937 and graduated with an A.B. in 1941. As a student he was an isolationist and a supporter of "America First" and once invited Charles Lindburgh to speak on campus. In 1942 he married Mary Louise Phillips. The couple had three boys and two girls. During World War II he served as a Navy fighter pilot and was discharge a lieutenant in 1946. He then entered Harvard Law School, receiving his law degree in 1948. During the next two years he served as legal counsel for the Marshall Plan in Europe and as a research associate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1950 he became an assistant professor of law at Harvard, specializing in antitrust and international law, and a full professor in 1953. He remained at the school the ten years until he was appointed provost at Yale University in 1960.

In 1963 the governing board of Yale elected Brewster president. A leadership controversy developed even prior to his presidency when, as acting president, he denied Governor George C. Wallace a campus speaking engagement shortly after the bombing of an African American church in Birmingham, Alabama. Opponents decried the "denial of freedom of speech, " while Brewster justified his decision as heading off possible inflamation of the African American community. The 1960s were difficult times for university administrators and especially for someone like Brewster who openly sympathized with the anti-Vietnam War movement and with the African American civil rights activists.

Brewster's tenure as president was marked by widespread popularity among students, faculty, and alumni. His reputation as a "good listener" and his approachability assisted him in weathering controversies. This was particularly evident in the student strike in protest of the New Haven trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale. He not only rallied faculty forgiveness for the educational interruption and the support of the Yale Corporation, but publicly stated that he was "skeptical of the ability of black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States." Vice President Spiro Agnew accused the Yale president of lacking maturity and responsibility and called for alumni to demand that Brewster go.

Brewster's primary accomplishments as president of Yale University were the broadening of the base of the student body, admitting women (1969), dropping Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C.), and fostering a new partnership between the traditionally staid administration and the student body. During this time the percentage of students who were children of alumni dropped from 30 to 15. The number of public high school graduates entering Yale grew to outnumber the private high school graduates who entered by a ratio of two to one. His critics accused him of not sharing decision-making, yet he met problems head-on, making him extremely vulnerable to personal attack and thus shielding the university. During the 1960s, Brewster also served as an advisor on several Presidential Committees. From 1965 to 1967 he served on the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. From 1965 to 1968 he served on the President's Commission on Selective Service.

In 1977 Brewster left his position at Yale when Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, a member of the Yale Corporation, recommended Brewster to President Carter for the post of ambassador to Great Britain. Despite his lack of diplomatic experience, the British press was pleased with the appointment, calling Brewster potentially the best ambassador since David Bruce. They described him as "New England Patrician" and expressed delight at his gold ring with his family motto in Norman French.

Ambassador Brewster wasted no time in beginning his new responsibilities. He was called to step in and resolve difficulties between United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and the British Foreign Office. This was followed by smoothing out American/British difficulties over policy toward Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), which helped lead to the end of minority white rule in that country. He reveled in the "good life" of London opportunity and took advantage of the range of social occasions from dinner with Queen Elizabeth to quaffing a pint of ale in a working class pub, saying, "Becoming aware of the richness and variety here is a lot of fun."

After four years Kingman Brewster resigned the ambassadorship and returned to New Haven to live in his home just a block from the Yale campus. He took a part-time position with a New York law firm and devoted the rest of his time to writing a book on what he called the "Volunteer Society", which was never published. In 1986 he became Master of University College at Oxford University, and remained at Oxford until his death in 1988. On November 8, 1988, Brewster died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Numerous institutions conferred honorary degrees upon Brewster, and he received several awards, including the Award of Excellence in Human Relations from the New York Council of Churches in 1970. He was made an officer in the Legion of Honor in 1977. In 1997 Brewster was honored with an exhibit at Yale's Sterling Memorial Library, Innovation and Diversification: Yale during the Kingman Brewster Jr. Presidency, 1963 to 1977.

Further Reading

There are no biographies or books with additional biographical information on Kingman Brewster. He was the subject of several articles in TIME, Newsweek, The New Republic, and similar periodicals at the time he became president of Yale and upon appointment as ambassador to Great Britain. Additional essays by and about him appeared in popular periodicals. The following books by Brewster should provide additional insight: Antitrust and American Business Abroad (with James Atwood) (1981); Law of International Transactions and Relations (1960); and The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Vol. IV (1983). □

Brewster, Kingman, Jr.

views updated May 17 2018

BREWSTER, Kingman, Jr.

(b. 17 June 1919 in Long-meadow, Massachusetts; d. 8 November 1988 in Oxford, England), president of Yale University noted for his somewhat liberal views and for expanding the faculty and instituting policy changes that increased opportunities for women.

The third child, and second to survive to adulthood, of Kingman Brewster, a lawyer, and Florence Foster Besse, Brewster was raised just outside Boston. When he was six years old, his parents divorced, and Brewster and his older sister Mary went to live with their mother and new step-father Edward Ballantine, a professor of music at Harvard University.

Brewster was educated at The Belmont Hill School from 1930 to 1936, where he served on the debate team and worked on the school newspaper. In his junior year, he received tutoring so that he could spend what would have been his senior year traveling Europe with his mother, step-father, and sister. After that year abroad, Brewster enrolled at Yale College, from which he graduated in 1941. He then worked as a special assistant coordinator for economics in the U.S. Office of Inter-American Affairs before joining the U.S. Navy as an aviator on antisubmarine patrol in the north and south Atlantic. Discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1945, Brewster enrolled at Harvard Law School, where he served as treasurer and note editor of the Harvard Law Review before earning his law degree in 1948. For one year, he worked in Paris as an assistant to Harvard professor Milton Katz, a special representative of the U.S. Marshall Plan. Upon his return to the United States, Brewster taught briefly at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School in 1950. He spent a decade there teaching law, achieving the rank of full professor in 1953.

As the 1960s dawned, Brewster resigned from Harvard and was appointed provost-designate of his undergraduate alma mater. By fall 1961 he had succeeded Norman S. Buck as provost and had joined the faculty at the Yale Law School. As provost, Brewster undertook a somewhat controversial set of policies designed to increase the size and improve the caliber of the Yale teaching staff. Brewster's tripartite program included appointing newly hired faculty jointly to the undergraduate college and graduate school; establishing a university-wide faculty committee to evaluate and rule on tenure, thereby creating overall standards; and reconfiguring the budget to allow for increases in faculty salaries.

Following the death of Yale president A. Whitney Griswold in spring 1963, Brewster was named president effective that October, and was formally inaugurated on 11 April 1964. The first lawyer to serve as Yale president, Brewster was also the first man without a Ph.D. since 1900 to be appointed to that position. Over the summer of 1963, he established a three-person commission to investigate complaints of racial discrimination in university employment. Hand in hand with his expansion of the university's faculty, Brewster instituted new undergraduate-admission policies meant to attract the best students from around the world regardless of wealth and status, rather than merely selecting from the families of alumni. In keeping with this policy of opening up the school to the best minds, Brewster began to lay the groundwork for perhaps his most controversial decision—allowing the admission of women to Yale. Negotiations began with Vassar College to become the sister institution along the lines of the model of Harvard and Radcliffe, but the Vassar administration eventually balked at the idea of relocating to New Haven, Connecticut. Nevertheless, Brewster pushed for the admission of women, and in the fall of 1969 some 500 female students were accepted.

Several other program areas were formed, expanded, or rejuvenated under the Brewster presidency. In 1965 the Yale School of Medicine became affiliated with the Grace–New Haven Medical Community Hospital, resulting in a world-class institution for medical instruction, research, and practice. The following year, the Yale School of Drama benefited from the appointment of Robert Brustein as its dean, as well as the establishment of the Afro-American studies and computer science departments. Both an undergraduate college seminar program and a five-year bachelor of arts degree program (which included a junior year abroad) were initiated, and there was an overhaul of the grading system and the credit requirements for graduation.

Despite his self-description as a supporter of moderate Republican political philosophy, Brewster openly spoke out in opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the inequities in the military draft. His liberal stance kept the Yale community relatively unscathed during the turbulent 1960s and the rise of the antiwar movement. The few student demonstrations that did take place were generally dealt with in an orderly and swift manner.

Although Brewster continued to champion innovations into the 1970s, the more conservative members of the alumni began to reduce their financial support, to the extent that, by 1976, the university began to face a deficit. Brewster decided to step down as president almost simultaneously with his appointment by President Jimmy Carter to serve as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, a post he held from 1977 until 1981. He then joined the law firm of Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam, and Roberts, and in 1984 became resident partner of its London office. In 1986 Brewster accepted a five-year term as master of University College, Oxford, where he served until his death of a heart attack. He is buried at Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven.

Brewster married Mary Louise Phillips, with whom he would have five children, on 30 November 1942. He authored several articles and books, most notably Antitrust and American Banking Abroad (1958).

Brewster was one of the most influential and progressive academics of the 1960s. His administration at Yale had the primary objective of improving the university's academic standards even though it required a substantial overhaul of the existing policies, as well as an expansion of programs, schools and departments. Although some of the more conservative alumni were vocal in their opposition to Brewster, citing his liberal policies and the resulting budget deficits, he was admired by faculty, staff, and students, and his innovations paved the way for Yale to reemerge as an influential and important academic institution.

The Kingman Brewster, Jr., Collection is housed at the Manuscripts and Archives at the Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University. A profile of Brewster is John Bainbridge, "Our Far-Flung Correspondents: Excellency," New Yorker (12 Dec. 1977). An obituary is in the New York Times (9 Nov. 1988).

Ted Murphy