Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
The Department of Economics, 1946
Although economics has been taught at Tufts since 1893, an autonomous Department of Economics was not established until 1946.
In 1902, under the aegis of Professor Albert Metcalf and President Elmer Capen, the Department of Economics and Sociology was officially founded. Professor Metcalf taught the bulk of the courses, with President Capen aiding in the upper-level seminar courses. Prior to 1902, all economics classes had been offered through the Department of Political Science, and were taught almost exclusively by President Capen. After spring semester in 1903, however, the Department of Economics and Sociology was disbanded. Economics courses were once again left to the auspices of the Department of Political Science.
Due largely to the fundraising efforts of Austin Fletcher A1876, economics returned to Tufts in the 1920s. Henry J. Braker, a client and close friend of Fletcher, visited Tufts in 1905 to watch Fletcher speak at the college semi-centennial, and was so impressed with the campus that he left the college $500,000 in his will. From 1907 through Fletcher's death in 1923, Braker's grant was a source of much controversy. In his will, Braker earmarked the funds for the establishment of a school of commerce, accounts, and finance, but added a clause stating that if such facilities already existed, his grant could be used to maintain and expand any such program.
In 1907, discussion about how to use Braker's grant led to plans to build a Braker School for Business, but the plan languished after Tufts' President Hamilton's death. His successor, President Bumpus, then discussed the possibilities of opening a school of public affairs in Boston with the funds. Fletcher supported this plan, and from 1920 through his death in 1923, he searched for a dean to head the new school. The Tufts College Trustees, however, never voted to implement the plan. Instead, they voted in 1920 to establish a Braker School of Business Administration in association with the College of Liberal Arts. Fletcher strongly opposed any connection with liberal arts, and fought the decision until his death.
After Fletcher's death, President Cousens finally came up with a solution to the Braker dilemma. The original Department of Economics and Sociology had existed during Braker's lifetime, and his will stated that his bequest could be used to support a previously founded program. Cousens was able to reconvene a department using Braker's funds.
In 1924, the Department of Economics and Sociology was reformed under the guidance of Professor Mayer, who was named department chair. From 1924 through the onset of World War II, the department was quite successful, and saw a large increase in the number of students seeking economics degrees. Cousens used Braker's funds to establish a total of eight graduate teaching fellowships, which greatly improved the teaching capabilities of the department. Also, in 1927, the Trustees voted to use $203,000 worth of Braker's interest to build Braker Hall, which became home to the department.
World War II, however, had a major impact on the department. Many students enlisted in the army, and Tufts also lost a number of professors to the war effort. By 1944, the Department of Economics and Sociology had only two professors on its staff.
After the war, the outlook improved for the department. In 1946, the Department of Economics, under the guidance of Professor Manly, ended its affiliation with the Department of Sociology, and was, for the first time, its own entity. Through the next twenty years, the popularity of economics courses increased dramatically. To appease the many students double-majoring in economics and a related field, credit requirements for graduation were reduced in 1963 from thirty credits to twenty-four.
By 1974, the economics faculty was well known for the varied publications of its members, and in the same year, the graduate program at the Department of Economics ranked in the top forty-five nationally. Only two years later, however, the department would face many challenges.
With the vast increase in economics students came a crunch for professors. Already, the student to faculty ratio in the Department of Economics was higher than any other department in the university, and professors were forced to take on large numbers of advisees each year. In 1976, five members of the twelve-member department decided to leave Tufts, citing below average funds for the department and skyrocketing amounts of students. Tufts had hired two new economics professors that year, but this was insufficient to meet the needs of the department.
By the early 1980's the Department of Economics had regained a footing as a strong and popular department. In 1988, the department received its first endowed chair on a gift from Joseph Neubauer, raising the prominence of the department in the national arena.
As of 2000, the Department of Economics, currently located in Braker Hall, continues to attract a huge number of students each year.
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