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Kingman Brewster, Jr., president of Yale University, records

Call Number: RU 11

Scope and Contents

These administrative records are broken down into the following chronological sets: Series I, 1941-1977 (bulk 1962-1970), Series II, 1962-1977 (bulk 1969-1975), and Series III, 1958-1977 (bulk 1970-1977). Since they were maintained in various separate file groupings by a number of presidential staff members and merged into three series after the fact, there is unavoidable overlap. The arrangement of series I and II combine subject and correspondence files within one alphabetical run for each series; the files in series III are arranged according to a classification system either alphabetically or chronologically listed thereunder. Because of overlap, the researcher should consult each series for all documentation on a particular subject. Annual President's Report drafts and proofs, requests, comments, and final type-set and published versions comprise Series V: Presidential Reports.

Presidential materials which address certain topics more specifically may be found in the following Manuscripts and Archives collections:

Record Unit 12: Annual and Special Reports Record Unit 13: Inauguration of Kingman Brewster, Jr., Record Record Unit 14: Resignation of Kingman Brewster, Jr., Records Record Unit 15: Yale University 275th Anniversary Commemoration Records Record Unit 16: May Day Records Record Unit 17: Ivy Group Presidents Records, 1954 Record Unit 1102: Yale University Police Department Records


  • 1941-1983
  • Majority of material found within 1961 - 1977


Conditions Governing Access

Series VIII: Academic Department Files and Series IX: Gifts and Grants Records are closed for research until July 1, 2052. Series VII is closed for research until July 1, 2027. Accessions 19ND-A-419 and 19ND-A-424 are unprocessed and may contain sensitive information or be in a physical state that would prohibit use. Researchers wishing to request access should email requesting specific box numbers in order to initiate the review process, which may take several weeks.

Additional portions of the collection are also restricted by Yale University policy. Details available at the folder level.

Some records in this finding aid have been redacted, as they include student names, donor names, and other restricted data. These records will not appear in the published finding aid.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records were transferred from the Office of the President.


The records are arranged in ten series: I. Administrative Records, 1941-1977 (inclusive), 1962-1970 (bulk) . II. Administrative Records, 1962-1977 (inclusive), 1969-1975 (bulk). III. Administrative Records, 1958-1977 (inclusive), 1970-1977 (bulk). [IV, unassigned.] V. Reports of the President, 1963-1977.[VI, unassigned.] VII. Yale Corporation Files, 1953-1954, 1963-1977. VIII. Academic Department Files, 1950-1968. IX. Gifts and Grants Files, 1963-1968. X. Appointment Books, 1963-1977, and subsequent accessions.


340.25 Linear Feet (814 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The records of Kingman Brewster, Jr., as president of Yale University, provide extensive documentation on the policies, programs, and operations of Yale, from 1963 to 1977. Of particular significance are Brewster's administrative materials, which comprise Series I-III. Maintained by Brewster's office staff, these comprehensive files contain six general types of documentation: files on Yale academic departments, professional schools, and offices; files on Yale programs and issues; daily information on the president's activities, including materials on executive meetings and travel; documents and publications generated by the president and his staff, such as policy memoranda and open letters to the Yale community in draft and final form; correspondence with students, faculty, staff, alumni, non-alumni, and other institutions, such as foundations and governmental research agencies; and solicited and unsolicited materials, such as promotional bulletins, press releases, agency reports, and clippings, sent to the president from institutions or individuals. The most extensively documented topics within the records are academics, admissions, athletics, alumni activities, operating budgets, development and capital campaigning, donations and grants, personnel policy, buildings and grounds, governance, university committees and councils, and issues directly related to student life. Numerous specific topics and events are documented as well, such as ceremonies to commemorate new Yale buildings, outside requests for use of Yale facilities, concerts and tours by Yale musical organizations, and Yale convocations and conferences, to name a few.

Biographical / Historical

Brewster Biography

Kingman Brewster, Jr., the seventeenth president of Yale University, was born on 17 June 1919 in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. He earned his B.A. in History, Arts, and Letters from Yale University in 1941, and his LL.B. from the Harvard Law School in 1948, magna cum laude. Between degrees, Brewster served in World War II as a naval aviator and was released from active duty in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant. Brewster taught on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty, 1949-1950, and on the Harvard Law School faculty, 1950-1960, being promoted to full professor in 1953. He resigned from Harvard in 1960 and became Yale University provost-designate for the academic year 1960-1961, and then provost the following year.

Brewster became president of Yale in 1963 and remained in office until 1977. While president, he also served on two national commissions formed by the Lyndon B. Johnson administration: the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, 1965-1967, and the National Advisory Commission on Selective Service, 1966-1967; he was also chairman of the United Nations National Policy Panel, 1968. Brewster officially resigned the Yale presidency on 16 May 1977 to serve as ambassador to the Court of St. James, 1977-1981, under President Jimmy Carter. In 1986 he accepted the mastership of University College at Oxford University, Oxford, England, where he stayed until his death on 8 November 1988.

Brewster married Mary Louise Phillips on 30 November 1942 and together they raised five children: Constance, Kingman III, Deborah, Alden, and Riley.

Administrative History

The Brewster presidential administration's primary objective was to raise academic standards comprehensively throughout Yale University. This required the substantial revision of certain existing policies and disciplines, as well as the development of new programs, schools, and departments. President Brewster began this process in the 1960s by significantly increasing the size of the faculty and by actively recruiting renowned non-Yale scholars to fill the positions. According to Brewster, previous Yale administrations tended to overlook high caliber academicians who graduated and specialized outside the university. Approximately fifty percent of those instructing both at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the mid-1950s had earned their degrees from Yale. To reverse this trend, and to help even-out the student-faculty ratio, Brewster carried forward three policies initiated while he was Provost. First, as of 1961, most new professors were to be appointed jointly to the undergraduate college and the graduate school, allowing greater variety and possibility for instructor-student interaction. Second, the administration maintained a university-wide faculty committee to review and approve departmental tenure promotions, so that all disciplines would have to match the administration's overall research and teaching standards. Third, Brewster continued realigning the budget to raise faculty salaries to levels unsurpassed by other higher learning institutions. Growth in new faculty appointments was especially strong in the 1960s, when the instructor-student ratio dropped from 1:11 to 1:7, and the size of the faculty increased by 80 percent. While the graduate school student population doubled, the undergraduate population remained level at 4,000.

As the size of the Yale faculty increased, Brewster's new admissions policies caused the make up of the undergraduate body to shift. By the early 1960s, most undergraduates had prepared at private schools, and many were sons of Yale alumni. As with the faculty, Brewster felt that Yale was consistently overlooking some of the best intellectual student talent necessary to maintain the highest levels of academic excellence. In a 1965 speech to alumni, Brewster summarized his administration's revised recruitment policy by stating that Yale would only seek students whose capacity for intellectual achievement is outstanding and who also have the motivation to put their intellectual capacities to creatively influential use, in thought, in art, in science, or in the exercise of public or private or professional responsibility.

In short, the administration maintained that talent and proven ability, in spite of background, were to be paramount in every application review. Brewster appointed Admissions Dean R. Inslee Clark in 1965 to help bring this recruitment objective to fruition. As well, in 1963, the administration enacted a needs-blind policy for all applicants, so that lack of necessary finances could not become an admissions factor. The inevitable result of these new policy initiatives was a more diversified student body. While angry alumni accused Brewster and Clark of reverse discrimination, the administration argued that public school standards in quality and achievement had risen sharply, justifying tougher and more thorough screening processes for all applicants. As with faculty expansion, the effects of the student body shift were most noticeable throughout the 1960s, during which time the number undergraduates who entered Yale from private schools had dropped from 51 to 38 percent, and alumni sons decreased from 24 to 13 percent. As well, the number of accepted black applicants rose from fifteen in 1965 to one hundred in 1969.

The most dramatic change in the Yale student body came in 1969, when the Brewster administration implemented undergraduate coeducation. Matriculating undergraduate women in fact had been under serious consideration since the beginning of the Brewster presidency. In 1965 the Yale Corporation outlined three conditions necessary for the idea to advance. First, admissions officers could not reduce the number of men admitted each year to Yale College. Second, incremental funds estimated at fifty-five million dollars would have to be allocated. Third, women would actually matriculate through a coordinate college, designed after the Harvard-Radcliffe model. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, sought out Yale to become the sister institution. The Yale administration engaged in thorough discussions and drew up detailed plans for the merge, but Vassar eventually rejected the idea, since it did not wish to relocate to New Haven. Brewster proposed that coeducation proceed regardless, and, with Yale Corporation support, 500 women attended Yale College in the autumn of 1969. Though some alumni vehemently objected, the administration defended its position based on the tenets of its own educational philosophy: Brewster's mission was to attract the country's best minds to Yale College, which necessitated opening the pool to women.

While the Brewster administration in the early 1970s continued to enact significant policy studies and revisions, aspects of the nation's social climate affecting college students had become volatile and problematic. Race riots had broken out over the past few years in numerous American cities, causing dramatic unrest on many college campuses in response. An event which particularly tested the Brewster administration occurred 1-3 May 1970 known as May Day weekend. Black Panther party chairman Bobby Seale and seven other party members were on trial in New Haven for the murder of fellow party member Alex Rackley. The trial and the cause of the Black Panthers became a major concern of the Yale community. Normal academic activities were suspended in late April and a number of special gatherings were held around campus to discuss the issue. Various sources predicted that 50,000 demonstrators would arrive at the New Haven Green on 1 May to protest perceived unfairness toward the Black Panthers. Brewster decided to open Yale University during the weekend rally for shelter, food, day care, and first aid. Students hosted demonstrators in designated residential college rooms, and many faculty, staff, and students were assigned special duties to help maintain order. Against the wishes of the administration, Connecticut officials brought in the National Guard as a precaution against violent eruptions. Actual attendance, peaking near 15,000 on 1 May, was lower than expected. Speeches given at various Yale sites by prominent protest leaders such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin occurred peacefully. Sporadic incidents throughout the night were successfully handled by local police. The next day, fewer numbers gathered for rallies on the Green and protest momentum began to taper. By Sunday 3 May the demonstrators had left New Haven, and the administration pronounced the weekend a success. As academic activities resumed, students who had elected to postpone final exams and projects were given a number of options toward completion without penalty.

Numerous programs were revitalized, expanded, or created during Brewster's tenure. In 1965 the administration secured an affiliation between the Grace-New Haven Community Hospital and the Yale School of Medicine to form the Yale-New Haven Hospital, a major center for medical instruction, research, and practice. The Yale School of Drama was revitalized in 1966 with the appointment of Dean Robert Brustein, and programs such as Afro-American Studies, and the Computer Science Department were proposed and enacted. In undergraduate education, the college seminar program was started, along with the Five Year B.A., also known as Junior Year Abroad. Distributional requirements were suspended, the grading system revised, and credit numbers necessary for graduation reconsidered. The campus Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program was phased out during the early 1970s, and study groups such as the Dahl Committee on Undergraduate Education and the Dominguez Study Commission on Governance were organized by the administration to consider further steps toward educational improvement. New buildings were raised as well, including the Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center, the Child Study Center, Kline Biology Tower, the Nuclear Structure Laboratory, and the Center for British Art, designed by prominent architect Louis Kahn. Throughout the 1970s, the administration engaged in intensive capital fund-raising to address the deficit incurred from the extensive expansion of resources and programs achieved in the previous decade.

The Brewster administration is generally praised for its progressive initiatives and innovative new academic programs, in spite of the increasing burden it placed on the operating budget as a result. Brewster himself was considered friendly, energetic, accessible, and loyal to the faculty, staff, and students. Relations with outspoken alumni were sometimes strained, especially throughout the 1960s, because of changes in student body make-up and a perceived new wave of liberalism dominating Yale. Still, most of the Brewster administration's new initiatives and philosophies have remained operationally active and influential within subsequent Yale presidencies.

General note

Forms part of Yale Record Group 2-A (YRG 2-A), Records of the President.

Processing Information

Series IV: Oversize Materials and Series VI: Administrative Records have been integrated into the inventory listings for series I-III, from which they were originally pulled. There is no longer a Servies IV or VI in the collection. There is also no box 650.

Guide to the Kingman Brewster, Jr., President of Yale University, Records
Under Revision
compiled by Mark Bailey and staff of Manuscripts and Archives
February 1996
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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