- Series 15: Harold Willis Dodds Records
Series 15: Harold Willis Dodds Records
This collection is stored at Mudd Manuscript Library.
Requests will be delivered to Princeton University Archives, MUDD Reading Room
Collection Creator: Princeton University. Office of the
Extent: 147 boxes
Materials generated by the office of the president are closed for 40 years from
the date of their creation. Some records relating to personnel or students are
closed for longer periods of time.
At 43, Harold W. Dodds was Princeton University's third youngest president.
He was also the second layman to hold this office, following Woodrow Wilson;
however, both men were sons of Presbyterian ministers. Born June 28, 1889 in
Utica, Pennsylvania, Dodds was the son of Alice A. Dunn and Dr. Samuel
Dodds, professor of Bible at Grove City College and professor emeritus of
biblical doctrine at Wooster College. The couple had three sons: LeRoy,
Harold, and John, all of whom went on to earn doctorates.
Harold graduated from Grove City College in 1909 with Phi Beta Kappa honors,
taught high school Latin and English for two years, and received his M.A.
from Princeton University in 1914 and his Ph.D. in political science from
the University of Pennsylvania in 1917. In the same year he attempted to
enlist in the Army but was rejected due to poor vision. On December 25,
1917, Dodds married Margaret Murray of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1918 Dodds wrote Procedure in State
Legislatures. He worked for the United States Food Administration
during World War I and became assistant professor of political science at
Western Reserve University from 1919 to 1920. Deciding to apply political
science in a practical manner, Dodds left the University to become secretary
of the National Municipal League and editor of its magazine, the National Municipal Review. He later served as the
League's president from 1934 to 1937. In 1925 Dodds acted as an adviser to
the Tacna- Arica Plebiscitary Commission, chaired by General John J.
Pershing, which attempted to arrange a plebiscite to end Chile and Peru's
dispute over the towns of Tacna and Arica. He also drafted Nicaragua's
Electoral Law of 1923 and helped supervise its 1928 elections. In 1935 he
arbitrated an electoral dispute in Cuba. Dodds was also a lecturer at
Purdue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and New York Universities prior to joining
the faculty of Princeton University in 1925.
At Princeton Dodds taught municipal government and public administration. He
became a full professor of political science in 1927, and in 1930, he was
named chairman of the administration committee of the School of Public and
International Affairs. Dodds and his colleagues conducted a financial and
administrative survey of the New Jersey government at the request of
Governor A. Harry Moore. It was known as the Princeton Survey, and some
proposals were enacted into law.
Dodds was elected president of Princeton University in 1933. He served during
the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar period of adjustment, a
time of strain for both the University and its president. During the Second
World War Princeton University instituted an accelerated program of study to
meet wartime requirements. As of December 15, 1941 the Special War
Supplement was issued to students, giving them the option to change their
programs and elect new emergency courses such as navigation and
cryptanalysis. By January 1942 75 percent of students, with the exception of
seniors, participated. In 1940 Dodds established a University Committee on
National Defense, and the Army, Navy, and Marines stationed hundreds of
their reserves on campus for training, causing the number of students to
fluctuate widely from month to month. A large percentage of undergraduates
who left for service returned after the war, attributable, in part, to the
fact that Dodds kept in touch with the absent students and set up the
Princeton Program for Servicemen in order to facilitate the continuation of
their education. In 1943 the State Department asked Dodds to lead the
American delegation to the Bermuda Anglo-American Conference to discuss the
problem of refugees.
Princeton University's Bicentennial celebration occurred during the Dodds
administration from 1946 to 1947. The celebration included a host of
scholarly conferences and three major convocations that renewed scholastic
ties after the war. In addition, Bicentennial Preceptorships were
established, giving one year of free research time to the most promising
Dodds was noted for his skill at promoting intelligent young faculty and
attracting top scholars from other institutions. He received good advice
from deans and departmental chairmen and supported them in securing
candidates. One of the professors whom Dodds promoted was Robert Goheen, his
successor. New departments and programs were created during the Dodds
administration, including Music, the Office of Population Research, the
Creative Arts Program, Religion, Aeronautical Engineering, and Near Eastern
Studies. The Woodrow Wilson School and sponsored research programs were
New buildings constructed during Dodds's tenure included Firestone Library
(1948), Dillon Gymnasium (1947), Class of 1915 Dormitory (1949), Woodrow
Wilson Hall, now Corwin Hall (1952), Hayes Engineering Laboratory (1951),
and a new building to house Project Matterhorn for the study of plasma
physics. Pyne Library was converted to administrative office space, and
Chancellor Green became the Student Center. Housing for faculty, graduate
students, and staff increased by 312 units. The James Forrestal Research
Center was established in 1951 with the acquisition of 825 acres formerly
occupied by the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.
Under Dodds income and expenses increased significantly. Thirty endowed
professorships were established. The Higgins Trust, shared with Yale,
Harvard, and Columbia Universities, increased funds for the sciences. In
1941 Annual Giving by alumni began with contributions totaling $80,000, and
by 1957 the amount given annually had increased to $1,281,000. Undergraduate
enrollment increased from 2309 in 1933 to 2948 in 1956, and the faculty grew
from 327 to 582 in the same period. The largest growth occurred in Graduate
School enrollment, which jumped from 293 to 636, due in part to an influx of
Dodds grew with the demands of his position, armed with an optimistic
attitude towards new problems, a sense of humor, and quiet confidence. He
believed that any expert should put knowledge to practical use, noting that
"an academic social scientist is improved by some contact with reality." He
also championed a liberal arts focus in response to educational trends after
World War II, though he also held that a liberal education "should be an
education for use." Dodds stressed the importance of religion in a
university setting and argued that "there is no avenue to truth which
neglects the place of religion as the fountain of those human values which
sustain and energize both individuals and a free society."
Dodds was a Republican and a Presbyterian. He was a member of the Board of
Trustees of the Carnegie Corporation for the Advancement of Teaching, the
Rockefeller Foundation, and the General Education Board. In addition, he was
one of nine members of the President's Advisory Commission on Universal
Training. He was also a director of the Council on Foreign Relations and a
member of the American Philosophical Society.
On June 19, 1957 Dodds retired, but he remained active. He chaired the James
Madison Memorial Commission, which was formed to plan the building of the
Madison Library of the Library of Congress. In 1958 the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching awarded him a grant that led to his book,
The Academic President — Educator or
Caretaker? He was also chairman of the Board of Trustees of a
corporation established to operate Miss Fine's School and the Princeton
Country Day School as one entity called the Princeton Day Schools.
Dodds died October 25, 1980 at the age of 91 in a retirement community in
Hightstown, New Jersey. Additional biographical information can be found in
a commemorative issue of the Princeton Alumni
Weekly from December 1, 1980 in box 196, folder 8.
The Dodds records are divided into six subseries: Correspondence, Speeches
and Writings, Subject Files, Arthur E. Fox, Edgar M. Gemmell, and General
Materials. Together they constitute the largest body of material in this
collection of presidential records and, in fact, are roughly three times the
size of all the other series put together. This is attributable, in part, to
the growth of Princeton University and the increasing complexity of its
administration, but sound clerical practices, including a systematic filing
system, also played an important role. It should be noted that the division
between correspondence (Subseries 1) and subject files (subseries 3) is not
absolute and that a significant amount of personal and family correspondence
can be found under the latter heading.
Series 15: Harold Willis Dodds Records; 1896-1990; Office of the President Records : Jonathan Dickinson
to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.