Resignation of President Tyler Dennett (1937)

The desire of the Williams College Board of Trustees to purchase the Greylock Hotel lot and buildings put the Board in direct conflict with College President Tyler Dennett. Dennett was opposed to purchasing sites "for which no educational use is apparent or specifically stated." Although the hotel became a dormitory, Williams College did not purchase it with this specific use in mind. In a letter to Charles D. Makepeace, College Treasurer, the Greylock Hotel's owner, Anthony Bullock, stated, "if the college acquires this property it will practically complete for them the block bound by North, Whitman, Park and Main Streets, except for the Episcopal Church property on Park Street." The Board's primary consideration was to control as much of the land buffering the College as it was able. So strongly did some Trustees feel about this that three Board members put their own money, totaling $35,000 of the necessary $45,000, toward the purchase of the property.

The College even entertained the idea of leasing the property to an individual who would continue to use it as a hotel. However, Williams refused to operate the hotel itself as it had in 1830. In a letter, dated July 8, 1937, Makepeace informed Willard A. Senna, an applicant for the position of hotel manager: "Williams College does not propose to operate the Greylock Hotel as a venture of its own. If you are interested in a lease, or have any other suggestions as to method of operating the property in whole or in part I should be glad to hear from you."

Dennett also objected to the dominance of the Board of Trustees over the President. He envisioned the relations between the two parties to be one in which both had an equal role. In his letter of resignation, Dennett declared:

My reasons are neither personal nor trivial as I view them. My decision was crystallized when the Board on Friday, June 16, [1937] 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.

Dennett believed that all significant proposals should be agreed upon by both the President and the Board. He even proposed that he be given a "supervisory veto" over the decisions of the Board; his resignation was unanimously accepted on July 9, 1937, at a special New York meeting of the Board of Trustees.

At the Board of Trustees meeting of October 9, 1937, the fate of the Greylock Hotel was officially agreed upon. Dennett's successor, James Phinney Baxter, was present for Greylock Hall's inauguration.

By Jaime Margalotti (Williams Class of 2000)

SOURCES:
Bullock, Anthony. Letter to Charles D. Makepeace. 16 June 1937. Williams College Vice President for Administration/Treasurer Records. Williams College Archives.

Makepeace, Charles D. Letter to Mr. Willard A. Senna. 6 July 1937. Williams College Vice President for Administration/Treasurer Records. Williams College Archives.

Williams College Board of Trustees. Minutes. 9 October 1937; 21 December 1945; 11 October 1946; 11 May 1946. Williams College Archives.

Lewis, R. Cragin, ed. Williams 1793 - 1993: A Pictoral History . Williamstown: Williams College Bicentennial Commission, 1993.