Gettell, Richard Glenn, 1912-1988
Variant namesRichard Glenn Gettell, economist and college and university teacher and administrator, was born on March 3, 1912 in Hartford, Connecticut to Raymond Garfield Gettell, a political scientist and teacher, and Nelene Groff Knapp Gettell. The Gettells moved to Amherst, Massachusetts in 1914 and to Berkeley, California in 1923. He attended elementary and secondary schools in Amherst and Garfield Junior High School in Berkeley then went to University High School in Oakland, California from 1924-1927. Too young to enroll in college, Gettell joined the Merchant Marine and served on three voyages to the South Seas, Australia, and Hawaii in 1927-1928. He attended Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1928-1929 and Amherst College from 1929-1933. At Amherst, he sang in choirs, served as president of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and manager of the freshman football team, participated in the debating society, and graduated with high honors in economics. He also took classes at the University of California in Berkeley during the summer of 1932. After working as Executive Secretary of the Amherst Club of New York, N.Y. from July-December 1933, he went to Washington, D.C. as the personal assistant to one of his former Amherst professors, Willard L. Thorp, who was Special Economic Adviser to the United States Department of Commerce. From 1933-1935, Gettell was a junior economist or special assistant in the Bureau for Foreign and Domestic Commerce and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He attended the University of California from 1935-1937 and received a Ph.D. in economics in 1940.
In 1938, Gettell became an instructor and tutor of economics and a research assistant at Harvard University. Concurrently, he was an instructor of economics at Wellesley College. He married his first wife, Eunice Burdick on September 10, 1938. He was an instructor and assistant professor of economics at Yale University from 1938-1941, when Yale granted him a leave of absence to work as an economist for the Textile Price Branch of the Office of Price Administration in Washington, D.C. He was in charge of rationing shoes and industrial rubber footwear during World War II. In 1943, Gettell became an operations analyst for what was then called the United States Army Air Force. He served with combat commands in England, Washington, D.C. and Guam and was a special consultant to the operations analysis division of the United States Air Force headquarters from 1945-1960. During the Korean War (1951-1953), he served for six months with the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Weapons Evaluation Group.
Gettell began working for Time, Inc. in December, 1945. He was chief staff economist and assistant to the publisher of Fortune magazine from 1945-1950 and chief staff economist from 1950-1953. He also was a lecturer in economics at the Columbia University School of Business Administration in 1947-1948. He divorced his first wife in 1946 (she later married Richard H. Demuth) and married Landonia Brock Richards on June 9, 1948.
Gettell became chief foreign economist for The Texas Company in December, 1953. He also served as a consultant to the White House staff and was a member of the Task Force of the Cabinet Committee on Energy Resources and Supplies in the Office of Defense Management. In 1954, he played a major role in preparing President Dwight D. Eisenhower's policy statement to Congress concerning foreign economic development. In addition, Gettell was a Rapporteur for and a member of the United States Council of the International Chamber of Commerce from 1947-1957.
Gettell became the thirteenth President of Mount Holyoke College in 1957. He launched an ambitious fund-raising effort that culminated in the Fund for the Future capital campaign during the College's celebration of its one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary in 1962. Most of these funds went to increasing faculty salaries, doubling the endowment, and constructing the Prospect, 1837, Ham, and MacGregor Hall dormitories, the Pattie J. Groves Health Center, the Psychology and Education Building, Alice Withington Rooke Laboratory Theatre, Eliot House (the center for religious life on campus) and an outdoor amphitheater. He also oversaw the renovation of several existing buildings, including Williston Memorial Library. Increasing numbers of African-American and Latina students were admitted to Mount Holyoke during Gettell's administration and he supported the ABC (A Better Chance) Program which encouraged minority girls to go to college. He also helped develop a student exchange program with Bennett College and approved Mount Holyoke's participation in the United States-India Women's College Exchange Program for faculty and staff. He was one of the founding trustees of Hampshire College and served as an active member of the boards of numerous other organizations, including the College of the Virgin Islands. He received honorary degrees from Amherst College (1957) and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (1962). Mount Holyoke awarded him an honorary degree in 1970 and named the amphitheater in his honor.
Gettell was uncomfortable with the desire of many students to abolish Mount Holyoke's long-standing chapel attendance requirement and liberalize social regulations such as those concerning alcohol use and parietals (the policy for allowing men in dormitory rooms). He announced his decision to resign as President in September of 1967 and left office on November 11, 1968. He served as a consultant to the Haas Community Funds in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1969-1970, then retired and returned to live in California where he died in Menlo Park on August 14, 1988 at the age of seventy-six.
From the guide to the Richard Glenn Gettell Papers MS 0859., 1880-1989, 1924-1970, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)
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