Rutgers University Provost and Vice President (Richard Schlatter)

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The Office of the Provost was created in 1949 to take on responsibilities delegated by the President. In a statement of appointment that appeared in the July 1949 faculty newsletter, President Robert C. Clothier wrote that Rutgers had become larger in terms of size, complexity and public recognition, and that it had "a special obligation to meet in view of its debt to the returning veterans and its designation as the State University of New Jersey." Clothier stated that the administration had not grown at the same rate as the university, and therefore, new positions needed to accompany the new duties its members found themselves taking on. The Presidency had become "a two-man" job, and it would be the Provost's duty to be this "second man." (1)

Rutgers University's first Provost was Mason Welch Gross, who held the position until 1959, when he was elected Rutgers' President. The position of Provost remained vacant until 1962, with the appointment of Richard Schlatter, who had served as a professor of history since coming to Rutgers in 1946. When Schlatter took over the position, the title was amended to Provost and Vice-President.

As Provost and Vice-President, Schlatter appears to have been involved with many issues and in constant communication with department heads, professors, and administrators. He served on or was kept informed on the activities of many committees. His work in tandem with Gross is credited for establishing Rutgers as a major university. In particular, their leadership during the turbulence of the 1960s was seen as a steadying force at Rutgers. (2) During Schlatter's time as Provost, Rutgers had continued to grow in physical size and in the number of students (from an enrollment of 21,000 to 37,000 students). (3) It also continued to growing in complexity and diversity, and these changes were reflected in the Provost's duties and his records.

Schlatter resigned his position as Provost and Vice-President in 1971. At that time, Gross had retired and was succeeded by Edward J. Bloustein, who had become president of Rutgers with the intention of implementing a reorganization plan for its administrative structure. In accordance with this plan, the position of Provost and Vice-President ceased to exist. Instead a provost was designated for each of the Rutgers campuses. Kenneth Wheeler became New Brunswick Provost in July 1972. James E. Young became Newark Provost in 1973 and Russell Fairbanks became Camden Provost in 1974.

Richard Schlatter was born on March 3, 1912. He grew up in Ohio, the only child of a butcher. He received his BA from Harvard in 1934 and went on to win a Rhodes scholarship, graduating from Oxford with a doctorate of philosophy degree in 1938. He then taught at Harvard until 1946 when he came to Rutgers as a professor of history.

Schlatter had a distinguished career at Rutgers. He received a Fulbright Award to teach and conduct research at the University of Liverpool during the academic year 1949-1950. He served as chair of the history department between 1955 and 1960, and became Provost in 1962. He served as Acting President in 1971 when Mason W. Gross became ill. In 1971 he resigned from the Provost's position and continued at Rutgers as a professor of history. He retired from Rutgers in 1982.

Schlatter's career was marked with many distinctions. Along with his Rhodes scholarship and Fulbright, he also received a Ford Foundation fellowship and a Danforth Foundation grant. He was the author of several books, including Private Property (1951), and wrote many articles and essays. After his retirement from Rutgers, Schlatter served as chair of the Committee on Literature at the Century Association in New York City, and was active with other societies and organizations.

Schlatter was married to Suzanne Wynmalen. They had two children, a daughter, Heidi, and a son, Daniel. Schlatter died on October 22, 1987 at the age of 75. He committed suicide during a hospital stay in Princeton after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer of the spine.

(1) See President Robert C. Clothier's statement "Appointment of a Provost" in Faculty News-Letter, 1949, 234-235. Available from Special Collections and University Archives R-PUBS LD4751.8.R8.

(2) See Harris, Andrew Steven, "Retired RU Provost Schlatter Commits Suicide" in The Daily Targum, October 26, 1987.

(3) Ibid.

From the guide to the Inventory to the Records of the Rutgers University Provost and Vice-President (Richard Schlatter), 1945-1972, (Rutgers University. Special Collections and University Archives)

Archival Resources
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