John Nason '26
John William Nason (1905?-November 17, 2001) was a 1926 graduate of Carleton, professor at and president of Swarthmore, president of the Foreign Policy Association, and the fifth president of Carleton College, serving from 1962-1970, following the departure of president Gould. He was succeeded by Howard Swearer.
John Nason was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended school at Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.
Nason entered Carleton in 1922, intending to be a chemistry major, but later switched to philosophy. While a junior, he unsuccessfully ran for vice-president of the Alma Mater Association (AMA) (the precursor to the CSA). He was elected president of the AMA the following year.
On the evening of June 3, 1926, a canoe with four Carleton students capsized in Lower Lyman Lake. One of those students, Marjorie Veach '27, drowned, and another student, Philip Gray '28, drowned while attempting to rescue the students (despite his inability to swim). Nason was among those who searched for Gray’s body, and eulogized Gray at a memorial service held at Carleton four days later.
Shortly thereafter, Nason graduated from Carleton summa cum laude with a degree in philosophy.
After Carleton, Nason attended Yale Divinity School for one year before transferring to Harvard, where he earned his master’s degree in 1928. He also studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
He taught philosophy at Swarthmore College, a Quaker-founded school in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania following his graduate work. In 1940, he was selected to be Swarthmore's president, a post he held until 1953.
Nason, himself a devout Quaker, was dismayed by the outbreak of World War II in Europe. In January 1942, one month after the United States entered the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he issued a policy statement of pacifism for Swarthmore. One year later, however, his position (and the college's) shifted to allow the Navy to set up its V-12 officer training program there.
After Pearl Harbor, the United States government forcibly moved anyone of Japanese descent who was living in the United States to "War Relocation Authority Camps." Nason, among others, was opposed to this practice and joined the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council, which attempted to get any college-age students out of these camps and attending various colleges and universities across the country. This council offered monetary support in the form of scholarships, free tuition, and funds for incidental expenses to these students, as well as doing everything possible to make these Japanese-American students feel welcome on the campuses. Ultimately, about 4,000 students took part in the program. Nason later said that he felt his work on the Council to be the accomplishment of which he was most proud.
Following the war, Nason became heavily involved with attempts to educate the general populace on foreign policy. He developed a United National Council and a World Affairs Council in Philadelphia. His work on these councils soon became his passion, and he eventually left Swarthmore to head the Foreign Policy Association in New York.
Foreign Policy Association
In his first year at the Foreign Policy Association, Nason began the Great Decisions program, which continues to this day. Great Decisions publishes a Briefing Book annually that is designed to put global affairs in context and promote discussion of foreign affairs topics. Nason served as president of the Foreign Policy Association until 1962.
Return to CarletonGould, making him the first (and to date, only) Carleton alum to later serve as its president. Nason served as Carleton's president from 1962-1970, overseeing the campus during the majority of the turbulent sixties.
Nason created the College Council during this period, which allowed for major campus decisions and policies to be discussed and decided by a representative sample of faculty and students instead of unilaterally by the administration. His interest in international affairs, and Asia in particular, continued, and he began the Asian Studies program and aggressively recruited minority students.
Several new buildings were erected during Nason's presidency, including the West Gym (1964), Cowling Recreation Center (1965), and Watson Hall (1966). Gridley Hall, in severe disrepair, was demolished in 1967 to make way for the Music and Drama Center, for which the planning had begun in 1960, though this structure was not completed until after Nason left Carleton. In 1970, he also advocated abolishing the astronomy department and demolishing Goodsell Observatory to make way for a campus center. Though the astronomy major was eliminated, the department was merged with the Physics Department and Goodsell, later placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, remained. The campus center was eventually formed from the old Sayles-Hill Gymnasium.
Carleton returned to a trimester system during Nason's first year in office (the planning for this change had been done under Gould’s administration).
As the nation changed dramatically during the 1960s, Nason was sometimes seen as overly conservative and anachronistic, yet Carleton still made significant changes during these years.
When the CSA approved a resolution allowing, for the first time, for women students to enter men's dorms, president Nason reportedly lamented the "death of chivalry" (he felt that if a couple were dating, the man should pick up the woman at her dorm, not the other way around). However, the radical sixties would make more dramatic changes to male/female social life before the end of his term.
Dorms became co-educational for the first time during Nason's presidency. The first change happened in the fall of 1969, with the Third Burton Insurrection. Ten women unilaterally moved in to a lounge on the third floor of Burton, then a men's dorm. This caused a significant confrontation with the Deans, and the women eventually moved out under threat of sanctions. However, their point was made.
After ten weeks of debate, on Valentine's day of 1970 a college-sanctioned experiment with coeducational dorms occurred. Some 360 students on eight floors and one house (Third, Sixth and Seventh Watson, Third Nourse, Column A of Evans, Language House, Second and Third Burton, and first Goodhue) swapped rooms, creating not only co-educational dorms, but some co-educational floors as well. Most students felt the experiment to be a huge success. Coeducational floors became permanent not long after.
Strike of 1970
In the spring of 1970, campuses across the country shut down in protest of the US invasion of Cambodia and the killing of student protesters at Kent State. Students and faculty at Carleton overwhelmingly voted to hold a four-day strike in May of that year. Nason did not formally endorse the strike, but he did encourage accommodation of the striking students in regards to their end-of-term work. Previously, Nason had been among the first college presidents to publically call for a withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, so he may have been sympathetic to the cause.
President Nason retired from the presidency of Carleton in 1970, having reached the age of 65. He remained active in international affairs and worked with the Association of Governing Boards. Carleton created a professor's chair for him, the John W. Nason Professor of Asian Studies and Anthropology (currently held by Jim Fisher). At Swarthmore, he was recognized with the John W. Nason Community Service Fellowship and the Nason Garden.
Nason's final visit to Carleton occurred in June of 2001 when he attended his 75th class reunion. He passed away five months later at his Kennett Square, Pennsylvania home on November 17, 2001 at the age of 96.
- "Character cannot be handed out in lecture doses, nor can spirit be forcibly instilled." (1940)
- "We [the United States] have become so excessively powerful in the world, so far beyond any other country or reasonable combination of countries, that we are in a very difficult position. It is inevitable that we will be disliked by much of the world simply because we are so rich and so powerful. But it also is important that we behave in a thoughtful and cooperative way and that we do not become arrogant as a result of our excessive power. And what I see happening is a certain amount of arrogance." (2001)
- An oral history by John Nason ’26 is available in the archives.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Media Relations. "Former Carleton College President John W. Nason Dies". Carleton College Media Relations. November 19, 2001.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Voice. "Nine Lives: John Nason '26". Carleton Voice. Fall 2001.
- ↑ Mack, Lauren et al. CSA History. Carleton Student Association Home. 2001-2006.
- ↑ El-Hai, Jack. "Incident at Lyman". Carleton Voice. Spring 2001.
- ↑ Wachter, Pauls. "Pacifism and Bugle Calls". Swarthmore College Bulletin. December, 2005.
- ↑ Weisberg, Joel. "A Science Not Earthbound: A Brief History of Astronomy at Carleton College". Physics and Astronomy Department. 2006.
- ↑ Hillemann, Eric. Winter Break. Item 82:9 of the Cobwebs conference on Caucus (NetID required). February 8, 1999.
- ↑ Hillemann, Eric. ROOMDRAW (eeek!). Item 9:15 of Cobwebs. October 2, 1997.
- ↑ Caldwell, Betsy. "The Great Co-Ed Housing Peregrination." The Carletonian, February 19, 1970. Page 1.
- ↑ Hillemann, Eric. The Yalie Daily's Opinion, circa 1971. Item 51:4 of Cobwebs. August 19, 1994.
- ↑ Tollefson, Jill. "Faculty and Staff: Sociology and Anthropology". Sociology and Anthropology Department. October 6, 2005.
- ↑ Swarthmore College. Swarthmore/Academics/Course Catalog/Fellowships. Swarthmore College. 2006.
- ↑ The Carletonian, "A Nason Sampler". September 26, 1962, page 5.
Laurence McKinley Gould
|President of the College
Howard R. Swearer