The First Inauguration

Tufts inaugurated its first president, Hosea Ballou 2d, on August 22, 1855. Amidst the pomp and circumstance, there were the unexpected, but inevitable, “problems” with getting the ceremony underway. For one thing, the special train carrying Mr. and Mrs. Charles Tufts and others from Boston to the inaugural either overshot the depot in Somerville or failed to stop as scheduled.

Proceedings were delayed until a fast horse and carriage could be found to retrieve the important guests. The ceremony took place in what is today the Coolidge Room of Ballou Hall, but so many attended that people overflowed into the stairways, halls and adjacent rooms, and many could not see or hear the speakers.

In addition, only 900 plates were set for dinner following the inaugural, so that many of the more than 1,000 who were present could not dine. Despite these difficulties, President Ballou’s address was very well received. Although brief and simple, it contained lines that still resonate today:

“. . . the College works out abroad from itself, beyond the circle of its graduates, sending its energies forth through all other institutions, and down through all classes, even the most unlettered…. There is something, in the very tendency of liberal studies, opposed to a narrow bigotry. Narrow, clannish prejudices, exclusiveness and a liberal course of learning will always be found irreconcilable.”

Miller, Russell E., Light on the Hill: A History of Tufts College, 1852–1952 (Beacon Press, 1966)