A Separate Campus

“The Business School . . . should be lifted bodily out of its existing surroundings and developed as an entity.”
Dean Wallace B. Donham, Address to the Harvard Club of Boston, 1922
Lawrence Hall, Harvard University.

Lawrence Hall, Harvard University.

With the exception of a decline in enrollments during World War I, the HBS student population rose steadily from eighty students in 1908 to 695 in 1925.4 Students and teachers were dispersed in classrooms around the Cambridge campus. HBS Professor Emeritus George Bates, who had been a 1925 graduate, remembered, “You had to hurry and you didn’t often stop to talk to people. We had one classroom on the top of the Peabody Museum, another in the basement of the Harvard Union, and another in the basement of Lawrence Hall, which had, as I recall, a dirt floor.”5 Dean Wallace B. Donham wanted to inspire an exchange of ideas among students and faculty, increasingly difficult in the scattered Cambridge site where social contact was infrequent and students missed, in Donham’s words, “the ordinary humanities of life.”6

Harvard Business School Class of 1920.

Harvard Business School Class of 1920.

The dean questioned why graduate students experienced Harvard as a “huge impersonal intellectual machine.” “The physical equipment should make it possible to develop the several professional schools into separate social and intellectual entities,” Donham wrote. “And when this is done, the man who comes to the Business School will feel . . . he is treated like a human being.”7 In 1924, a $5 million fundraising campaign began for construction of a campus on a new site across the Charles River in Allston. Guidelines for this national campaign stated its principle tenet was “service to the country” by fulfilling the need for trained executives indoctrinated in business ethics.8

Dean’s Report to the President of Harvard University, 1924-25. Appendix A: Enrollment Statistics, p. 9. HBS Archives, Baker Library Historical Collections.
Four Men & A Foundation: A. Lawrence Lowell, Wallace B. Donham, William Lawrence, George F. Baker. Boston: Harvard University, Graduate School of Business Administration, 1993, p. 6.
Wallace B. Donham, “Dormitories for Graduate Students at Harvard University,” Harvard Alumni Bulletin (1922): 4.
Wallace B. Donham, ibid., p. 8.
George Woodbridge, Harvard University, Early History of the Business School, History of the National Campaign, Cambridge, Harvard University, vol. 1, p.1-A-1, 1-A-2. HBS Archives (AC1924.48), Baker Library Historical Collections.