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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

“Do you have a sewing machine?”

— One of the most delightful accounts I have read of life inside a residential college is Polly Stone Buck’s memoir The Master’s Wife (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 1989). Polly Buck was the wife of Prof. Norman S. Buck, master of Branford College at Yale University during the 1940s and 1950s and long-time dean of freshmen. Although social manners have certainly changed over the years, the task of providing good homes for students has not changed, and Mrs. Buck describes the importance of that task and the rewards that it brings as well as anyone I know.

In appreciation for her work and in recognition of its lasting value to those who are developing residential colleges today, I have prepared two pages of excepts from The Master’s Wife for the Collegiate Way website, one on the general subject of pastoral care of students and the other on the tradition of college tea. In the second excerpt I especially concur with Buck’s observation that college events must be entirely regular, week after week, month after month, if they are to be successful. And the success of such events is not measured by the number of participants, but rather by the creation of a “homelike atmosphere they wouldn’t get elsewhere, sometimes not even in their own homes.” (See the Collegiate Way’s page on college life and the annual cycle for many similar ideas.)

The Master’s Wife is unfortunately out of print, but copies are often available from online and offline used book dealers (including Amazon.com). If you work in a residential college I encourage you to track down a copy for your library. I think you will find it humane, witty, and very much applicable to your college today.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2016