Henry Merritt Wriston (1889-1978)


Henry Merritt Wriston (1889-1978) advanced the ideals of liberal education and internationalism throughout his distinguished life as a dynamic speaker, prolific author, professor, college president, and foreign policy expert. A graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (B.A. 1911, M.A. 1912), Wriston returned to his alma mater as a professor of history (1914-1925). His doctoral dissertation, "Executive Agents in American Foreign Relations" (Harvard University, 1922) became a standard text in the U.S. Department of State.

Wriston became president of Lawrence College, Appleton, Wisconsin (1925-1937) and Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island (1937-1955) where his tenure had powerful transforming effects. At both schools he reorganized the curriculum to emphasize his commitment to liberal education, an ideal he first experienced at Wesleyan and later articulated in his best known work, The Nature of A Liberal Arts College (1937). He has been called "the greatest president Brown ever had." Wriston maintained active roles in numerous educational organizations, including the first president of the Association of American Universities (1948-1950).

In Washington D.C., Wriston served as chairman of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Commission on National Goals (1960), chairman of the Secretary of State's Committee on Personnel (1954), and member of the U.S. Department of State's Advisory Committee on Foreign Service (1956-1958), earning a reputation as the architect of the reorganization of the Foreign Service of the State Department. He was involved with many organizations dedicated to foreign policy and served as president of The American Assembly (1957-1963) and president of the Council on Foreign Relations (1951-1964).

Wriston served as a trustee of many boards, was awarded numerous honors, and received 30 honorary degrees during his lifetime. He died March 8, 1978 at age 89 in New York, New York after a long illness. His legacy includes his many writings and speeches, as well as The Wriston Fellowship at Brown, the Wriston Art Center at Lawrence, and the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy at Wesleyan.