Life at Yale During the Great Depression

By 1940 the Great Depression was over. But its legacy, combining with war clouds, war itself, and the difficulties of postwar adjustment, held the university back for another decade. President Seymour, about to retire in 1950, admitted, “I have been holding on the three-yard line.”

The next president was A. Whitney Griswold, the young man who had gone to Wall Street in 1929, failed to make a fortune, and returned to Yale. He served until 1963 and enjoyed an era of great prosperity. He would triple Yale's endowment and add more than two dozen new buildings, including works by great contemporary architects. But he was not tempted to overconfidence. In 1951, he looked back on 1929, the year of his commencement, and deplored the “romanticism” of that era: “We were graduated into the greatest economic depression in history . . . with assurances that poverty was about to be banished from the earth.”   

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