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A work that can truly be described as an underground masterpiece, Sears' Philanthropy in the History of American Higher Education was written as a dissertation seventy years ago, and subsequently published as a "Bulletin" by the United States Bureau of Education in 1922. It has been much spoken of and little read since then. As Roger L. Geiger points out in his new opening essay, this volume can still be read with wide interest and great profit. This is a tribute to the quality of mind and diligence of its author.
The special quality of this volume is its close connection of educational philosophies of the past linked firmly to the educational philanthropies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The scope of coverage is broad-ranging: from the great universities to the manual labor colleges. But it is more than quantitative research that the reader will find. For Sears, from start to finish, while appreciating the benefits which foundations bestow, fully appreciated the continuing risks of such outside support.
For Sears, the overwhelming impulse of philanthropy has been the encouragement of the public good, or at least the support of a healthy notoriety for the donors and recipients alike. But he also notes that a democratic society must never be expected to take massive gifts on faith. He urged that even a "grain of danger" should be weeded out if it carries with it the potential for the bias and special interest.
This edition is graced by a fine essay that gives a deep background to the life and work of Jesse Brundage Sears. It covers his origins in rural Missouri, his move to Stanford University and work for Ellwood P. Cubberly, and his later work on the history of philanthropy. For individuals interested in the history of education, the structure of financing higher education, and the data on which social policy has been made, this will be indispensable reading.
Roger L. Geiger, author of the recently published work, To Advance Knowledge: The Growth of American Research Universities, 1900-1940 and other works in education at The Pennsylvania State University. This volume is the twelfth volume in the Transaction Studies in Philanthropy and Society edited by Richard Magat of The Foundation Center.