When Connecticut State College
became the University of Connecticut
in 1939, a reorganization occurred which led to the creation
of a number of schools and colleges, including the graduate school.
education was not entirely new - the first master's degree was
awarded in 1920 to Domingo B. Paguirigan, an Asian student from
the Philippines, and during the next two decades, 60 more master's
degrees were awarded by the college.
Nathan Lasalle Whetten, a
professor of rural sociology, was appointed as the first dean
of the graduate school in 1940, replacing George C. White, who
had temporarily taken over following the death of Professor I.G.
Davis. White became dean of the College of Agriculture.
joined the faculty in 1932 as an assistant professor, coming
to Storrs from Harvard, where he earned his doctoral degree and
had been a social science research fellow. Previously he was
an instructor at the University of Minnesota and at Brigham Young
University. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at
Born in 1900, Whetten became an internationally
acclaimed Latin American scholar, publishing Rural Mexico, considered
a classic in its field, in 1948. It was published in Spanish in
1953. A similar study of Guatemala was published in 1960. In
the 1930s he also studied and published bulletins on suburbanization
in Connecticut and the use of recreational lands in the state.
1942 to 1945, during World War II, Whetten was on leave to serve
as a rural sociologist at the American Embassy in Mexico, also
doing research in Central America.
Whetten, who died
in 1984, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, where his parents, moving
from Arizona, operated a cattle ranch. The family moved back
to the United States in 1912 during the Mexican revolution, returning
to Mexico in 1914, where Whetten attended high school in Juarez.
he began his duties as dean in the fall of 1940, Whetten oversaw
offerings of postgraduate education in 18 departments, with courses
taught by 38 members of the faculty. Graduate work was offered
in education, engineering, agricultural economics and farm management,
agronomy, animal diseases, bacteriology, botany, chemistry, dairy
industry, economics, English, foreign languages, forestry and
wildlife, history, physics, pyschology, sociology and zoology.
A total of 128 courses were listed in the catalog that year.
the earliest years of the graduate school, Whetten was familiar
with all the students undertaking graduate study. In delivering
the 1970 graduate commencement address, he noted that at his
first commencement "as graduate dean, in 1941, I handed out master's
diplomas, mostly in agriculture. Mrs. Whetten and I invited the
graduates to our home for dinner - all nine of them - with husbands
or wives where appropriate. Our former president and Mrs. Jorgensen
were there too.
"After the guests left we decided this had been
a fine thing to do and we should make it a tradition. But we
did not visualize entertaining such a group as you!" he told
the graduates in 1970. "There are 1,075 of you getting graduate
degrees this afternoon. More, I am sorry to say, than our dining
room can hold."
It is not known how long the dinner tradition
lasted, but in 1956, while taking stock of the growth of the
graduate program, Whetten noted there were 242 master's degrees
awarded in 1955, as well as 32 doctoral degrees - certainly more
than could fit in the Whetten dining room.
An area of growth
of which Whetten was particularly proud was in the attraction
of international students.
"Our graduate programs have attracted
students from all over the world," he said in 1970. "It is significant
that the first graduate degree awarded went to a foreign student,
a Filipino. And that one of the first three doctoral degrees
went to a student from China."
The first three doctoral degrees
were awarded in 1949 to Tso-Kan Chang in genetics and Rowland
H. Mayor and Samuel Steingiser, both in chemistry.
retired in June 1970, the graduate center - the first permanent
headquarters for the school - had been open for four months.
The trustees voted in November 1971 to name the center for Whetten,
the first time a building was named for a living person.
moved from building to building," said Whetten of the early years.
"From a small office in Beach Hall to the new Home Economics
Building (now the DRM building.
"There were three other headquarters
before we arrived in the graduate center, where there is now
room not only for a graduate dean but for several of them," he
The center, the home of graduate education and research,
has been known for the past 20 years as the Nathan L. Whetten
Mark J. Roy
Sources: Nathan Whetten files, courtesy Tom Peters,
Graduate Education and Research; photos
and additional information, University Archives, Dodd Research