Mather, Jean Paul
President, UMass: 1954-1960
Jean Paul Mather was the youngest president in his era to lead a land-grant university. Born in Del Norte, Colo., on Dec. 11, 1914, the child of educators John B. and Leona Mather, Mather studied at the Colorado School of Mines and University of Denver before pursuing graduate work in economics at the University of Chicago in 1939. After teaching economics at the Colorado School of Mines from 1938 to 1943, he entered the Navy as an ensign attached to the V-12 training program and later as Flag Lieutenant to Rear Admiral James Holloway.
With the war's end, Mather resumed his career in education, returning to Colorado to teach at the University of Denver, completing an MBA there in 1948, and then lecturing in statistics and accounting at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton for three years.
Mather arrived at UMass in 1953 as Provost, but was promoted to the Presidency in the following year at the age of 39. During his tenure, the university embarked on an ambitious course of expansion, involving major academic restructuring. In his inaugural speech, Mather called for increasing enrollment to 10,000 within a decade to accommodate “a tidal wave of youngsters coming up through the elementary and secondary schools of Massachusetts.” He oversaw the formation of the College of Arts and Sciences from the merger of the School of Science and School of Art, the development of the Schools of Education and Nursing, and the formation of the Faculty Senate. The physical environment of campus evolved nearly as rapidly, with the addition of new buildings including the Morrill Science Center, Bartlett and Machmer Halls, and the Student Union, as well as renovation of the Durfee Conservatory.
Mather struggled with state officials to gain fiscal and administrative autonomy for the University. Through intense lobbying efforts, he won approval of a “freedom bill” in 1956 that granted the university authority to hire new faculty and staff without state approval. His efforts resulted too in passage of an $11 million dollar bond for the construction of new dormitories and $26 million in appropriations for new classrooms and equipment. By 1959, enrollment rose from approximately 4,000 to 6,000 students. Mather's work is credited with building a foundation for the academic strength of the University.
Mather left UMass in 1960 to assume the Presidency of the American College Testing Program. He later oversaw the Purdue University Research Foundation (1962-1965), was President of the University City Science Center in Philadelphia (1964-1969), and was head of the mineral economic department at the Colorado School of Mines (1969-1980).
He has received honorary degrees from American International College, Amherst College, Northeastern University, The University of Rhode Island, Hokkaido University of Japan, Lowell Tech, and Lesley College.
Mather died on June 21, 2007 and is buried in the Wildwood Cemtery in Amherst.
- Cary, H. (1962). The University of Massachusetts: A History of 100 Years. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.