Tufts Fêtes Franklin’s Fletcher


Many people know that The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is the graduate school of international affairs of Tufts University. Indeed, Fletcher claims to be America's oldest graduate school of international relations.

What is less well known is that the school is named for and exists because of the largesse of Austin Barkley Fletcher who was born in Mendon but grew up in and seemed to consider Franklin has his home.

That fact is acknowledged as a part of the current global celebration of the 90th
year of the School. Indeed, someone from Tufts recently contacted the town to verify a few facts about the Fletcher namesake.

A biography of Fletcher, posted on a Hopedale history website summarizes his life, his time in Franklin, and his philanthropies:

Austin Barclay Fletcher (1852-1923) was president of the Tufts board of trustees from 1913 to 1923. His generosity and loyalty to his alma mater led to the establishment of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1933. In the midst of the Great Depression and with the collaboration of Harvard University, The Fletcher School became the first graduate-only school of international affairs in the United States.

Austin Barclay Fletcher was born on March 13, 1852, in Mendon, Massachusetts, to descendants of an early settler of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During his youth, his family moved to Franklin, where his parents had the supervision of the boarding department of Dean Academy. Fletcher entered the Universalist-chartered coeducational preparatory school, considered to be a “feeder” for Tufts College, in 1867. After attending the academy for three years, Fletcher moved on to Wilbraham Academy before matriculating at Tufts in 1872. He obtained a B.A. from the college in 1876 and returned to Dean Academy to teach Oratory. He later taught at Boston University and Brown University. During this time he published two books on the subject of oratory training.

Fletcher continued his studies at Boston University Law School, receiving LL.B. (1879) and M.A. (1880) degrees. Fletcher began practicing law in New York City in 1882, spending the remainder of his life there, and serving as counsel for many large corporations and trustee of several substantial estates. He eventually became president and primary stockholder of the prominent law firm Eppinger and Russell. In January 1882, Fletcher married Hortense M. Follett, who died in 1905.

Active in several organizations, Fletcher served as president of both the New England Society of New York and the National Institution of Social Sciences. He was a trustee of Dean Academy and Boston University and was also president of the Fletcher Family Union, which had 10,000 enrolled members. Fletcher was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Zeta Psi fraternity, and a Templar Knight.

Fletcher delivered the oratory at Tufts’ semi-centennial celebration in 1905. In 1909, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of Tufts College, serving as its president from 1913-23. Through Fletcher’s coordination of bequests and his own generosity, the college received many substantial gifts. His personal friend and client, Henry J. Braker, bestowed $500,000 on the college after visiting campus only once, during the semi-centennial, to hear Fletcher’s speech. The gift was intended to further the study of economics on campus.Fletcher made Tufts the principal beneficiary of his estate, including bequests to establish five endowed professorships in oratory, English, music, philosophy, and public speaking and debate, a bequest to establish a school of law and diplomacy (The Fletcher School), and funds for the construction and maintenance of new buildings. He died July 5, 1923, at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in New York.Fletcher Hall, a residence hall built in 1926, was originally named in honor of Fletcher. In 1991, it was renamed Blakeley Hall.

Franklin was also remembered through the gifit of "Fletcher Field", and a municipal fund for constructing a hospital (the interest from which is now applied to other allied purposes).

Below, an image of the Fletcher monument in the Union Street Cemetery, an image of Fletcher himself, and a facsimile of part of his will...

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