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Charles Seymour, Autobiographical Notes, December/January 1907-1908.
Seymour Family Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Thomas Ginakakis 09, Charles Seymour on Experts and Education

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Before becoming President of Yale University, Charles Seymour (1885-1963) would lead a life of service to both country and Yale. After growing up in New Haven and attending Yale ('08, Ph.D '11), Seymour became a distinguished scholar and professor of European History. In his brief professional career in diplomacy, Seymour learned the limits of applying scholarship to the politics of his time. This experience would shape his approach towards higher education.

Seymour was a reflective individual from an early age, keeping meticulous notes on his daily life, personal thoughts, academic career, and travels. Many of his personal traits and beliefs that surfaced during his professional career with the Department of State and at Yale can be seen early on. His early autobiographical notes from his final year of study at Yale - a page of which is displayed here- discuss his reluctance to follow the advice of others, possibly a characteristic later reflected is his contempt for so called "experts" in universities and the public sphere. He also discusses his numerous educational trips abroad and how "they opened his eyes", allowing him to understand the beauty of a liberal education and the importance of a strong community at a university.

In his autobiographical notes on his earliest childhood memories, Seymour recalls growing up in New Haven and going to the Yale chapel every Sunday. He said it served as a social gathering, "creating an espirit de corps", that brought students together outside of the classroom and their studies. This idea of a close-knit community would help shape his philosophy towards a university's structure and purpose later in life.