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John Martin Thomas, 1908-1921

Identifier: A2.I

Scope and Contents

The John Martin Thomas Presidential series consists of a chronological arrangement of papers and publications,and correspondence spanning Thomas’ entire presidency, 1908-1921.


  • 1908-1921

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restriction.

Biographical / Historical

John Martin Thomas was born in Fort Covington, N.Y., Dec. 27, 1869. He prepared for college in Franklin Academy, Malone, NY, and entered Middlebury College in 1886. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1890, and went on to Union Theological Seminary, 1890-1895. He was ordained to the Presbyterian Ministry in 1893, and continued as a graduate student, 1894-1895. He attended the University of Marburg, Germany in 1903. He was later ordained into the Episcopalian Ministry in 1950 and was Pastor of Arlington Avenue Presbyterian Church, East Orange, N. J., from 1893-1908. He married Sarah Grace Seely, Middlebury College Class of 1891, in 1893, and they had five children. After Seely’s death in 1948, he married Eleanor Sybil Ross, Dean Emerita of Women at Middlebury College, in 1949.

In addition to his B.A., Thomas received an M. A. from Middlebury College in 1893. He received Doctor of Divinity degrees from Middlebury College in 1907, Amherst in 1908, and Dartmouth in 1909; Doctor of Laws from University of Vermont in 1911, Jefferson Medical College in 1922 and Temple University, 1922; and a Doctor of Letters, Norwich University, 1917. He held the Vice Presidency of National Life Insurance Company from 1930-1938. His memberships, contributions to journals, military service, chairmanships, trusteeships and presidencies after Middlebury College are detailed in the General Catalogue of Middlebury College, 1950. Dr. Thomas died in Rutland, VT, on February 28, 1952 at age 82.

As one of Middlebury’s great fundraisers and builders, Thomas was also her first full-time president. During his administration, eight new buildings and 104 acres were added to the campus; enrollment doubled from 203 in 1908 to 447 by 1921; the faculty nearly tripled in size; and the endowment quadrupled. He also expanded the mission of the college, instituting a summer pedagogical program for teachers, ministers and high school and college students, which soon evolved into the summer language program. Securing the 1915 bequest of alumni Trustee, Joseph Battell, was a high point in Thomas’ fundraising accomplishments: it added 30,000 acres of woodland property on Bread Loaf Mountain, as well as the Bread Loaf Inn, to the college’s assets, and ultimately provided the mountain campus for the Bread Loaf School of English and the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Snow Bowl ski area, while revenue from lumber sales provided the means to build Forest Hall.


25.5 Linear Feet (50 document boxes, 2 half document boxes)

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States