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About the Aydelotte Foundation

James Lovelace

James Lovelace ’79 (center) discussed his Swarthmore experience with students.


Swarthmore College's capacity to advance liberal arts education received a major boost with a $5 million commitment in February 2014 from James '79 and Anahita Naficy Lovelace to endow the Frank Aydelotte Foundation for the Advancement of the Liberal Arts. At a time when critics around the nation have alleged that liberal arts education is too impractical, the Foundation will highlight the benefits of the liberal arts both for individuals and for thriving democratic societies.

The Lovelaces' contribution honors both the memory and the lasting influence of the College's seventh president, Frank Aydelotte, who served from 1921-1940. Although Aydelotte is best known for launching the College's hallmark Honors Program, his ultimate goal was to advocate for the centrality of the liberal arts in education, and the Honors Program was part of this effort. In the spirit of its namesake, the newly endowed Foundation will nurture and support the dynamic intellectual community of Swarthmore College.


Frank Aydelotte 

Frank Aydelotte's nearly 20-year tenure as president is best remembered for the Honors Program he introduced in 1922. At its inception, it provided an experience that was otherwise unknown in American undergraduate education: a rigorous intellectual experience in which qualified upperclassmen studied subjects in small groups, without grades, for two years until evaluated by outside scholars in a series of written and oral examinations.

Aydelotte had benefited from similar training as one of the first Rhodes Scholars. Believing that the Oxford University honors system could be applied to a small college in the U.S., he saw Swarthmore as the perfect place to do so. The program's success was due in large part to his emphasis on raising the intellectual level of the College as a whole - hiring faculty who were experts in their field, reducing the student/faculty ratio, and making admission to the College more competitive. His cooperative administrative style and the mutual respect he shared with the faculty were also critical to his success in implementing sweeping curricular changes.