Kingman Brewster Jr., a former ambassador to Britain and president of Yale University at the height of student demonstrations on that campus, died Tuesday at the age of 69, the U.S. Embassy in London said.
Brewster, who became master of Oxford University’s University College in 1986, died of a brain hemorrhage at an Oxford hospital, according to Yale spokesman Walter Littell in New Haven, Conn.
Brewster was president of Yale from 1963 to 1977. Former President Jimmy Carter appointed him ambassador to Britain, where he served from 1978 to 1981 when the Reagan Administration took office.
Brewster, at 6 feet and 200 pounds, was an imposing presence on the Yale campus during the turbulent 1960s. He was one of the few major university presidents to survive the era of student protests with his campus subjected not just to anti-Vietnam War demonstrations but black militancy and a series of economic crises.
In 1970, Black Panther Party members were even tried for murder in New Haven, further polarizing the Yale campus.
During his tenure the university admitted more women and minority students and started a school of black studies.
And Brewster himself once led an anti-war demonstration in Washington.
“Kingman Brewster was the pre-eminent university president of his day--a man who stood for equity as well as excellence, change as well as continuity, and understanding as well as courage,” Yale President Benno C. Schmidt Jr. said.
“Yale will ever be a better institution because of his spirited leadership,” Schmidt said.
Born in Longmeadow, Mass., the erudite and witty academician graduated from Yale in 1941 and received a law degree from Harvard University in 1948. He was a professor of law at Harvard from 1950-1960 and Yale provost from 1961 until he was named the school’s president.
During his ambassadorship, Brewster--a descendant of William Brewster who sailed to America on the Mayflower--received 11 honorary degrees from British universities.
In 1985, the fellows of University College, the oldest of the 20 colleges that make up Oxford, elected Brewster to the prestigious post of master, the second American to head the college. The first was A. L. Goodhart, master from 1951-63.
Because of his reputation for fairness, Brewster found himself with an odd avocation late in life; he flew to the United States regularly to arbitrate grievances in the National Basketball Assn.
He was generally praised for his efforts and attributed his success to the fact that “I am totally ignorant of basketball. . . .”
He was an honorary fellow of Clare College at Cambridge University, and in 1978, when he received an honorary doctorate of law at Cambridge, he was described as “a believer in the special relationship of our two nations not only for economic and commercial reasons but because both states depend for their success on having their roots in the same principles and ideology.”
In a 1981 interview with the Associated Press, Brewster said U.S. Presidents ought to be elected for six-year terms instead of four, and congressmen should have three- or four-year terms.
He said U.S. Presidents tend to forget their campaign promises. He recalled urging Carter to drop that kind of promising, but that Carter said, “I can’t talk any other way.”
At Oxford on Tuesday, Gordon Screaton, senior fellow of University College, said of Brewster: “He will be remembered as a great American. He had not been well but he insisted on going to meetings and carrying on as normal. For a man in his health he was probably pushing it too far, but that was typical of his dedication.”