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Woodrow Wilson Sayre Papers

Call Number: MS143

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the records of Woodrow Wilson Sayre's time as an assistant professor at Tufts University. Most material relates to Sayre's Mount Everest expedition and the controversy of his dismissal from Tufts University in the form of newspaper and magazine clippings and administrative records.


  • Creation: 1958 -- 1978


Language of Materials



This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproduction and Use” on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor possesses have not been transferred to Tufts University.

Biographical / Historical

Woodrow Wilson Sayre, son of Frances Bowes and Jessie Wilson Sayre, was born in 1919 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The grandson of United States President Woodrow Wilson, Sayre attended Williams College and Harvard University before enlisting in the military in 1942. After World War II, he was appointed instructor at Pomona University from 1948-52. From 1952-57, Sayre earned his doctorate in philosophy at Harvard. While enrolled, Sayre gained national attention when he and his friend Norm Hanson climbed Mount McKinley in Alaska in 1954. Upon graduating, Sayre was appointed to the position of Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Tufts University, a position he held from 1957-1964.

In the spring of 1962, Sayre and Hanson were joined by Roger Hart and Hans-Peter Duttle as the four attempted to climb Mount Everest. Their journey was chronicled in Sayre's book 'Four Against Everest' (1964). Sayre then returned to his teaching position at Tufts, but in the fall of 1963, the Philosophy department chose not to renew Sayre's appointment for the next academic year, effectively denying him tenure. Though he was a good teacher, the department and the president concluded that Sayre had not contributed adequately in the area of scholarly publications. This decision sparked a nation-wide debate and many students protested the University's choice, as did faculty from other institutions and the general public. However, Tufts adhered to its required policy of academic scholarship, and Sayre was not granted tenure. He began teaching at Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1965.

Sayre married Edith Warren Chase in 1942. They had two daughters, Jennifer and Martha. After his wife's death in 1985, Sayre married Patricia Faust. Sayre died on September 16, 2002 in Tisbury, Massachusetts.


1.0 Linear Feet


This collection is arranged into two series: Press clippings, 1958-1977; Administrative records, 1961-1978.

Custodial History

Original order and provenance of this collection are unknown. The collection was created as a subject file (Sayre, Woodrow Wilson) by Russell Miller while doing research for his book about Tufts University.

Processing Information

Processed by Laura Cutter, supervised by Susanne Belovari, October 2007.

Processing status

This collection is processed and open for research.

Repository Details

Part of the Tufts Archival Research Center Repository

35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States