About the Public Affairs Center
The John E. Andrus Center for Public Affairs was organized in 1954-55 under the leadership of the late Professor E.E. Shattschneider. The center houses offices and classrooms for the departments of Economics, Government, History, and Sociology, as well as, the interdisciplinary College of Social Studies.
The administrative structure of the Public Affairs Center consists of a Director, a Governing Board consisting of the chairs of the four PAC departments and the College of Social Studies, and an Administrative Assistant. Besides administering annual prizes to an outstanding undergraduate and a junior faculty member, the Center sponsors lectures by visitors to the University and an interdisciplinary lunchtime seminar featuring Wesleyan faculty members. In addition, the Center seeks and administers outside funding to support visiting speakers, collaborative research and pedagogical innovations in the social sciences.
A notable feature of the Public Affairs Center is that faculty offices are not segmented into departmental blocs, as at most other academic institutions. A sociologist may thus find an economist as his or her neighbor to one side, a historian to the other, and a political scientist across the hall. Brown-bag lunches in the Elmer Schattschneider lounge and informal conversations around the coffee-pots in the kitchen are traditions which carry forward the interdisciplinary design that inspired establishment of the Center.
History of the Center
The John E. Andrus Center for Public Affairs, otherwise known as the Public Affairs Center or simply the PAC, is both a building and an organizational framework for promoting collaboration and other common interests of the social sciences at Wesleyan. The building stands on the site of one of the earliest structures on campus, the Boarding Hall, which was erected as part of Colonel Partridge’s Academy and purchased at auction by Wesleyan in 1833. It was first used as the college commons or dining hall. The Commons Club had a steward who was authorized in 1840 to “occupy his leisure hours” in constructing telescopes, “with a view of ultimately furnishing a large one for the University.” Beginning in 1854, the building was used increasingly as a dormitory. In 1868 a college telescope was installed in the top floor of the Boarding Hall, suitably renamed Observatory Hall. The building continued to be used as a dormitory until it was torn down in 1927. In the meantime a separate observatory had been built on campus which still houses the largest telescope in Connecticut.
A new and larger dormitory, Harriman Hall, was built on the site in 1928, largely due to a gift by Henry Ingraham Harriman ‘95 in memory of his father, Daniel G. Harriman ‘64. The younger Harriman had lived in Observatory Hall for two years of his undergraduate career. A subsequent graduate of the New York University School of Law, he eventually became president of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees. Harriman Hall assumed its present designation in 1954 when Professors Elmer Schattschneider and Kenneth Underwood established the Public Affairs Center as the programmatic nexus for the social sciences at Wesleyan. The Center now comprises of the departments of Economics, Government, History, and Sociology, as well as the interdisciplinary College of Social Studies.
As at most universities, the present disciplinary distinctions within the social sciences emerged gradually at Wesleyan. A department of History and Political Economy was founded in the 1880s. In 1890, Economics became a separate entity while History and Government were combined in a single department, a pairing which persisted until 1935. In 1959 the College of Social Studies, an interdisciplinary program in philosophy, history, government, and economics was founded. The final component of the Center was added with the establishment of the Sociology department in 1967. Funding for the Center was provided by the Surdna foundation, founded by the Andrus family, in memory of John E. Andrus ‘62, for whom the building is now named. Andrus was one of Wesleyan’s leading benefactors, contributing to the library, the football and baseball fields, and North College, a former dormitory which now serves as the primary administration building. He was a Wesleyan trustee from 1889 until his death at age 93 in 1934. John Andrus had an active public career, serving as mayor of Yonkers in 1903 and as a U.S. Congressional representative from 1904 to 1912.