Harry Morgan Ayres

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Harry Morgan Ayres

Harry Morgan Ayres (1881 - 1948) was the head of University Extension and the founding head of the School of General Studies.

Ayres was born in Passaic, New Jersey on October 6, 1881, the son of Dr. Morgan Willcox Ayres (who was from Brooklyn). He received his AB from Harvard in 1902, and a PhD in philology from Harvard in 1908. While at Harvard, Ayres was chosen to be Ivy Orator, and was editor of the Harvard Lampoon, and a writer at the Harvard Advocate. The Cambridge Tribune wrote that "Mr. Ayres is one of the most popular men of his class." While Ayres was at Harvard, George Santayana wrote him a postcard indicating that George received a B in a Philosophy 10 class.

Ayres was an associate professor in Columbia's Department of English and Comparative Literature, an authority on Chaucer, and an Italian scholar. He was first named acting director of University Extension in 1942. He became a full professor in his department in 1928.

Ayres was also started an Italian program which eventually became Casa Italiana in 1940. He replaced Giuseppe Prezzolini in 1940 who had the post since 1930.

Ayres was also director of Columbia's Summer Session program in 1939, the time of the World's Fair in which Columbia saw a record number of summer students.

As head of University Extension, on September 1, 1946, Ayres wrote to Acting President Frank D. Fackenthal suggesting that the Extension "should be given the official designation and status of the School of General Studies." Three months later, the trustees acted on his letter and established the School.

Ayres died of a heart attack in 1948 at his home at 200 West 108th Street at the age of 67. He was survived by his wife, Amy Wentworth, a graduate of Smith College, and his children.

Preceded by
Newly created office
Director of the School of General Studies 
1947 - 1948
Succeeded by
Louis M. Hacker


Preceded by
James Egbert
Director of University Extension 
1942 - 1947
Succeeded by
None
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