Henry Chauncey, 97, an early advocate of standardized testing for college admissions who as the first president of the Educational Testing Service had enormous impact on how students are examined for higher education, died Dec. 3 at his home in Shelburne, Vt. The cause of death was not reported.
Mr. Chauncey, a former Harvard University assistant dean and scholarship committee chairman, saw standardized testing as an element in creating a merit-based society instead of one centered on class and privilege.
He and Harvard President James Bryant Conant helped harvest a new generation of scholarship students at Harvard using the SAT, and brought the idea of the multiple-choice aptitude test to other Ivy League schools in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
"His mind, like the minds of his Puritan forebears, was attracted to a blend of purity, order, idealism, and grandeur, which testing seemed to embody," Nicholas Lemann wrote of Mr. Chauncey in the Atlantic Monthly.
His greatest prominence came as president, from 1947 to 1970, of the Educational Testing Service based in Princeton, N.J. He played an important part in developing tests that he believed created educational opportunities for the economically and socially disadvantaged on a worldwide scale. The service administered the SAT, which had been around since 1926.
The Educational Testing Service also oversaw testing programs for the government and helped develop and administer license and credentialing exams for businesses.
The SAT was periodically attacked for being biased against minorities and the poor -- those who tended to live in bad neighborhoods with the worst schools.
Mr. Chauncey disagreed and said the SATs were constantly reviewed for bias. Often missed amid the charges of racism, he said, was a larger debate about the fullness of individual development.
"There are those who think of [the SAT] as a measure of inherited ability," he told the Baltimore Sun in 2000. "That's wrong. It's a measure of developed ability, one component of which is native ability. But it also is affected by the extent to which parents talk to their children when they're young, have good conversations at luncheon time.
"The tests, the programs when they began, were to select people to go to college to get a good education," he added. "But nowadays, we're trying to get practically everybody to go to college because our society's needs require a much larger force of people to have a good college education."
He added that he never took the SAT. "I wasn't going to take a chance," he said.
Mr. Chauncey was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. His father was an Episcopal minister.
Tall and athletic, he played baseball and football at the Groton boarding school in Massachusetts and at Harvard University. He twice turned down invitations to play catcher with the Boston Braves baseball team, and later joked that he was offered his first job, as a teacher at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, after the headmaster saw him throw a masterful touchdown pass at Harvard.
He graduated from Harvard in 1928 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and served as an assistant dean at Harvard from 1929 to 1945.
Standardized testing had been around for several decades, but Mr. Chauncey's interest was not fully piqued until he attended a lecture at Harvard by social scientist William S. Learned of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
The lecture coincided with Conant's arrival at Harvard. Both men wanted to expand Harvard's scholarship program nationwide, and Mr. Chauncey, chairman of the scholarship committee, saw the SAT as the best means to do so.
He took a leave of absence from Harvard in the early 1940s and became chairman of the Army-Navy College Qualifying Tests for the College Entrance Examination Board. His work focused on screening eligible men for the Navy's V-12 program, which offered temporary draft deferments during World War II so they could receive some college training.
In 1945, Mr. Chauncey left Harvard permanently to join the College Entrance Examination Board. In 1947, the College Board, the American Council on Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching merged to form the Educational Testing Service. Conant was a board member of the new organization, and together they worked to mold the new "supertesting" organization.