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RG 2/8 - William E. Stevenson (1900-1985)
Scope and Content

The William Edwards Stevenson Papers, 1926(1946-59)-1961, document the thirteen-year administration of the eighth president of Oberlin College. The bulk of Stevenson's personal papers are contained in Record Group 30/219; however, this collection does include correspondence of a personal nature (1943-60) which was designated by a "P" in the original filing system. Filed with this correspondence are several folders of Stevenson's writings and talks as well as diverse biographical materials.

The records, which consist of correspondence, minutes, appointment books, reports, and printed materials, are divided into five subgroups: I. Administrative Files of the Office of the President, 1943-60; II. Board of Trustees Records, 1928-61;III. Faculties, College Division, Programs, and Administrative Units, 1926-59; IV. Student Life Records; and V. Files of External Organizations. The collection was rearranged in 1991 to accommodate later accessions and to create hierarchical units within the A to Z alphabetical arrangement in order to make possible the creation of a USMARC AMC record. The initial arrangement was comprised of four general series; two of them remain intact: Series 2, Correspondence, now a part of Subgroup I, and Series 3, Personal Files, now integrated into Subgroup I, Series 7. The subgroups reflect the administrative relationships within the Stevenson administration, and the records themselves document areas of administrative oversight and implementation of institutional policies. Within subgroups, the papers are subdivided into series alphabetically arranged to reflect internal hierarchies; thereunder papers are arranged alphabetically or chronologically.

Both in terms of quantity and quality, the records of Subgroup I, Administrative Files of the Office of the President, are the most significant. Files relating to the operation of the office include appointment books, budgetary records, name files, and records of Stevenson's outside representation of Oberlin College. Series 4, Subgroup I, Administrative Correspondence, 1946-59, consists of nearly thirty-five percent of the collection. In addition to the usual correspondence relating to administrative matters, documentation exists of broader issues such as academic freedom, higher education, and international academic exchange. Evidence of Stevenson's numerous business and philanthropic affiliations is provided in Series 7, Personal Files. Included is correspondence with the New York law firm of Debevoise Plimpton and McLean and correspondence relating to Stevenson's service as a trustee at Phillips Academy and Princeton University. Files document Stevenson's work as Director of the Commonwealth Fund of New York, beginning in 1934, and his close involvement with numerous other charitable organizations. The subject files of Series 8, especially those relating to foreign visitors and Hungarian student refugees (1956-57), report on Stevenson's role in bringing foreign students to this country following World War II.

Remaining subgroups are comprised of the President's working files. The records of the Board of Trustees (1928-61), Subgroup II, by no means as comprehensive as those of Record Group 1, Records of the Board of Trustees of Oberlin College, reflect the initiatives undertaken by the Board during the Stevenson administration. Board of Trustee Committee files (1928-61) document the trustees' leadership in the areas of new building construction, staff appointments, trustee-faculty relations, and honorary degree nominations. Records of the Trustee-Faculty Conference Committee (1945-49) illuminate a dispute between the two bodies. Trustee meeting minutes, while mingled with related documentation, are consecutive (1946-59) except for the period 1955-56. Of particular importance for tracing the history of Oberlin's administrative structure and financial position are the reports commissioned by President Stevenson and presented to the Board of Trustees by the consulting firms of Arthur Andersen (1954-58) and Cresap, McCormick, and Paget (1950-59). These reports provided the basis for the recommendations made by Bernard Gladieux in the 1961 "Report of the Trustee Committee on Administrative Organization," and carried out by the Robert Kenneth Carr administration.

Of the record series in Subgroup III, Faculties, College Divisions, Programs, and Administrative Units, Series 3, Academic Departments and Programs is the least well documented. Departmental records exist only for the Speech and Art Departments, despite the fact that Stevenson was instrumental in returning the Department of Religion to the College of Arts and Sciences and in adding East Asian and Judaic studies to the liberal arts curriculum. Files in Series 1, Faculties, are also thin. College Faculty Council minutes exist only for the period 1954-59. Salary and Benefits Files are mainly useful for establishing faculty retirement policies and for comparing Oberlin salaries with those offered at comparable institutions. The most important series of Subgroup III is Series 4, Administrative Units, which includes extensive materials on various construction projects completed by Stevenson, including Hall Auditorium (1943-55), cooperative student housing (1950-55), and women's dormitories (1945-55). Files for the Development Office (1934-59), housed in Series 4, Administrative Units, include a run of Stevenson's letters to donors (1953-55).

Subgroup IV, Student Life Records, contains materials relating to commencement arrangements and to student activities, organizations, and assemblies. Files document the selection, scheduling, and accommodation of speakers and performers. Related materials concerning campus visitors are housed in Subgroup I, Series 5, Name Files.

Subgroup V includes the files of national, state, regional, and local groups with which Stevenson was affiliated by virtue of his post at Oberlin. The majority of the files document his involvement with national organizations devoted to the causes of higher education, academic research, foreign relations, and philanthropy, particularly the Institute of International Education (1946-57). Files of state organizations, notably the Ohio College Association and the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges document Stevenson's involvement in the field of education administration in Ohio.

Subgroup I. Administrative Files of the Office of the President

    Series 1. Appointment Books
    Series 2. Budgetary Records
    Series 3. Records of the Celebration of 125th Anniversary of Founding of Oberlin College
    Series 4. Correspondence
    Series 5. Name Files
    Series 6. Outside Representation
    Series 7. Personal Files
    Series 8. Subject Files

Subgroup II. Board of Trustees Records

    Series 1. Board of Trustees Committee Files
    Series 2. Minutes and Records of Board of Trustees Meetings
    Series 3. Reports of Consultants
    Series 4. Trustee Name Files

Subgroup III. Faculties, College Divisions, Programs, and Administrative Units

    Series 1. Faculties
    Series 2. College Divisions
    Series 3. Academic Departments and Programs
    Series 4. Administrative Units

Subgroup IV. Student Life Records

    Series 1. Commencement Files
    Series 2. Conferences and Assemblies
    Series 3. Student Organizations
    Series 4. Subject Files

Subgroup V. Files of External Organizations

    Series 1. National Organizations
    Series 2. State Organizations
    Series 3. Regional and Local Organizations
Series Descriptions

Subgroup I. Administrative Files of the Office of the President, 1943-60 (23.4 l.f.)

These files document the administration of the Office of the President as well as the activities of President Stevenson in his executive capacity. Records are divided into the following series: 1. Appointment Books, 2. Budgetary Records, 3. Records of the Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Founding of Oberlin College, 4. Correspondence, 5. Name Files, 6. Outside Representation, 7. Personal File, and 8. Subject Files.

    Series 1. Appointment Books, 1947-1960 (.4 l.f.)

    Maintained by Stevenson and his administrative secretary, these volumes contain brief entries regarding scheduled appointments and appearances. Typical entries include last names and times. Nineteen volumes are chronologically arranged.

    Series 2. Budgetary Records, 1946-1958 (.2 l.f.)

    These files, consisting of records from various academic departments and the Board of Trustees Budget Committee, document Stevenson's role as budget administrator. Included are budget estimates, changes in tuition, investment assets, and the administrative costs of the Office of the President. The series is chronologically arranged.

    Series 3. Records of the Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Founding of Oberlin College, 1957-59 (1.2 l.f.)

    Records documenting the planning and implementation of the 125th anniversary celebration in October 1958 of the founding of Oberlin College. Materials include financial account statements, planning committee minutes, letters of regret, copies of speeches and presentations made during the event, and correspondence relating to the 1959 memorial book published for the occasion, Addresses at the Anniversary Convocation at Oberlin College. These records were kept jointly with the Office of the Secretary and the Office of the President and are alphabetically arranged.

    Series 4. Correspondence, 1946-59 (9.2 l.f.)

    Represents the bulk of President Stevenson's administrative correspondence, both incoming and outgoing. The correspondents include both professional and private firms and individuals as well as Oberlin officials. Topics include academic freedom, staff benefits, student regulations, and requests for appearances. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically and includes cross-references. (For personal correspondence, see Series 7.)

    Series 5. Name Files, 1946-59 (4.55 l.f.)

    Consists of records arranged alphabetically by name of individual. Name files of faculty, staff, and college trustees have been segregated and are to be found in Subgroup II (Trustees' Name File, Series 4) and in Subgroup III (Faculty/Staff Name File, Series 1). The name files include incoming and outgoing correspondence and related documentation pertaining to institutional as well as non-institutional issues. Key name files include: Arthur Vining Davis, Ralph Ellsworth (Class of 1929), Robert Maynard Hutchins (Class of 1919), Seabury Mastick, Paul Robeson, Carl Rowan (Class of 1947), Mary Church Terrell (Class of 1884), and Thornton N. Wilder (Honorary Degree 1952).

    Series 6. Outside Representation, 1946-59 (.8 l.f.)

    Documents President Stevenson's role in the official outside representation of the College. Items include invitations to speak, programs, correspondence, and protocol for outside representation. Files are arranged chronologically.

    Series 7. Personal File, 1943-60 (4.6 l.f.)

    Consists primarily of correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, which was segregated from the regular correspondence and designated by a "P" in the original filing system. Included is correspondence from individuals as well as from organizations to which Stevenson voluntarily belonged such as the Commonwealth Fund, Cooper-Bessemer Corporation, and the Boy Scouts of America. The series also contains biographical information, materials from Stevenson's inauguration ceremony, as well as several files of his writings and talks.

    Series 8. Subject Files, 1946-59 (2.45 l.f.)

    Alphabetically arranged by subject, these files include correspondence and printed materials relating to such topics as the 1949 inquiry into college textbooks by the Committee on Un-American Activities; foreign visitors to Oberlin; and efforts by Oberlin and the U.S. government to aid Hungarian student refugees in 1956 and 1957. Also included are two files relating to Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Subgroup II. Board of Trustees Records, 1946-61 (3.65 l.f.)

The records of the Board of Trustees are arranged into four series: 1. Board of Trustees Committees, 2. Minutes and Records, 3. Reports of Consultants, and 4. Trustee Name Files. (A fuller treatment of Board of Trustees affairs can be found in Record Group 1 of the Oberlin College Archives.)

    Series 1. Board of Trustees Committee Files, 1946-61 (1.4 l.f.)

    Includes committee meeting minutes for six standing committees of the Board and several of their subcommittees. The Honorary Degree Committee files (1946-61) include correspondence relating to the nomination and selection of honorary degree recipients and texts of faculty presentation statements. Also filed here are the minutes of the 1959 Board meeting at which Bernard Gladieux's report on the organization of the college was discussed. Materials are alphabetically arranged by committee name.

    Series 2. Minutes and Records of Board of Trustees Meetings, 1946-54 (.6 l.f.)

    Filed here are original and carbon copies of minutes of Board of Trustee meetings. Accompanying the minutes are telegrams and correspondence from trustees and from President Stevenson as well as completed R.S.V.P. forms, data sheets, and charts. Files are chronologically arranged.

    Series 3. Reports of Consultants, 1950-59 (.4 l.f.)

    Includes the final reports on the administrative organization of Oberlin College submitted to the Board by the consulting firms of Arthur Andersen and Cresap, McCormick, and Paget. Files are alphabetically arranged by consultant.

    Series 4. Trustee Name Files, 1946-59 (1.25 l.f.)

    Includes incoming correspondence from trustees and file copies outgoing correspondence from Stevenson relating to scheduling of Board meetings and trustee business. Filed with correspondence is supplementary printed material. Records are arranged alphabetically by trustee name.

Subgroup III. Faculties, College Divisions, Programs, and Administrative Units, 1945-59 (12.65 l.f.)

The record series in Subgroup III include the President's file copies of materials relating to the activities of the college faculty and to the operation of college divisions, departments, academic programs, and various administrative units. The group is divided into four record series: 1. Faculties, 2. College Divisions, 3. Academic Departments and Programs, and 4. Administrative Units.

    Series 1. Faculties, 1946-59 (3.65 l.f.)

    The series is arranged into the following subseries: 1. College Faculty Council and General Faculty, 2. Faculty Committee Files, 3. Faculty Name Files, and 4. Salary and Benefits. Subseries 1 includes minutes of both General Faculty and Faculty Council meetings chronologically arranged. Faculty Committee Files are arranged alphabetically by committee and include records of several faculty committees including the faculty Buildings Committee and the Educational Plans and Policies Committee. Salary and Benefit files consist of salary schedules and general information relating to faculty retirement and pension plans. Included within the alphabetically arranged Name Files is correspondence from Stevenson to faculty members relating largely to administrative matters.

    Series 2. College Divisions, 1946-59 (1.4 l.f.)

    Comprised of three subseries alphabetically arranged: 1. College of Arts and Sciences, 2. Conservatory of Music, 3. Graduate School of Theology. Subseries 1 includes materials relating to Dean Blair Stewart's 1956 plan to double the size of Oberlin as well as a 1957 report on the Humanities Division. Several files document the 1948-49 search for Dean of the College of Arts and Science. Conservatory and Graduate School of Theology records consist mainly of correspondence relating to personnel searches. Files documenting the 1954 merger of the Schauffler College of Religious and Social Work with the seminary are filed with Graduate School of Theology records.

    Series 3. Academic Departments and Programs, 1945-59 (1.2 l.f.)

    Files are arranged alphabetically by department or program name and chronologically thereunder. The bulk of the files document the Oberlin-in-China/Shansi program and the R.O.T.C. Army, Navy, and Air Force programs. Files of Oberlin-in-China include Director's reports to the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee meeting minutes.

    Series 4. Administrative Units, 1946-59 (6.4 l.f.)

    These files are alphabetically arranged by administrative unit and chronologically thereunder. The bulk of the files consists of the records of the Alumni Association (1946-59), Buildings and Grounds (1928-59), and Development Office (1934-59).Alumni Association records include the President's copies of the minutes of Alumni Association meetings and related correspondence. Buildings and Grounds files contain correspondence with several architects and construction firms as well as files relating to individual buildings, with the construction of Hall Auditorium (1943-55) extensively documented. Development files consist mainly of Stevenson's outgoing letters to donors and the files of numerous named scholarships, funds, and gifts.

Subgroup IV. Student Life Records, 1947-60 (2.6 l.f.)

Student Life Records are of a miscellaneous nature and document both student-sponsored activities and official events and performances held primarily for the benefit of students. Such events included college vespers and chapel services. The records are arranged alphabetically into four series: 1. Commencement Files, 2. Conferences and Assemblies, 3. Student Organizations, and 4. Subject Files.

    Series 1. Commencement Files, 1947-59 (.4 l.f.)

    Consists of R.S.V.P. forms, file copies of correspondence from Stevenson to faculty and to honorary degree recipients as well as original correspondence from honorary degree nominees, including Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan (1956). Also filed here are originals of faculty presentation statements for honorary degree recipients and printed materials. Files are chronologically arranged.

    Series 2. Conferences and Assemblies, 1946-59 (.8 l.f.)

    Files include correspondence relating to student participation in various conferences held at Oberlin. Assembly files include lists of assembly speakers from 1936-37 forward, printed materials, and correspondence relating to the organization of special noon and Christmas assemblies, musical and dramatic performances, symposia, lectures, poetry readings, and vespers services. Correspondents include Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). Conference files are alphabetically arranged by conference name; assembly files are chronologically arranged.

    Series 3. Student Organizations, 1946-59 (1.2 l.f.)

    Includes miscellaneous correspondence, clippings, and programs relating to the funding and administration of several student-run organizations, including the Oberlin College Gilbert & Sullivan Players on the Cape (1956-59), HI-O-HI (the College yearbook), Phi Beta Kappa, the Student Council, and the Y.M. and Y.W.C.A. Files are arranged alphabetically by organization and chronologically thereunder.

    Series 4. Subject Files, 1947-60 (.2 l.f.)

    Includes files of a miscellaneous nature alphabetically arranged relating to various aspects of student life, including football and a mock crucifixion (1952-57).

Subgroup V. Files of External Organizations, 1944-61 (4.4 l.f.)

These files are divided into the following subseries: 1. National, 2. State, 3. Regional and Local. Within each subseries, materials are alphabetically arranged by organization name. Included here are correspondence, questionnaires, and printed materials documenting Stevenson's association with numerous academic, governmental, civic, and local groups, either by invitation to speak, become a member, or to engage in committee work for the organization.

    Series 1. National Organizations, 1944-59 (3.2 l.f.)

    Files include the American Council on Education, for which Stevenson served on various subcommittees and commissions; the Association of American Colleges; the College Entrance Exam Board; and the Institute for International Education, for which Stevenson served as a trustee.

    Series 2. State Organizations, 1946-59 (1 l.f.)

    Files include conference programs, file copies of Stevenson's correspondence, and official correspondence from state organizations such as the Ohio College Association and the Ohio Committee of Independent Voters.

    Series 3. Regional and Local Organizations, 1947-61 (.2 l.f.)

    The series contains a small amount of material relating to Northeast Ohio and Cleveland-based groups with which Stevenson had contact. Groups include the Cleveland Council on World Affairs and the Oberlin Golf Club.


The presidential papers of William Edwards Stevenson were received in six transfer accessions from the Office of the President between 1971 and 1988. The majority of the papers arrived in accession 138 in 1971 and comprised nearly 40 feet of material. In 2003, two files (correspondence and farewell party) were received from Lafayette College.

Related Materials

For material related to the presidency of William Edwards Stevenson, the researcher is advised to consult the following collections in the Oberlin College Archives: Records of the Oberlin College Board of Trustees (RG 1); Presidential Papers of Robert Kenneth Carr (RG 2/9); Presidential Assistant Harold Sanford Wood (RG 3/3); Office of the Secretary (RG 5); Office of Business and Finance (RG 6); College of Arts and Science (RG 9); Public Relations Department (RG 18); Presidents Series in Alumni Records (RG 28). Bound Annual Reports in College General (RG 0) include the annual report of the President as well as reports from academic divisions, departments and programs.

Papers relating to William Edwards Stevenson and his wife Eleanor Bumstead Stevenson can be found in the Stevenson personal papers collection (RG 30/219). This collection documents his career prior to and following his tenure at Oberlin. Included in the collection are many artifacts and memorabilia.

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