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RG 2/9 - Robert Kenneth Carr (1908-1979)
Biography

Robert Kenneth CarrRobert K. Carr (1908-1979), a Cleveland native, received his education at Dartmouth College (A.B. 1929) and Harvard University (A.M. 1930, Ph D. 1935). In 1933 he married Olive Grabill. During his lifetime, Robert Carr was a widely respected academician. He was the recipient of six honorary degrees, including one from Dartmouth College.

From 1931-1937 Carr taught at the University of Oklahoma at Norman. In 1937, he returned to his alma mater, Dartmouth, where he taught in the Department of Political Science (Government) for the next 23 years. During this period Carr produced a prodigious body of work, which earned him a national reputation in the field as a scholar and practitioner of civil liberties. Carr authored three principal books, The Supreme Court and Judicial Review (1942); Federal Protection of Civil Rights (1947); and The House Committee on Un-American Activities (1952); and he co-authored four others, American Democracy in Theory and Practice (1951, 1971); Civil Liberties Under Attack (1953); Foundations of Freedom (1958); and Aspects of Liberty (1958). American Democracy with Marver Bernstein (past President of Brandeis University), was one of the most widely used introductory-level college textbooks in political science and government.

Carr also made a major contribution to the work of the Commission on Civil Rights during the Truman Administration. He served as its executive secretary, and was the principal author of the Federal report entitled To Secure These Rights.

Inaugurated as the ninth president of Oberlin College in 1960, Carr's charge was to restore an academic character to the presidency and direct the process of administrative change on the Oberlin College campus. Over the next decade the physical plant saw impressive growth and modernization in both teaching and dormitory facilities, with 15 new buildings completed. Two national fund-raising efforts—to raise $7.5 million and $6.5 million, respectively—were successfully completed. A capitol gifts campaign followed to raise $15 million for a men's gymnasium (Philips Physical Education Center) and for a central library (Mudd Center). The market value of the endowment increased by approximately 63 percent and the general budget rose from almost $5 million in 1959-60 to almost $11 million in 1969.

At this time, Oberlin lead liberal arts colleges in widening student participation in the process of educational change. Student representatives were given full voting membership in the divisional faculties and general faculty. Students served on nearly all college committees as voting members. Even the Board of Trustees was expanded to include class trustees, one from each of the last three graduation classes to serve three-year terms.

Under a report prepared for the Board of Trustees, which advanced administrative reorganization of the college, new administrative departmental units were created during the "Sixties." New positions created included the following: dean of students, provost, director of financial aid, director of administrative services, personnel officer, and publications director. Functions of other offices were also redefined, transferred, or eliminated (e.g., Office of the Secretary, Business Manager, and the Prudential Committee of the Board of Trustees). One of the major divisional changes was represented by the closing of the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology. It merged with the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University in 1966. Additionally, the Shauffler Division of Christian Education, a part of GST since 1954, was ultimately placed at The Defiance College, Defiance, Ohio.

During the Vietnam years, Carr clashed with students as he tried to provide an "institutional definition of the proper role and tactics of social protest and dissent in the academic community." Ultimately, campus demonstrations over the prolonged war in Southeast Asia, along with the polarization of the college community, prevented Carr from completing his agenda for change. In November 1970, Carr was forced to resign as President of Oberlin College.

Carr subsequently joined the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington, D.C. as executive associate. Previously, he had served as a Trustee (1964-1967) and Research Scholar (1970) for ACE. At the Council,he directed a study of the future of the academic profession. His work resulted in co-authoring a book (with Daniel K. VanEyck) entitled Collective Bargaining Comes to the Campus.

Coming off a very active presidency, Carr also kept himself busy on other fronts in retirement. He was trustee and vice chairman of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1964-70); and a member of the American Political Science Association, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition, he was a member of the Visiting Committee of the Department of Government at Harvard (1965-70), the Advisory Committee on Higher Education of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (1967-68), the Advisory Board of the U.S. Naval Academy (1969-71), and the Board of Massachusetts Maritime Academy (1973-78).

In the spring of 1975, he returned to Oberlin College as Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of Government. He taught two sections of a course on Constitutional Law; and he made use of the swimming pool bearing his name. In retirement, beginning in early 1978, he also served as a consultant to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. For the association, he designed a program to assist academic boards of trustees in evaluating their own procedures, responsibilities and performances.

He was a trustee and vice chairman of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1964-70); and a member of the American Political Science association, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition, he was a member of the Visiting Committee of the Department of Government at Harvard (1965-70), the Advisory Committee on Higher Education of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1967-68), the Advisory Board of the U.S. Naval Academy (1969-71), and the Board of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (1973-78).

Robert K. Carr died in Elyria in 1979 after a grave illness. Olive Grabill Carr, his wife, died in Cleveland on 8 January 2003. She is survived by three sons, Norman, Elliott, and Robert.

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