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RG 5 - Office of the Secretary
Administrative History

In 1899 a committee of the Board of Trustees reported that the duties of secretary-treasurer had "long ago exceeded the ability of a single officer." The committee recommended the creation of a new position to handle correspondence and to prepare notices of appointments and degrees conferred, keep records, and distribute catalogs and other publications. The report pointed out that the position need not be considered as entirely new, but that it might be seen as a continuation of the long-vacant Assistant Treasurer's position.

George M. Jones (1870-1948), Oberlin College Class of 1894, an instructor in the math department and manager of the Athletic Association was offered the position of secretary. The Secretary's Office was initially established on a trial basis. At the Board of Trustees Semi-Annual Meeting on June 17, 1901 the appointment was made permanent. Jones served in the position until his retirement in 1938, and his efforts set the tempo for that office for the first 60 years.

The duties of the Secretary's office as constituted in the 1904 By-Laws of the College fell into two categories. First, he served as Secretary for the Board of Trustees (of which he was not a member) and the Prudential Committee (of which he was a member). The secretary also served as clerk or secretary to other groups and committees as circumstances required.

The Secretary attended all meetings of the Board of Trustees and Prudential Committee. Prior to the annual meeting the secretary prepared and distributed written reports showing the proceedings of all of the groups whose records he maintained, and summarizing the activities within the College as a whole, such as numbers of students, faculty, officers, and other staff, courses taught and their enrollment. He also provided advance written notification of all special meetings. Finally, the secretary maintained records of the Board of Trustees and Prudential Committee in bound volumes in his office. He was charged with keeping them "so classified, arranged, and indexed as to be accessible to the Trustees at all times."

The secretary's second area of responsibility centered on outside representation of the College. He corresponded with prospective students and high school officers and served as Chairman of the Committee on Admissions until a director of admissions was appointed in 1928. In addition, he served as chairman of the College Committee for the Distribution of Beneficiary Aid to Young Men. Because the Office of Financial Aid had not been established, the secretary implemented the recommendations of all scholarship committees and maintained detailed financial records on scholarships and loans.

Finally, the Secretary produced annual and quinquennial catalogs of the officers, teachers, employees, and students, statements of courses of study, committee books, student regulations, programs and bulletins for commencement, and any other catalogues, bulletins, or other documents deemed necessary by the president or general faculty. These publishing activities constituted an enormous volume of work. The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary General Catalog (1908), for example, took two years to complete. As the first cumulative volume, it attempted to list everyone who had attended, taught at, or served in the administration of Oberlin College. The catalog required compiling cards and/or files of information for 35,682 individuals. The process was repeated, although listing only graduates, in the years 1916, 1926, 1936, and 1948. The last catalog to come out under the auspices of the Secretary's Office appeared in 1960 and is the most comprehensive.

Under George M. Jones the secretary's duties developed to revolve primarily around keeping the records of the Trustees, Prudential Committee, and General Faculty. He also served as the chief statistician of the college and as historian and steward of the permanently valuable records of the institution until an official archivist was hired in 1966.

Jones was succeeded by Donald M. Love (1894-1974), who served as Secretary from 1938 to 1962. Love graduated from Oberlin College in 1916. He carried out the responsibilities of secretary in much the same tradition as his predecessor, maintaining and perhaps even widening the power and influence of the office. During Love's tenure, the responsibilities of the secretary as set forth in the by laws remained unchanged, although specific duties evolved with the times. By 1955, the secretary became responsible for administrative affairs concerning foreign students.

In 1960, when Robert K. Carr (1908-79) became the ninth president of Oberlin College, changes were advanced in the administration of the institution. With the retirement of Donald Love in 1962 the responsibilities of the secretary were scaled back considerably, with a corresponding reduction in influence for the office. Several functions were transferred from the secretary to other administrators and offices. One major change was the transfer of responsibility for alumni records from the Secretary's Office to the Development Office. Many publishing activities were transferred to the new Director of Publications. Responsibilities previously held by the secretary in the area of scholarships and loans were transferred to the Financial Aid Officer, a member of a new administrative unit headed by the Dean of Students.

The Secretary's Office retained its secretarial functions for the Board of Trustees and the General and College Faculties. The secretary was made an ex officio member of the Graduate School of Theology and the Conservatory Faculties, with secretarial duties for those bodies. The secretary also continued to carry out a multitude of activities relating to trustee and faculty elections, reports and questionnaires, and commencement.

Upon Love's retirement, J. Robert Williams (b. 1916), was appointed Secretary. He served until 1968, overseeing the redistribution of functions and realignment of the Office of the Secretary. When Williams resigned in June 1968, Business Manager L. R. Tower (b. 1904) recommended to President Carr that the Office of the Secretary be abolished and its remaining functions reassigned to the Office of the Treasurer. The Office of Secretary was never abolished, but its power was considerably reduced. From 1970 until 1983 the position was only part-time.

In 1983, S. Frederick Starr (b. 1940) became President of Oberlin College. That year also marked the return of the secretary as a full-time officer of the College. Robert Haslun was appointed to the position after serving as acting secretary and part-time secretary since 1978. In addition to serving as secretary to the Board of Trustees, the three faculties, and numerous committees, the secretary also conducts elections, supervises and plans commencement and other academic celebrations. The secretary also continued to serve as a personal assistant to the President, preparing reports and correspondence, completing questionnaires, and offering general advice and support. In 1985 the secretary assumed responsibility for the Office of Communications, including all public relations and all published communications bearing the name of Oberlin College. In 1987, after a decade-long reporting relationship, the Archivist was placed under the Office of the Provost on the administrative chart.


1899 - 1938 George M. Jones
1938 - 1962 Donald M. Love
1962 - 1968 J. Robert Williams
1968 - 1969 Karl Aughenbaugh, Acting
1969 - 1970 Stanley Ornstein, Acting
1970 - 1974 Stanley Ornstein
1974 - 1978 Carolyn Spatta
1978 - Robert Haslun
Sources Consulted

Trustee minutes, March and June, 1899

Papers of President Robert K. Carr (2/9/1) "Secretary's Office, 1962-1970"

By-Laws of Oberlin College, various years

Report of the Trustee Committee on Administrative Organization, November 11, 1961 ("Gladieux Report")

Various job descriptions for the Secretary's Office

Alumni Records staff files (28/3)

Oberlin College Seal -