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Records of the Board of Trustees (Group 1)
[5] Records of the Board of Trustees, 1833-1978, 44 l.f.

Administrative History

The Oberlin College Board of Trustees first met on March 10, 1834, a month following the chartering of the Oberlin “Collegiate Institute” by the State of Ohio. Under the 1834 charter, or Act to Incorporate the Oberlin “Collegiate Institute,” 12 persons were authorized to serve on the board of trustees, and the president of the College was made an ex officio member. In 1850, the charter was amended, changing the name of the institution to Oberlin College. The number of trustees increased in 1874 to 18 and in 1878 to 24, with four new trustees elected every year for six-year terms. Trustees are elected by the alumni, the board, and classes of recent graduates. Membership on the governing body of the College was expanded to 28 in 1970.

Article III of the Bylaws of Oberlin College, adopted in 1904, and as amended, authorizes the board of trustees to operate with constituent committees to fulfill its duties in the areas of trustee elections, development, personnel matters, property management, curricular changes, and campus buildings. Several committees and subcommittees—including Buildings and Grounds, Development, and Investment—were instrumental in the architectural developments of Oberlin College.

Scope and Content

The records of the board of trustees consist of the following ten records series: I. Charter and Bylaws (printed), 1903-1966; II. Minutes of Meetings of the Board, 1834-1974 (1834-1964 on microfilm); III. Document Files Supporting the Minutes of the Board, 1833-1968; IV. Prudential Committee Minutes, 1835-1962; V. Executive Committee Minutes, 1928-1967; and records regarding specific administrative committees. Included among the latter are series VI. Budget Committee Records, 1892-1959; VII. Development Committee Records, 1952-1960; VIII. Investment Committee Records, 1892-1973; IX. Presidential Search Committee Records, 1945-1975; and X. Records of Various Committees, 1903-1959.

Architectural records of interest are located in Series VII “Development Committee Records,” and in Series VIII “Investment Committee Records.” Additionally, references to various buildings and to commissioned architects, etc., can be located in the Indexes for the meetings of the board of trustees, 1834-1904, provided that the structure was contracted and/or completed during that period. The voluminous document files supporting the minutes are very useful. Archival materials here vary from color-coded maps of historic Oberlin College buildings, appraisals and estimates for repair and/or replacement of structures and facilities, rudimentary floor plans sketched on real estate appraisal sheets, site plans, and design/floor plans for properties located both at Oberlin College and around the City of Oberlin, Ohio, as well as like records for out-of-town properties (i.e., Canada Safeway stores) owned by Oberlin College.

The Development Committee records, 1958-1960, include a folder maintained by Walter K. Bailey (b. 1897, A.B. 1919), trustee and chairman from the committee’s beginning in 1952. The folder includes information on income and endowment, descriptive summaries of college buildings (the Art Building Library, the Carnegie Library, and the new Conservatory of Music—where the Wright Laboratory/Second Congregational Church in Oberlin once stood—with campus maps), academic building needs, capital needs, and data on growth, maintenance, budgets, and each academic building from Administration to Wright Zoological Laboratory. A statement of policy, found in this series, stipulated use of the budget for maintenance, but outside sources for larger projects. This series also houses architectural plans for the Conservatory of Music, the proposed General Science Building, and the Henry Churchill King Memorial Building/Rice Hall. In the late 1950s, the Development Program sought funds of $6-7 million to improve the physical plant; the last folder in this series documents the development and monetary surveys for these building funds.

Investment Committee records contain information about both local and out-of-town properties acquired by Oberlin College through either purchase or donation. Folders for Carpenter Apartments, the College Park Addition, the Currier house, Ellis Cottage (demolished in 1965), the Moore house, the Swift house, Thompson Cottage, and the Willmott house exist in this series. Included are appraisals, titles, deeds, escrow information, insurance contracts, correspondence and memoranda, real estate descriptions, maps, and floor plans. Income from rental and investment properties is reported in this series.

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