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Records of the Presidential Assistants (Group 3)
Records of the Office of Assistant to the President, 1904-1974

Administrative History

In his 1902 inaugural address President Henry Churchill King outlined his intent to be an “educator” president who would primarily focus on Oberlin’s educational, rather than its administrative, interests. Adhering to this wish, on November 16, 1904, the Office of Assistant to the President was created by act of the trustees. The president’s assistant was not only “to cooperate with the President in strengthening and developing the college on every side,” but also to maintain and enlarge “the friendly and supporting constituency of the college, and [to increase] its material resources.” The assistant to the president was made an ex-officio member of the Prudential Committee, a member of the general faculty with the rank of professor, as well as a member of those committees immersed in the inner life of the campus in general. Thus, the administrative domain of the assistant to the president was broadly formulated. It included fund raising for the college, as well as the oversight and coordination of similar administrative functions such as alumni relations, appointments, buildings and grounds, campus development, divisions and departments, faculty and student committees, and the operations of campus services.

The records of the Office of Assistant to the President cover the period 1904 to 1974 through an aggregation of the papers of five presidential assistants and their tenures in that position: (Charles) Whiting Williams, 1904-1912; William F. Bohn, 1913-1944; Harold S. Wood, 1944-1948; Thomas Edward Harris, 1949-1953; and Bayley F. Mason, 1971-1974.

For the researcher investigating architectural records and related historical materials, the records of the Office of Assistant to the President document the inner workings of campus planning and development. Record series mainly consist of correspondence with architects and contracting firms; historical newspaper and journal articles related to specific college structures and commissioned architects; architectural drawings, floor plans and support materials (contracts, renovation studies and proposals, specifications, etc.) for Oberlin College buildings, both extant and subsequently razed; and the meeting notes, reports and recommendations of specific Oberlin College committees charged with selection of architects, building designs, and the solicitation and determination of project funding sources.

[15] Papers of William F. Bohn, 1910-1953, 20.5 l.f.

Biographical Note

William Frederick Bohn (1878-1947, A.B. 1900, B.D. 1905, A.M. 1908) spent 50 years at Oberlin College, as a student and as an administrator, serving under presidents Henry Churchill King and Ernest Hatch Wilkins. In this capacity, he raised funds for new buildings and scholarships, playing a key role in the Capital Campaign of 1923 and the Living Endowment Union. Active in Oberlin town affairs, he served as president of the Oberlin Village Improvement Society (predecessor to the Oberlin Historical and Improvement Organization), and as a trustee for the First Church in Oberlin. Of particular note was his service as a trustee for the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, on which he was board chairman, 1929-1947. On retirement, Bohn was awarded the tenth Alumni Medal for notable service to Oberlin College.

Scope and Content

The papers of William F. Bohn were re-arranged in 1991 into six series. Of particular interest to researchers are three file units in series I—“Buildings and Grounds,” “Divisions and Departments,” and “Topical”—and Series III “Correspondence.” In the latter the chief correspondent is Oberlin College Architect Cass Gilbert.

Of the architectural records in series I, the most voluminous records are available in the Buildings and Grounds files, 1913-1934. Included are historical newspaper and journal articles related to specific College structures and architects; scattered architectural drawings, floor plans and support materials (contracts, renovation plans, studies and proposals, specifications, etc.) for Oberlin College buildings, both extant and subsequently razed; and the meeting notes, reports and recommendations of specific Oberlin College committees charged with selection of architects, building designs, and the solicitation and determination of project funding sources. Campus structures—either built or proposed—are well documented with clearly noted dates of coverage. These include the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1915-1917; campus landscaping, 1904; the Cox Administration Building, 1913-1914; Crane Swimming Pool, ca. 1930; the Graduate School of Theology, ca. 1917-1920; Hall Auditorium, 1916-1932; the Men’s Gymnasium (Warner), 1931; the Men’s Campus, 1928-1930, to be built west of the Men’s Building (Wilder Hall); Oberlin College dormitories, 1931-1934; Oberlin Inn, 1927-1939; and the Science Building, 1910-1931. Also located within this record series is a miscellany file, which holds correspondence from consulting architects Cass Gilbert (New York), the Olmsted Brothers (Boston), J.L. Silsbee (Chicago), and Charles W. Frank (Akron) for the period 1902-1913, as well as program floor plans, site plans, and photographs regarding campus planning, athletic fields, etc. The most significant materials, which include design and development drawings, site plans, and correspondence, are those files covering construction of the Hall Auditorium, the Men’s Campus, and a proposed Science Building. Approximately 32 drawings, photos, maps, elevations, and other architectural renderings are located in these files and the miscellany file. Divisions and Departments, 1929-1930, holds general materials regarding Carnegie Library, Council Hall’s demolition, and a full outline and proposal for the Graduate School of Theology. All include architectural renderings of the buildings. In topical files are materials relative to the Allen Memorial Hospital, and are represented mainly by bids for specifications and revisions in the construction plans, 1923-1924.

The “Correspondence” series consists of over 110 letters exchanged with College Architect Cass Gilbert (and his son) from the years 1914 to 1934. In illustrating the spectrum of Gilbert’s involvement with Oberlin, the correspondence further documents final construction considerations for the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1915-1918; plans and cost estimations for the Allen Memorial Hospital, 1921-1926; renovations to the Cox Administration Building, 1914; embellishments for Finney Chapel’s rose window, 1919-1930; and development of plans for the Graduate School of Theology building group, 1918-1920. Some discussion exists on other topics, including campus planning; a history of Rockefeller gifts to Oberlin, 1895-1932; and a proposed grandstand for the Athletic Fields, 1920-1930.

[16] Papers of (Charles) Whiting Williams

Biographical Note

(Charles) Whiting Williams (1878-1975, A.B. 1899, M.A. 1909) was born in Shelby, Ohio. He continued his studies at the University of Berlin (1899-1900) and the University of Chicago (1900-1901), serving as Chicago’s director of the Bureau of University Travel from 1901 to 1904. Williams returned to Oberlin to serve as the first assistant to the president from 1904 to 1912 under Henry Churchill King. Among his primary tasks was the raising of money for building and scholarships.

In 1912, Williams left Oberlin. Over the next three decades he was successful in reform and philanthropy movements, serving as the first executive secretary of the Federation of Charity and Philanthropy (now known as the Welfare Federation of Cleveland). Upon entering the private sector in 1917, he legally changed his name to Whiting Williams. After 1919, Williams pursued a career as a consultant in labor-management relations, and spent the greater part of his remaining life researching, speaking and writing on these subjects.

Scope and Content

Architectural records held in the papers of (Charles) Whiting Williams are limited mainly to Williams’ correspondence with architects concerning Oberlin College building projects over the period 1905 to 1912. Documentation includes Williams’ correspondence with New York architect Cass Gilbert, at which time the interior and exterior design, floor plans, and progress of Gilbert’s Finney Chapel, 1905-1908, are detailed, as well as formal proposals for a comprehensive campus plan and a 300-foot clock tower, 1912. The tower became part of Gilbert’s design for the campus and the Graduate School of Theology but was never built. The collection also includes correspondence with the Chicago firm of Patton and Miller, the architects who designed the Carnegie Library, 1908, discussing interior tablet designs and inscriptions (sketch included); correspondence, 1912, related to the construction of Keep Cottage, Normand Patton’s last commission at Oberlin College, built on the site of the Reverend John Keep Home; and correspondence with Chicago architect J.L. Silsbee, 1907-1910, covering plans for additions and renovations for Talcott Hall, as well as communications concerning planning, revisions, development, and construction of the Men’s Building (now called Wilder Hall), completed in 1911.

[17] Papers of Harold S. Wood, 1944-1948, 2 l.f.

Biographical Note

Harold S. Wood (1898-1989, A.B. 1923), unofficially the third assistant to the president (his title was vice-president), received his A.M. from The Ohio State University in 1937. Prior to his administrative appointment at Oberlin in 1944, Wood served in various directorships of athletic programs at both Ohio State and Ohio Wesleyan universities. At Oberlin, Wood worked under Presidents Ernest H. Wilkins and William E. Stevenson. Wood’s duties centered on funds solicitation, mainly for the erection of new dormitories planned at Oberlin after World War II. Wood also served on the Shansi Memorial Association’s Board of Trustees. Wood left Oberlin in June, 1948 to become vice-president at Beloit College.

Scope and Content

The Wood papers consist of four record series. Of special interest are the materials found in Series II “Correspondence” and Series III “Buildings and Grounds.” The majority of materials relative to Oberlin architecture in Series II “Correspondence” almost exclusively feature correspondence with New York architect Eldredge Snyder for the years 1947 to 1948. Subjects covered include design and program phase plans for a new Biology Building, the Botany-Zoology Building, and a women’s dormitory (Fairchild or Harkness), and renovations to the Men’s Building (Wilder Hall). Ten photographs of the presentation drawings for women’s dormitory facilities are also held here. Some documents in this series report on the Hall Auditorium, the Oberlin Inn (which Snyder would eventually be commissioned to design), and renovations for Allen Memorial Hospital through the Federal Hospital Survey and Construction Act of 1946. Especially notable is a June, 1947 Campus Planning Report, which covers Finney Chapel, the Hall Auditorium, Oberlin Inn, the Men’s Gymnasium (Warner), a Student Union, and women’s dormitories. Snyder’s architectural plans for the Oberlin Inn are extant.

Series III “Buildings and Grounds” contains other architectural resources: design and development materials—including an elevation, site plan, and photographs of mock-ups—for a proposed Athletic Field Gate designed by Snyder to serve as a memorial to Oberlin Alumni killed in World War II, 1948-1949; and six presentation drawings from the firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon relative to the proposed Science Building Group, 1946. This set includes renderings of foyers, main floor and exterior designs, and elevations of entranceways, main floor bays, exterior arcades and columns, and a first floor/foyer plan. Also included is the text for a memorial quadrangle and museum addition. Other materials include letters, texts of speeches, and programs for the dedication of Burton Hall, 1947, and planning commission notes, purchasing contracts, and correspondence regarding the construction in the late 1940s of the Jones Field House, named for George M. Jones, then secretary emeritus of Oberlin College.

[18] Papers of Thomas Edward Harris, 1949-1953, 0.8 l.f.

Biographical Note

Thomas Edward Harris (1908-1990, A.B. 1933), a native of New Haven, Connecticut, arrived at Oberlin College in 1942 to serve as secretary to the Oberlin College Alumni Association. After serving in the U.S. Navy for two years, he resumed his post as Alumni Association secretary in 1945. He joined the Prudential Committee that same year, serving until his appointment as assistant to the president in 1949. Although his predecessor Harold S. Wood held the title of vice-president, the position was renamed and reclassified officially as assistant to the president by Oberlin College President William E. Stevenson. The position held the same responsibilities: fund raising for new Oberlin College buildings and scholarships. Harris served as assistant to the president until 1953, when he returned to his previous post as secretary to the Alumni Association.

Scope and Content

The Harris collection of 0.8 l.f. consists of one series entitled “Name Files.” Series I is divided into correspondence and subject files.

Although very limited, some materials of architectural significance are located in this group, specifically correspondence, 1950, from the architectural firm of Eldredge Snyder in box 1 discussing the new Fairchild House, which was built on the site of the old Fairchild and Kellogg houses; materials in box 2 relate to the naming and opening of the Jones Field House, 1949, which includes a photographic rendering of the exterior of the field house and an attached grandstand; and a brochure proposal for a Music Education Library to be located in Rice Hall, n.d. The back cover includes a preliminary floor plan.

[19] Papers of Bayley F. Mason, 1971-1974, 8.3 l.f.

Biographical Note

Bayley Frederick Mason (b. 1929) was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1951. Mason returned to Harvard in 1960 as the assistant manager of its medical school and rose through the ranks to become associate dean of the medical school in 1969. In 1971, Mason accepted the position of administrative vice-president at Oberlin College under President Robert W. Fuller. In building upon the responsibilities of past assistants to the president, Mason soon oversaw the full management of college resources, supervision of administrative operations of the business, development and public relations offices, and coordination of these posts with alumni affairs. In 1974, Mason left Oberlin to assume the post of vice-president of resources at Boston University.

Scope and Content

The papers of Bayley F. Mason, measuring 8.3 l.f., consist of four series: I. Chronological Files of the Office of the Vice-President, II. General Files of the Office of the Vice-President, III. Miscellaneous Files Relating to Associations, and IV. Miscellaneous Files Relating to the Oberlin Community and Community Affairs.

Although the Mason record group covers a short period of time, 1971-1974, it is rich in architectural records. This documentation base, for example, reports on the acceleration in campus planning and the push for the revitalization and renovation of existing campus buildings. The collection also documents the institutional commitment to erect new educational facilities. Of specific interest to architectural researchers are materials located in miscellaneous administrative files of series I and in Series II “General Files.”

The miscellaneous administrative files contain the February, 1973 Campus Master Plan (The Dober Study), subtitled “Academic and Support Facilities at Oberlin College: Use, Conditions, Needs, and Recommendations.” This study provides an analysis of space utilization, an environmental survey, and a study of academic and administrative space needs. Building profiles included are Allen Memorial Art Museum, Bosworth Hall, Carnegie Library, Cox Administration Building, Finney Chapel, Hales Gymnasium, Hall Auditorium, Kettering Hall, King Hall, Peters Hall, Philips Gymnasium, Rice Hall, Severance Hall, Warner Gymnasium, Westervelt Hall, Wilder Hall, and Wright Physics Laboratory. Also located in this section are “A Master Plan for Oberlin College,” a March, 1973 student project which offered renovation and use proposals for aged but historic campus structures (roughly those mentioned above); planning documents for the renovation of Carnegie Library, including ten color-coded floor plans and a flow chart for campus planning and renovation; text copies of detailed historical descriptions written by Professor Geoffrey Blodgett from January/February, 1973, which describe the histories of Finney Chapel, Carnegie, Peters, Severance Chemical Laboratory, and Westervelt halls, with references to their corresponding architects, and building/student use schedules; materials and booklets from the Finney Chapel Renovation Conference, held in February, 1973; a Campus Master Plan study of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, January, 1973, which includes a site plan for facilities, recommendations for physical space use; comments from faculty and departmental administrators regarding the Dober Study and Oberlin Master Plan Group; and a survey of the operations and safety concerns of Oberlin College residence halls.

Series II “General Files” underscores the pre-planning, financial and developmental phase in the consideration of architectural commission appointment for Oberlin College’s largest architectural projects of the 1970s. First, the series documents planning and development for the Houck Computing Center, 1970-1972, and the Mudd Learning Center, 1970-1973, through an aggregation of feasibility studies, cost projections, a chronology of construction schedules, and correspondence from the Mudd Center’s main sponsor, the Mudd Foundation of Los Angeles, California. Among the architectural plans from the firm of Warner, Burns, Toan, and Lundy are five site plans and two photos for Mudd Center landscaping, 1970-1973, as well as a complete Oberlin College site map and campus plan from 1968, creator unknown.

This series also documents the funding, pre-planning, and architect selection process for the Allen Memorial Art Museum addition, 1972-1975. These records contain various architectural firms’ correspondence and proposals, and include over 30 pages of rudimentary floor plans and 8 photographs, as well as the 1972-1973 search committee’s own notes and correspondence. Records pertaining to the Intermuseum Conservation Association, 1973-1974, complement these materials, as do the materials and proposed floor plans and budget projections of the Philadelphia firm of Venturi and Rauch, 1973-1976, the commissioned architects for the museum addition. These records document selection processes, staffing concerns, cost estimates, and the program, schematic, design, development, and construction phases of the museum addition project. Materials also include the original contract for the museum addition and related notes and correspondence, 1972-1975. Moreover, this series also documents Oberlin College finance and business operations, which here includes real estate acquisitions and appraisals, 1971-1974, of a few campus and off-campus structures, most notably the Carnegie Library and the Clarence Ward House. Finally, Physical Plant files for a number of Oberlin College structures—mainly pertaining to maintenance—for the years 1971 to 1974 can be found here. Though limited, these records include renovation proposals and some preliminary drawings for the Conservatory of Music, the Heating Plant, Philips Gymnasium, Warner Gymnasium, Westervelt Hall, Wilder Hall, and the historic brick house located at 145 W. Lorain St., today known as Daub House. The latter building houses conference services and campus dining.

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