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Records of the Office of the Secretary (Group 5)
[13] Records of the Office of the Secretary, 1860-1973, 86 ft.

Administrative History

In l899 a committee of the board of trustees reported that the duties of the secretary-treasurer had “long ago exceeded the ability of a single officer.” Because the secretary’s correspondence could no longer be handled in a piecemeal fashion, and because the treasurer needed to devote full attention to managing investments and property, 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. Some persons considered hiring a woman as assistant secretary to the secretary-treasurer if “a suitable lady could be found to do the work for less compensation.” However, the committee’s desire to have the secretary serve as an outside representative of the College and to do “broader work” led them to appoint George M. Jones (1870-1948).

The duties of the Office of the Secretary, as constituted in the 1904 Bylaws 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), and as clerk or secretary of various College groups, including the General and College faculties. In these capacities, the secretary kept records of members present and proceedings of all meetings, and he supervised all faculty and trustee elections. The second area of responsibility was external affairs or public relations. He corresponded with prospective students and high school officers and operated an employment service for seniors and graduates looking for teaching positions. The secretary also implemented the recommendations of all scholarship committees, maintained detailed financial records on scholarships and loans, and oversaw the publications of catalogs, bulletins, and other documents deemed necessary by the president or General Faculty.

Under George Jones the secretaryship came to revolve primarily around two functions—keeping the records of the trustees, Prudential Committee, and General Faculty, and serving as chief historian/statistician of the College. The Office of the Secretary became a powerful and influential unit within the institution. Jones was succeeded by Donald M. Love (1894-1974), who served as secretary from 1938 to 1962. Love 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 bylaws remained unchanged, although specific duties evolved with the times. By 1955, the secretary became responsible for administrative affairs concerning foreign students.

In 1960 Robert K. Carr (1908-1979) assumed the presidency of Oberlin College. His tenure was marked by major administrative changes. With the retirement of Donald Love, the responsibilities of the secretary were scaled back considerably, with a corresponding reduction in the office’s influence. The secretary’s office retained its responsibility for the permanent records of the institution, as well as its secretarial functions for the board of trustees and the General and College faculties . The secretary was 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, reporting and questionnaires, and commencement. During the 1960s and 1970s five different individuals held the secretary’s position. From 1970 until 1983 the position was only part-time. With the presidency of S. Frederick Starr(b.1940), the secretary returned as a full-time officer of the College. In addition to serving as secretary to the board of trustees, the three faculties, and numerous committees, the secretary was is now responsible for conducting elections, supervising and planning commencement and other academic celebrations, and maintaining official College records. As assistant to the president, the secretary prepares reports and correspondence, completes questionnaires, and offers general advice and support.

Scope and Content

The records of the Office of the Secretary, which are organized as a general file, document the activities of the secretary and other College divisions and departments. The annual reports of the secretary, the faculty, and the administration address various women’s concerns, including dancing, smoking, and the YWCA. Some of the annual reports are written by women, including zoology Professor Hope Hibbard and Dean Florence Fitch. The financial records of the College contain information about the charges for and costs of women’s activities and tuition. The College’s response over the years to tuition remission for faculty children and spouses is also documented. Among the records of the office are various statistical files concerning women, including lists of foreign students, immigrants, and enrollment figures. The secretary maintained salary statistics and a list of all college employees (including their sex and employment status ). Among the transcripts of assembly speeches and other talks are addresses given by women and concerning women’s issues. Questionnaires provide reminiscences of alumni of their years at Oberlin. The records of the Office of the Secretary also contains copies of publications by Oberlin faculty members, including articles written for the centennial celebration of coeducation.

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