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Identifier: R-MC 025

Rutgers Oral History Archives Program Interview Transcripts


  • 1994 - [ongoing]


Transcripts of oral history interviews with alumni and alumnae of Rutgers College and Douglass College, concentrating on their early life, education, World War II, and post-war professional, vocational, and personal life of Rutgers alumni. Also includes transcripts of interviews with several Non-Rutgers affiliated individuals.


42 manuscript boxes (13.86 cubic feet)

Language of Materials


Administrative History of the Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II

The fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War sparked a growing realization among both scholars and the public alike that a generation is in danger of disappearing from historical memory. Americans who came of age during the Great Depression and then went on to confront the twin threats of German fascism and Japanese militarism are now in their seventies and eighties. If we do not act immediately and record their oral memoirs and stories, we will forever prevent their experiences from becoming part of the historical record of this vital era.

On July 1, 1994, the Department of History at Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey established the Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II with an initial gift of $100,000 from the Rutgers College Class of 1942. Under the direction of Professor G. Kurt Piehler, this archive records the personal experiences of the men and women who served on the homefront and overseas. The goals of the project are multifaceted and include:

  1. Conducting in-depth interviews of individuals who lived through the Second World War II beginning with an initial target group of Rutgers College alumni and Douglass College alumnae (formally, New Jersey College for Women).
  2. Preserving the original interview tapes and edited transcripts in Rutgers Special Collection and University Archives at Alexander Library in New Brunswick. Alexander Library is the central research library for the humanities and social sciences in the Rutgers system.
  3. Encouraging individuals from the World War II era to make their personal papers and memorabilia available to scholars and the public by donating them to the Oral History Archives or to another appropriate institution.
  4. Disseminating the oral memoirs and other materials collected by the project to both the academic community and the general public through books, radio and television documentaries, and museum and library exhibits.
  5. Actively involving undergraduate students in the interviewing process, and the use of thematerial as well as fostering intergenerational bonds between them and the World War II generation.
  6. Offering other academic institutions a model project that demonstrates how alumni can be encouraged to take a greater part in the life of a university on all levels.
  7. Collaborating with other institutions to record the oral histories of other groups of men and women who came of age during the 1930s and 1940s.

There are a number of general oral histories of World War II, but the Rutgers project has focused initially on a target group of college educated men who attended Rutgers College and women who attended the New Jersey College for Women. We are focusing on this group in order to gain a better understanding of the impact of World War II on American higher education. In 1941, recent college graduates made up the bulk of the junior officer corps, and they played a crucial role in the postwar economic boom. In unprecedented numbers, female graduates entered a range of traditionally "male" occupations during the labor shortage. By interviewing individuals from the G.I. Bill classes, we seek to examine the reintegration of veterans in American society and whether this program opened educational opportunities.

The alumni/alumnae of Rutgers and the New Jersey College for Women have played a crucial role in the history of New Jersey. Our archives will offer incomparable resources for scholars and the public seeking to understand the history of the state, especially in the 1930s and 1940s. We will provide a base for historians seeking to compare other states and regions to New Jersey.

Initial interviews were conducted with members of the Class of 1942. Then, in the Summer and Fall of 1994, the project staff conducted a mass mailing to members of another prewar (1943) and a postwar (1949) class from Rutgers College. These two classes were selected in order to offer a comparative perspective on how the war impacted the group with college degrees going into the Second World War and those without a baccalaureate. The project is especially interested in documenting how the G.I. Bill transformed American higher education and society in general.

Through press announcements and other means, the staff has encouraged other Rutgers College alumni and New Jersey College for Women alumnae to participate in the project. Individuals willing to participate in the project are asked to complete a detailed survey that offers the project director and other interviewers a detailed biographical sketch of an individual's life, especially his or her war-time experiences. In the first year of the project's existence, it accumulated more than three-hundred completed surveys and more than 110 interviews.

The laborious process of transcription is the Achilles heel of any oral history project. Students and project interns transcribe interviews and Sandra Stewart Holyoak, the project director, reviews word for word resulting transcripts. After reviewing transcripts completed by students enrolled in this seminar, Mrs. Holyoak returns them to the interviewees for their comments and corrections. Project personnel encourage individuals to correct only minor errors of fact or grammar, and we seek to assure participants that they have ultimate ownership of their life story. After review and final editing, all transcripts and tapes are placed in the Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives.

Project Staff

Dr. G. Kurt Piehler, former director of the Oral History Archives, teaches in the history department at the University Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. Professor Piehler's early scholarship has centered on questions of identity, memory, and the politics of commemoration. He is the author of several recently published articles and a book, Remembering War the American Way (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995).

Sandra Stewart Holyoak currently serves as the director of the Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II. A recent graduate of Rutgers, Ms. Holyoak supervises all interns and project staff, coordinates and conducts interviews, and provides editorial supervision and assistance to the preparation of all transcripts. Project research assistants supervise the preparation of transcripts and maintain the project correspondence. Their duties also include directing the work of the student interns, coordinating the interviewing schedule, and conducting preliminary pre-interview research.

Saun R. Illingworth, also a Rutgers gradaute, serves as the Assistant Ditector of the program. Along with Sandra Holyaok, Shaun conducts interviews, oversees the editing of transcripts, and coordinates numerous public programs and outreach initiatives that highlight the accomplishments of the progtam.

Thomas J. Frusciano, the University Archivist of Rutgers University, is responsible for processing and making available project interviews and other materials donated by interviewees to the Rutgers Archives.

Professor John W. Chambers, professor of history at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, serves as the chair of the project's advisory committee. He is the author of the book, To Raise an Army: The Draft Comes to Modern American (Free Press/Macmillan, 1987), and the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to War, Peace, and Society.

All transcribed interviews are also available on the Rutgers Oral History Archives Website.

Abbreviations Used for Rutgers Affiliations

College of Agriculture
College of Pharmacy
Douglass College
College of Engineering
Graduate School of Education
Graduate School-New Brunswick
Livingston College
Rutgers Law (Newark)
New Jersey College for Women (later Douglass College)
No Rutgers Affiliation
Rutgers College
Member of Rutgers Faculty
University College

Processing Note

Additional processing of this collection was completed by Elaine Blatt, Katie Carey, Tara Maharjan, Alexandra Plante, Danielle Finnegan, Christine Yu, and Alexandra Deangelis.

Guide to the Rutgers Oral History Archives Program R-MC 025
Interview Transcriptions, 1994 - [ongoing]
Edited Full Draft
Thomas J. Frusciano
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

Revision Statements

  • April 23, 2001: Updated guide
  • June 3, 2004: ww2ead converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • February 2008: Finding aid updated and hyperlinks added by Elaine Blatt

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
169 College Avenue
New Brunswick NJ 08901-1163
732-932-7012 (Fax)