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Identifier: RG 19/A0/01

Dean of Douglass College (Group I) Records


  • 1887-1973

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Dean of Douglass College have accumulated since the planning for a women's college began in the early part of this century. Throughout the years, there has apparently been no procedure for the orderly retirement of those records no longer needed for every day use. As a result, new records have been added to old until a tremendous volume of seemingly unrelated materials have been filed together. For example, records pertaining to war work in 1919 are grouped with those relating to student disruptions in 1970.

Most of this large collection, formerly housed in the basement of the Dean's house, 23 Nichol Avenue, New Brunswick, spans the period from the initial planing of the college (ca. 1915) to 1973 with the bulk created between 1950 and 1970. Because of the lack of any regular organization of these records, accessibility to the information was severely limited. In order to establish order, some record series were consolidated and several others were extracted from the general file and filed separately.

The physical types of records that are present in this collection reflect the functions of the office over the years. Papers relative to the position predominate. These include considerable correspondence, memos, policy statements, reports and general information on subjects of concern to the Dean. Included also are annual reports from departments, administrative offices and support units as well as those to the University president and governing boards. Other types of records include: agendas, applications for positions, curriculum information, financial records and budget information, lists, minutes, programs, press releases, proposals and plans, rosters and schedules.

The records can be considered vital to the history of Douglass College. As the Dean has been the central administrative figure throughout the college's development, her papers serve to document this growth. No other group of records covers as wide a spectrum of the college's history. The annual reports of the Dean serve as excellent summaries of each year's accomplishments.

Not only is this collection important as far as Douglass history is concerned. It also has a broader value as it documents the development of women's education in New Jersey. During the early years, the New Jersey State Federation of Women's clubs provided substantial support to Mabel Smith Douglass and her associates. This support (intellectual, political, and financial) has continued to play an important role in women's education in New Jersey. A considerable volume of correspondence in the records reflects this relationship between the Dean and the Federation Officers.

Folders on the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women (mid 1960's) constitute another group of records which relate to women's education. The Dean's role as a member of that commission is reflected in the correspondence and reports included in this collection.

An additional significant aspect of the collection is the evidence it shows of the continued need to clarify the relationship between the College for Women and the University. From concerned over the "borrowed" time of faculty from the men's college, through the economic crisis of the depression, and the gradual, but steady centralization of administrative services in the University, to the transfer of faculty to the University-wide Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Dean of Douglass constantly has attempted to maintain the autonomy of the college. This is an excellent example of a part of an institution initially independent that during the course of time became more closely integrated into the parent institution and thereby relinquished much of its autonomy. These records also document the post-World War II development of Rutgers and the apparently conflicting forces of decentralization and centralization which were taking place at the same time.


60 Cubic Feet (153 Manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



The history of Douglass College, formerly the New Jersey College for Women, as a coordinate college of Rutgers University, is thoroughly documented in the records of the Dean of the College. These records, dating from 1887, include correspondence, memoranda, committee minutes, annual reports, and other records from the administrations of Mabel Smith Douglass (1918-1933), Albert E. Meder, Jr, (acting dean, 1932-1934), Margaret T. Corwin (1934-1955), Mary I. Bunting (1955-1960), Ruth M. Adams (1960-1966), and Margery Somers Foster (1967-1975).

Administrative History of the Douglass College Office of the Dean

The office of the Dean of Douglass College has been in existence since the founding of the college as New Jersey College for Women (N.J.C.) in 1918. Mabel Smith Douglass, foremost among the prominent individuals involved in the founding of the college, served as dean from 1918 to 1933. She was largely responsible for its early development, instituting policies and procedures which enabled the college to survive its early years. Many of the traditions still carried on today were begun by Dean Douglass.

When failing health necessitated the retirement of Mrs. Douglass, the responsibilities of the office were carried out by Albert E. Meder, Jr., who served as acting dean from 1932 to 1934. Margaret T. Corwin became dean in 1934 and guided the growth and development of the college through the Second World War years and into the 1950's. Dean Corwin retired at the end of the academic year 1954-1955. On April 16, 1955, New Jersey College for Women was renamed Douglass College in honor of its first dean. The succeeding deans have been Mary I Bunting, 1955-1960, Ruth M. Adams, 1960-1966, Margery Somers Foster, 1967-1975, and Jewel Plumer Cobb, 1976-1981. The full list of deans and acting deans is provided in the Chronology.

The functions of the Dean of Douglass College have changed throughout the years. Prior to the mid 1960's, the Dean as the chief administrative officer had considerable control over the policies and operational procedures of the college. Functioning as a presidential dean, she controlled the budget, faculty aspects such as hiring, promoting, tenure recommendations, financial aid and housing. She had direct access not only to top officers of the University administration and governing board members, but to state government officials and others outside the academic community as well. Thus the college enjoyed particular autonomy, and the deans throughout this period worked to maintain this autonomy.

The Dean's position began to change when the financial control of the college was transferred to the University's central administration. Operations of several student service offices (e.g. admissions, financial aid, and registration) were also centralized. Access to state officials was now conducted through the central administration. The Dean's function as coordinator of academic departments on the Douglass campus and her control over procedures involving faculty continued, however.

When reorganization of the University occurred in 1981, Douglass College was considerably affected. Faculty of the various colleges in the University were consolidated in University-wide groups (i.e. Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Faculty of Professional Studies). This resulted in the transfer of control of faculty procedures from the Dean of Douglass to the newly established units. Many academic departments were no longer directly associated with Douglass College although the actual presentation of courses on the campus remained relatively unchanged.

With reorganization, the operational aspect of student services was to be handled on a University-wide basis, but policy was still to be set by Douglass College. Therefore, who was to be admitted and basic course requirements for graduation would be determined by the college. Assisting the Dean in these decisions are the Douglass College Fellows, a group of faculty members teaching courses at Douglass and interested in formulating policy.

Biographical / Historical

Chronology of the Deans of Douglass College

Mabel Smith Douglass
Sept. 1932-Feb. 1934
Albert E. Meder, Jr. (acting)
Feb. 1934-1955
Margaret T. Corwin
Mary I. Bunting
Spring, 1960
John L. Swink (acting)
Ruth M. Adams
Margaret A. Judson (acting)
Margery Somers Foster
Paula P. Brownlee (acting)
Jewel Plummer Cobb
Mary S. Hartman (acting)
Mary S. Hartman
Martha A. Cotter (acting)
Barbara A. Shailor
Linda Stamato (acting)
Carmen Twillie Ambar

Arrangement Note

There was no true order to the records of the Dean's Office, because they have been added to from about 1915 to the present without an overall organization plan for the files. The long time span covered has meant that many deans and an untold number of secretaries were involved in filing. As a result, materials on the same subject were filed under two or three headings and were therefore in several locations in the files. Inclusive date of folders were rarely given, and dates that were given were often inaccurate. The items within the folders were often clumped together with rusty paper clips, but even the clumps were not in any regular order. Numerous multiple copies were present, but could not be quickly identified until all records were placed in chronological order.

The records have been arranged chronologically within each folder with the most recent date at the front of the folder and damaging hardware (i.e. paper clips) and multiple copies have been removed. Inclusive dates have been added to the folder headings and all information on the folder headings compiled into folder lists which accompany this report.

The Douglass College Deans Office records (Group I) are arranged in the following ten series:

  1. I. Annual Reports, 1920-1972
  2. II. Board of Managers and Trustees' Committee on NJC/Douglass: Minutes, 1918-1942, 1946, 1948-1953, 1957-1972
  3. III. General Subject Files, 1915-1973
  4. IV. University Subject Files, 1918-1973
  5. V. Committee Files, 1927-1972
  6. VI. Buildings and Development, 1887-1971
  7. VII. Appointments and Promotions, 1935-1972
  8. VIII. Budget Files, 1921-1939, 1955, 1956, 1958-1973
  9. IX. Commencement Files, 1922-1950, 1959-1966, 1972
  10. X. Christmas Festival/Service, 1922-1959, 1962-1965, 1967-1971

Related Collections

For additional records and collections relating to the Dean of Douglass College see:

Mabel Smith Douglass Papers (R-MC 060)

Inventory to the Records of the Dean of Douglass College (Group II), 1965-1981 (RG 19/A0/02)

Inventory to the Records of the Dean of Douglass College (Group I), 1887-1973 RG 19/A0/01
Edited Full Draft
Janet T. Riemer
1982, 2002
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Revision Statements

  • June 3, 2004: douglass_deans_1 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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New Brunswick NJ 08901-1163
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