Parke R. Kolbe administration records
Held at: Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections [Contact Us]W. W. Hagerty Library, 3300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Doctor Parke Rexford Kolbe, born in Ohio in 1881, began his lifetime of university work at his alma mater, Buchtel College. Originally hired as a Professor of Modern Languages in 1905, a position he served until 1913, when the college became incorporated as the University of Akron. Under this new name, Kolbe was elected the university’s first president, a role he served until 1925, when he was offered the position of president at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. It was this experience, as well as his work within a number of state and national education committees, including the American Association of Urban Schools, that brought him to the attention of Drexel Institute. In 1932, Doctor Kolbe was offered the position of president at Drexel, and served this role until 1942. Doctor Kolbe had the distinction of leading Drexel Institute during highly uncertain times in American history, the Great Depression, and the years leading up to and the start of American involvement in World War II. In this time, Kolbe worked with the hand dealt him to make the best of things, despite the need for a tightly controlled budget, and the ever-present present threat of losing students, be it to the breadlines, or to the front lines. Considering the serious economical strains of the Depression, it should not be surprising that Drexel Institute, like most other colleges nationwide, was suffering from falling enrollment when Kolbe arrived in 1932. Seeking to reverse the trend, Kolbe instituted an Open House, allowing Philadelphia-area high school students and their parents to visit Drexel. This program proved to be such a success that it was temporarily discontinued in 1938, due to peak enrollment being reached. In this time, Kolbe took note of the school’s need to expand, and, with the budgetary assistance of an increasing enrollment and slight raise in tuition, set to work appealing for a separate building for the library, as well as additional student use buildings and campus ground, including an athletics field.
With the arrival of the Second World War on America’s doorstep, Doctor Kolbe and Drexel Institute found themselves in a position of great potential for assisting their country. Due to the great focus on engineering instruction placed on the school, Drexel was selected by the federal government to serve as the Philadelphia region’s school for instructing students in engineering defense. This program grew rapidly during the times of war, with sixteen various classes being offered in the field of scientific national defense by 1941.
However, not all of Kolbe’s changes were brought on by external forces. He was also responsible for internal changes, including the publication of an annual report on the institute, and the change of the name of the school to the Drexel Institute of Technology, citing a need to address the new and broader scope of the university, and concerns that due to the ambiguous name, the public was not aware that Drexel was a school. The school also benefited from a much-needed and long overdue decentralization of governance, resulting in the 28-person Faculty Council which had been in charge of total school decisions being broken up, and each of the major schools getting a dean and a large power of self-governance.
Parke R. Kolbe died on February 28, 1942, while serving as president of Drexel Institute, after suffering from a brief illness.
Reference Works Cited: McDonald, E.D. and Hinton, E.M. (1942). Drexel Institute of Technology 1891-1941: A memorial history. Camden, NJ: Haddon Craftsmen, Inc. pp. 98-120.
The bulk of the collection consists of Dr. Kolbe's correspondence, mostly with faculty but also with parents and students. There is a significant amount of correspondence between Willis Spivey and Dean Ralph Wagenseller. The collection also includes copies of surveys of university faculty salaries from 1940 and 1941, as well as a brief set of records relating to the survey. A series of medical records detailing student health screening procedures from 1922 to 1936 is also included within this collection, as well the annual athletics department budgets from 1931-1935. Information is also included on the 1934 renaming process that changed the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry to the Drexel Institute of Technology.
Arrangement: Correspondence from 1932 to 1935 is grouped together and filed alphabetically by the correspondent's last name. Correspondence from 1935 to 1941 is grouped by academic year, then filed alphabetically.
Date and circumstances of transfer to the archives unknown.
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry. Department of Athletics.
- Drexel Institute of Technology. Engineering College.
- Drexel Institute of Technology. School of Business.
- Drexel Institute of Technology.
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--Administration
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--Alumni and alumnae
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--Anniversaries, etc
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--Commencements
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--Faculty
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--History
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--Sports
- Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry--Student housing
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Accreditation
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Administration
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Alumni and alumnae
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Anniversaries, etc
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Buildings
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Commencements
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Curricula
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Development
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Faculty
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Public Relations
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Sports
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Student Housing
- Drexel Institute of Technology--Students
- Women--Education (Higher)
- Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Katelyn A. Wolfrom
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
Materials stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.
Contains issue announcing that Kolbe will come to Drexel.