Gilbert White presidential papers
Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & 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
Gilbert Fowler White came to Haverford in 1946 and, at 35 years old, he was the youngest academic president in the country. White had received a PhD in geology from the University of Chicago in 1942 while serving as a researcher and advisor on land and water conservation with the government. White worked with the American Friends Service Committee in child-feeding and refugee relief in France during the war, spending a year interned by the Germans after the defeat of France. On his return to the United States he administered Quaker activities in India and China and consulted with the U. S. Military Government in Central Europe. White was a convinced Quaker, having been first inspired as an undergraduate by a Rufus Jones lecture at Chicago.
White had written that "When I met with the Board of Managers prior to the appointment, I said that I would have not the slightest interest in Haverford unless it could be made into a distinctive instrument of Quaker education." During his presidency the quantity and quality of faculty increased. There were innovations in the curriculum, including requiring a set of "general courses" to provide a "breadth of outlook," the senior seminar to consolidate the previous years' education, and course expansion and revision including Russian studies, French, English Literature, Philosophy of Science, and Biology. The cultivation of alumni helped the endowment to more than double, allowing for increases in salary, scholarship, and library funds. White was lauded for leading all the improvements with "intellectual strength….indomitable integrity…and spiritual insight."
White resigned in 1955 to return to teaching and researching geology, having decided that he and his wife would "be more useful and find more satisfaction in the resources world." In his final annual report, he offered the frequently quoted advice for Haverford's future: "Keep it small; keep it Quaker; cultivate the inquiring mind; find good men with courage and integrity; then back them." White would become the "father of floodplain management" and a leader in the environmental movement. He remained actively involved with the Society of Friends. White died in 2006.
This is a very small selection of material from White's administration and provides little documentation of White's successful nine and a half years presidency. With the exception of the "Letters" file and a few files transferred from other presidents' papers, the method of acquisition is unknown.
The most complete file is the three binders of texts and notes for White's speeches, from the beginning to the end of his presidency, to Haverford students, alumni, Quaker and other schools, Friends, civic, government, and professional organizations. White spoke about education, particularly Quaker education, the Korean War and other world affairs, military conscription, natural resources, technology and society, and moral and spiritual values (for an interesting glimpse at White's philosophy on nature and faith , see his statement on Edward R. Murrow's broadcast of "This I Believe," 1951/52).
The Correspondence files, 1946 and 1955, consist of letters to White and his responses on his appointment and resignation. While much of it is routine, the 1946 correspondence does reveal some of the expectations held for the future of Haverford, and includes some letters from White's fellow war prisoners. The 1955 file attests to the high esteem held for White and the success of his tenure, as do the letters of appreciation written for the December 1955 Haverford News. The minutes of the monthly meetings of Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Haverford College presidents (College Cooperation file) document the efforts to coordinate academic and administrative programs. A few files deal with discussions on curricular changes (Committee on Curriculum & College Planning, Courses—English, Psychology). A small file on War Emergency is indicative of the threat of the Korean War to Haverford, one outcome of which was the creation of the Graduate Curriculum in Social and Technical Assistance for which there is also a file. The series of Letters are items written by prominent men and women in the United States and abroad. Most of the other files are sparse in size and content.
Files that were continued into Hugh Borton's presidency have been noted in the inventory.
The Spirit and the Intellect: Haverford College, 1833-1983 (Haverford, PA, 1983)
Haverford News, December 12,
1955 Proceedings of The American Philosophical Society v. 152, no. 3, September 2008, http://www.amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/1520310.pdf
The "Letters" of prominent figures were transferred by White's secretary during his presidency. Some files were found in the Provosts records and some small files were transferred from other presidential papers. There is no indication of how or why many files came to the Archives.
See collection HC.MC-816 for Gilbert F. White Papers relating to his World War II service with the American Friends Service Committee.
Files were found in the Provost records after the initial processing was completed. These were integrated into the existing order and are indicated by "File located in Provost Records transfer" in the Repository Processing Note.
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1 foldersReviews of academic standing of students including changes in majors, granting degrees, rescheduled exams, changes in course load.
1 foldersCorrespondence, reports and memoranda on work camps organized by the Society of Friends, and 1955 efforts to establish a weekend work camp academic credit program.
0 foldersMemoranda and preliminary report on psychological exam of three-college student council members as part of a "study of the normal."
1 foldersMemoranda on program of courses exchanged between Haverford, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and University of Pennsylvania; with agreement for half tuition for children of faculty.
1 foldersMemoranda and reports on summer program for Haverford, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Cheyney College to serve as attendants at Norristown State Hospital.
1 foldersMemoranda on efforts to develop cooperative library operations with Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore.
See Borton Papers, Three College CooperationPhysical Description
4 foldersMinutes of monthly meetings of Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Haverford College presidents includes reports and discussions on: appointments, individually and joint; faculty salaries and benefits; academic programs, individually and joint; and other shared concerns. Indexed.
3 foldersMinutes and memoranda (almost entirely Committee on Curriculum) on committee oversight of course changes and general curriculum issues, including: requirements for basic courses and for major concentration, 1949; possible adjustments necessary to meet conscription program, 1950; Senior year course to integrate previous years' learning; honors program and graduate program, 1954; and "progression" curriculum.
1 foldersVery small file of memoranda on improvements to annual meeting proceedings and notices of meetings.
1 foldersSmall file of minutes and correspondence on nominations to Board of Managers and corporation.
"When I met with the Board of Managers prior to the appointment, I said that I would have not the slightest interest in Haverford unless it could be made into a distinctive instrument of Quaker education."—Whitney
"After much soul searching, Anne and I finally decided that we felt a deeper concern for Quaker education than we did for geography."—UllmanPhysical Description
4 foldersLetters congratulating White on his election to the Haverford presidency with his responses. The correspondence is primarily with friends with whom he worked at the American Friends Service Committee and at the government agencies involved in natural resources programs. Although much of the correspondence is routine, there are some substantive remarks. White's well-wishers express concern about restoring Quakerism to Haverford to which White makes assurances. There are letters from fellow prison-mates at Baden Baden and an exchange with his presidential predecessor Felix Morley.
7 foldersLetters on White's resignation from the presidency from alumni, colleagues, students, parents, and faculty, with White's replies. The letters to White express "shock," deep regret," and other distress at White's departure, express great appreciation for his work at Haverford, and best wishes for his return to teaching and research. Although much of the correspondence is routine, there are some substantive remarks. Includes a telegram from Dwight D. Eisehnhower.
1 foldersMiscellaneous correspondence and memoranda on premedical program at Haverford and alumni in medical profession.
1 folders, 1952-1956: Reports on experimental freshman course in Reading and Writing on Human Values, evaluation program for the English Department, and public speaking, letters on controversy over writing exercise using an article "the Problem of Medical Care," and other memoranda on appointments and curriculum.
1 foldersSmall file of memoranda on proposed science courses and dispute over laboratory fees.
4 foldersInformation provided to Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools Evaluating Committee and Committee report; only flaw was with Library operations.
1 foldersMemoranda on policies for allocating faculty housing, leasing, and rent rates.
2 foldersAnnual budgets with memoranda.
1 foldersCorrespondence on field trip plans for course taught by White.
2 foldersMemoranda of the Committee on Graduate Students on applications to graduate program and on the Graduate Curriculum in Social and Technical Assistance.
1 foldersCorrespondence on appointment as Dean, including difficulties with his release from Office of War Information, memoranda on some dean's office matters and Hoag's leave and death.
1 foldersMemoranda on White's appointment and arrangements for inaugural program, with "Report on Round Table Conference on General Education" held on the occasion of the inauguration.
1 foldersCorrespondence with Morris Leeds on allocations of his contributions, with a memorial edition of the Haverford Bulletin.
7 foldersLetters to President White from prominent people in the United States and abroad. There are letters from members of Congress, Cabinet officers, members of Parliament, ambassadors, public officials, writers, educators, sports figures, etc. They refer mostly to invitations to visit the Haverford College campus and to speak at the Philips Lectures, Collection Meetings, and other events.Material Specific Details
The letter writers incclude: Leonard Bernstein Herbert Block Niels Bohr Margaret Bourke-White Chester Bowles ("I may run for the Senate," 1955) William F. Buckley, Jr. Al Capp Clifford P. Case Aaron Copland William O. Douglas John Foster Dulles Erich Fromm George Keenan Fiske Kimball Max Lerner Anne M. Lindbergh Henry Cabot Lodge Thurgood Marshall Margaret Mead (for contextual analysis see Coll. #811, Fall 2004, Marisa Wilairat) James A. Michener Lewis Mumford Edward R. Murrow Harold Nicolson Nigel Nicolson Robert Oppenheimer James Reston Branch Rickey Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Eric Severied Ben Shahn Fulton Sheen Margaret Chase Smith Harold Stassen Norman Thomas E. B. White Frank Lloyd Wright
2 foldersResponses to the request of the Haverford College News editor for statements on White for a commemorative issue on his retirement from college and foundation presidents, politicians, diplomats, alumni, Board members, and friends of the College.
1 foldersSmall file of correspondence and reports on class of 1898 fiftieth reunion and other college business.
, 1942-1951: Correspondence and memoranda on two iterations of a publication: as an alumni magazine, 1942-1945; as a Quarterly of Social Philosophy, 1946-1951.
1 foldersMemoranda on course to provide "a broad approach to interpersonal relations, using principally the conceptual tools of psychology but also calling on sociology and other social sciences," with course Case Reports."
1 foldersNewsletter from Douglas Steere reporting on activities of Haverford's World War II Relief and Reconstruction Program graduates.
1 foldersMemoranda on need for a building fund campaign ("Million Dollar Building Fund") for a dormitory, building improvements, and indoor athletic facilities.
3 volumesTexts and notes for speeches to Haverford students, alumni, Quaker and other schools, Friends, civic, government, and professional organizations from the beginning to the end of his presidency. White spoke about education, particularly Quaker education (see especially "Friends Education" draft, July 26, 1954), the Korean War and other world affairs, military conscription, natural resources, technology and society, and moral and spiritual values. 3 binders.
1 foldersMemoranda and correspondence on establishing a Summer Institute for High School Teachers (in order to use summer facilities) to enlarge teachers' knowledge of certain subjects; and participation in Harvard's Master of Education program.
1 foldersCorrespondence and memoranda on holding a summer session for veterans, 1946, and reaction to the Korean War and the possibility of conscription.