Records of the University of Kansas Chancellor's Office
Records from the Office of the Chancellor of the University of Kansas, including correspondence, scrapbooks, budgetary information, speeches, subject and office files, meeting minutes, and other records documenting decisions made and issues arising throughout the history of KU. The records date from when R. W. Oliver oversaw the first three faculty to the current chancellor, Douglas Girod.
- 1865 - 2014
- University of Kansas. Office of the Chancellor (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Access to the records of the current and most recent chancellor require permission from the Office of the Chancellor. Additional records in this record group may require permission from the office of origin before use. Personnel, legal, and student records are closed in accordance with applicable law. All requests are subject to review by the Archives staff to determine accessibility.
Conditions Governing Use
Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.
History of the University of Kansas Chancellor's Office
The history of KU’s Chancellors reflects the broader history of KU, the state of Kansas, and the United States as a whole.
KU’s first Chancellor, R. W. Oliver, came to Lawrence to assist in establishing a new state university in Kansas during the Civil War. When Oliver arrived, the Lawrence area was newly colonized—just ten years before, in 1850, Eastern Kansas had been inhabited by over 10,000 Indigenous people of the Kansa, Osage, Otos, and Missouri tribes. By the 1860s, westward expansion by Euro-American settlers had pushed those groups out of the area. Oliver fought to acquire funding for the new university, and in 1865 his wishes were granted and KU was founded, with three faculty members, one building, and Oliver as Chancellor.
Two years later, Oliver would leave KU to return to his church work, and the position of Chancellor would be filled by John Fraser. Fraser, a Scottish immigrant and Civil War veteran, would preside over the university as it expanded during the beginning of the Reconstruction era. His tenure saw the growth of the student body and the rapid migration of the formerly enslaved and their descendants, many of whom would later attend KU, north into Kansas. He eventually left the university over personal conflicts with other staff.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Fraser’s successors, Chancellors Marvin and Lippincott, would update KU’s curriculum to establish it as a full university. Lippincott would also see the first academic honor societies established at KU.
After Lippincott left to become a pastor in Topeka, the Chancellorship would fall on one of KU’s original three faculty members, scientist Francis Snow. Snow reorganized the university, founding the College of Arts, the Graduate School and the schools of engineering, fine arts and pharmacy, and his tenure exemplifies the development of modern scientific methods that was spreading across the nation. Snow was an early proponent of the theory of evolution, and his lecture series introduced many KU students to the concept for the first time. Snow also hired KU’s first woman faculty member and advocated for the co-education of men and women in his inaugural address.
Snow retired in 1901, and by the turn of the century KU was a modernizing and rapidly expanding university. The first two chancellors of the 20th century, Frank Strong and Ernest Lindley, would be the first to confront the problems that future chancellors would face for decades to come.
Strong was the first of several chancellors to navigate the university through a war. When the United States joined WWI, he helped the campus adapt to the needs of wartime, and when the war ended, he oversaw a wave of soldiers returning to the state and enrolling in college.
By the time Strong took over the chancellorship in 1902, white backlash to African American immigration from the South had reached a breaking point, and Jim Crow was spreading across the Southern United States. In 1912, Strong entered into an agreement (later termed the “gentleman’s agreement”) that banned African American students from playing on KU athletics teams. This was one of the first and most prominent examples of Jim Crow coming to KU.
Strong retired in 1920, citing the need for new leadership in the post-war era. Chancellor Lindley, who served almost 20 years from 1920 to 1939, would continue to lay the groundwork for much of KU’s future. Lindley, while not the first nor the last chancellor to come into conflict with the Kansas government, is best-known for his feud with Kansas Governor Jonathan Davis, a conflict that culminated in Lindley’s firing by the governor (though Lindley regained his position less than a month later when Davis lost re-election).
Lindley’s tenure saw many of the social problems that were roiling the United States also affect KU. Under Lindley’s leadership, sports and extracurriculars became more hostile to African American participation, until African American students were almost entirely pushed out of campus life. Lindley’s policies were met with backlash from African American students, leading to some of the first student activism at KU. Lindley’s leadership stretched through the Great Depression and the beginnings of World War II in Europe, forcing him to adapt to budget cuts and the increasing poverty of many students.
After Lindley left KU in 1939, the nation and the university would see decades of upheaval as simmering social and political tensions rocketed to the forefront of the national conversation. Under Deane Malott, the campus adapated to the needs of wartime once again. During the war, Malott led the university in housing and training military units, and when soldiers returned from Europe they enrolled at KU in droves. Malott and KU struggled to find enough housing and classrooms for these students. Malott also led KU during the New Deal and the growth of the Works Progress Administration, which many KU students took advantage of.
The 1940s and 1950s saw increased political activism across the country, and KU was no exception. Student protest over continued segregation at the university expanded, and KU students also took part in the nationwide protests against apartheid in South Africa. Malott, for his part, maintained KU’s course, maintaining segregationist policies and declining to denounce apartheid.
Under the next Chancellor, Franklin Murphy, however, KU took a more active stance in the national conversation. Murphy worked with student activists to desegregate KU campus life and used his influence in the community to desegregate Lawrence businesses as well. Murphy’s tenure also saw the beginnings of anti-communism in the United States, and he had to advocate for desegregation at a time when doing so was often considered evidence of communist sympathies. Murphy, a former administrator at the KU Medical Center, significantly expanded the university’s funding for medicine and research, and the Med Center’s budget quadrupled under his leadership.
While Murphy’s social efforts ran counter to his predecessors’, he followed in their footsteps when he became embroiled in a political conflict with Kansas Governor George Docking, who worked against many of Murphy’s most ambitious projects. Murphy would eventually leave KU for the University of California-Los Angeles, a decision protested by more than 4,000 students.
The next chancellor, Clarke Wescoe, was Murphy’s successor in more ways than one: he also came from the Med Center, he continued Murphy’s desegregation efforts, and he dealt with the explosive social upheaval of the 1960s. Wescoe saw the rise of national groups like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which advocated for more student control over the university, and the first waves of anti-Vietnam war protests. Wescoe also presided over KU during and after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and he helped bring the university into compliance with new anti-segregation and affirmative action measures.
Student protest and unrest reached its peak under Chancellor Lawrence Chalmers, with the burning of the Kansas Memorial Union in protest of the Vietnam War, an event that led Chalmers to end the school year early. Chalmers faced backlash from student protestors for the allegedly racially motivated firing of Gary Jackson, an African American graduate student, and a discrimination lawsuit from the Lawrence chapter of the Gay Liberation Front. He left the university in 1972, only 3 years after he took over the chancellorship, amidst accusations that he was too soft on the student body.
Under the Chancellors after Chalmers, student protest subsided (although it did not disappear entirely), and the university settled into a period of growth. Under Chancellor Dykes in the 1970s, the KU police were desegregated, and Chancellors Budig and Hemenway significantly expanded the university’s budget, especially for research. Modern chancellors preside over a large research university, strongly established in life science and information technology in the region, and with campuses across the state of Kansas.
970 Linear Feet (1,294 boxes + 15 oversize boxes, 24 oversize folders, 50 volumes, 419 folders)
Language of Materials
Scope and Contents
RG 02 includes records from the Chancellor’s office, beginning with Robert Oliver, and ending with records from Chancellor Girod’s inauguration. Most of these records are correspondence between the Chancellor’s office and various other KU departments, schools, and units. The record group also includes extensive correspondence with external agencies at the state and federal level and individual correspondents, especially parents and community members.
Because of the amount of correspondence the Chancellor’s office receives, many of the documents were handled by secretaries and assistants rather than the Chancellors themselves. Some of these documents were sorted into separate series by the secretary who handled the correspondence, but in the main series, outgoing correspondence from the Chancellors is mixed in with that of their offices more generally.
These records provide an account of the ever-changing array of problems that have confronted each of KU’s chancellors, and the successes and failures of the people tasked with solving those problems. These controversies have changed throughout KU’s history, reflecting fluctuating social and political attitudes in both Kansas specifically and the United States as a whole.
This record group is mostly organized chronologically by chancellor's dates of service. RG 2/0 is for records generally related to the chancellor's office. Some scrapbooks are co-located with individual chancellors' records, while some are stored elsewhere and therefore described elsewhere in this finding aid.
Sub-groups in this record group are as follows:
- General. Includes records of Executive Secretaries Raymond F. Nichols and Richard Von Ende, the Assistant to the Chancellor, Chancellor's Cabinet and Institutional Research, Information Systems and Personnel Services
- R. W. Oliver
- John Fraser
- James Marvin
- Joshua Lippincott
- William C. Spangler
- Francis H. Snow
- William C. Spangler
- Frank Strong
- Ernest Lindley
- Deane W. Malott
- Franklin D. Murphy
- W. Clarke Wescoe
- E. Laurence Chalmers
- Raymond Nichols
- Archie Dykes
- Del Shankel
- Gene Budig
- 2/18 [all records located at 2/16]
- Del Shankel
- Robert Hemenway
- Bernadette Gray-Little
- Doug Girod
Other Finding Aids
A subject index of Chancellors' correspondence under to Chancellor Raymond Nichols exists and is available in catalog card form in the reading room, as well as electronically in spreadsheet form. Contact staff for assistance if wishing to access information from this index.
University Archives continues to add material to this collection on a regular basis. The collection description was current as of summer 2022.
- University of Kansas. Office of the Chancellor -- Records and correspondence
- Guide to the Records of the University of Kansas' Chancellor's Office
- Records of the University of Kansas Chancellor's Office
- Finding aid prepared by jtf, 2006. Finding aid encoded by jtf, 2006. Finding aid revised by lmb, 2010; eear, 2015; mwh, 2018, 2019; jb and mwh, 2022, 2023.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.
- Finding aid permalink
- Preferred citation
Records of the University of Kansas Chancellor's Office, University Archives, RG 2, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository
1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States