Organized around eleven records series, the records of the Board of Trustees document the work of the College’s governing body from its creation in 1834 to 1974. Records series are: Series I. Charter and Bylaws of Oberlin College; Series II. Minutes of the Meetings of the Board; Series III. Document Files Supporting Minutes of the Board; Series IV. Prudential Committee Minutes; Series V. Executive Committee Minutes; Series VI. Budget Committee (currently Budget and Finance Committee) Records; Series VII. Development Committee Records; Series VIII. Investment Committee Records; Series IX. Presidential Search Committee Records; Series X. Records of Various Committees; and, Series XI. Records Relating to Property Appraisals. For series comprised of committee minutes, subseries further divide the records into indices to the minutes, official minutes, and microfilm copies of the minutes.
The most valuable records are those reporting on the full meetings of the Board (1834-1974). The minutes, which are also available on two rolls of microfilm in the Archives, are indexed up to 1904 in two folio volumes. Series III. Document Files, comprising the bulk of the entire group, contains documents supporting the business of the Board’s meetings, such as correspondence, vital records, financial and budgetary records, affidavits, other legal documents, and memoranda. These materials provide valuable contextual information relating to all matters of college governance overseen by the Board. Records making up the early years of the document files give the appearance of having been informally kept or of having been recreated after they had been dispersed. Some of the pre-Civil War documents may have been selected for this file by Robert S. Fletcher during his research into the history of Oberlin College. Some documents for the years 1853-69 are in the records of the Office of the Treasurer. There are no items for the years 1875-78, 1880, 1882-83, and 1887-91. It is likely that a fire in 1903 destroyed many of the records. After 1900, file numbers begin with DF 197 and continue chronologically. These DF numbers also appear in the minutes themselves. Clearly, the numbering system was intended as a cross-referencing device between minutes and relevant documentation. The system was most likely developed by College Secretary George M. Jones (1870-1948) to enhance control over the records in his custody.
Significant documentation exists for both Prudential and Executive Committees, the two most important trustee committees. Prudential Committee minutes span the committee’s lifetime, from 1835 to 1962, and include both the official minutes (1835-1962) and draft (unofficial) minutes (1907-62), which contain valuable insertions and marginalia. Minutes are in both bound and unbound formats. Prudential Committee minutes are indexed jointly with those of the Executive Committee for the period 1924-43. Executive Committee minutes are available from the committee’s founding in 1928 to 1967. The official minutes are currently stored in the vault of the Cox Administration Building of Oberlin College.
Other committee records include those of the Budget Committee (1892-1959), Development Committee (1952, 1958-60), the Presidential Search Committee (1945-75), the Investment Committee (1892-1973), and various other committees (1903-59). Among these, the best documented is the work of the Investment Committee, although records are lacking for the period 1852-91 and 1897-1905. Some of the records for the period 1852-91 are filed with the records of the Office of the Treasurer (RG 7). Investment Committee files in this collection include minutes (1892-96; 1906-53, 1957-72), the committees’ annual reports (1933-70); letters received by the committee (1961-72) related to committee business; files documenting local and out-of-town real estate held by the College; and trustee correspondence. For additional records relating to the work of the Presidential Search Committee, consult record group 33, Committees (Various).
Series I. Charter and Bylaws of Oberlin College, 1834, 1903-72 (0.41 l.f.)
Contains the Charter of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute (dated 28 February 1834). Includes a complete run of printed Charter and By-Laws of Oberlin College, which were revised sixteen times between 1904 and 1972 by the Board of Trustees. Early reports of the Committee on Codification (1903-04) contain typed or ms. emendations to articles and by-laws under revision. Materials are chronologically arranged.
Series II. Minutes of the Meetings of the Board, 1834-1965, 1969-78 (3.99 l.f.)
Subseries 1. Indices to the Minutes, 1834-1904
Includes two bound indices to the minutes (1834-78; 1879-1904), prepared by Secretary George M. Jones from 1901 to 1917, and one hand-written card file index to the ms. minutes for 1834-77 only. The card file, which may have been intended to supersede the bound volumes, contains two hands; one belongs to Secretary Jones. Indices chronologically arranged.
Subseries 2. Official Minutes, 1834-1906, 1951-65, 1969-78
Includes two bound volumes containing original ms. (1834-1906) (plus photocopy set for reference use) and typescript drafts (1834-66) of minutes, and three boxes housing the “first copy” of the minutes (1951-65, 1969-78). These loose minutes were formerly housed in three 3-ring binders. Minutes are chronologically arranged.
Subseries 3. Microfilm Copies of the Minutes, 1834-1964
Microfilm master negative and positive prints of minutes (1834-1917; 1918-64) are available in the Archives on two rolls of film.
Series III. Document Files Supporting Minutes of the Board, 1833-1974 (24.8 l.f.)
The individual documents contained in the “Document File” represent all attachments or supporting materials distributed as packets to Trustee members in support of agenda items taken up at a given Board meeting. Primarily filed and grouped by meeting date, each file bears a Document File number (e.g., DF 628 March 15, 1952). Individual documents within each file are further identified under a sub-lettering and/or numbering system. This practice, initiated by Secretary George M. Jones, begins with the June 25, 1900 meeting and ends in 1972 when Trustee Notebooks were introduced. The latter are divided in tab form and organized in accordance with the numbering of the main agenda. Sets of numbers for each document are parenthetically noted, along with the title for each attachment or supporting document, in the finished minute of the meeting itself. This series includes some supporting documents of the Prudential and Executive Committees. The array or original documents—both rich and vast in character—includes memoranda, correspondence, legal and financial records, personnel files, and vital records.
Series IV. Prudential Committee Minutes, 1835-1962 (10.5 l.f.)
Subseries 1. Indices to Prudential and Executive Committee Minutes, 1908-14, 1924-43
Includes a one-volume index prepared by Secretary George M. Jones to Prudential Committee minutes, 1908-14; a six-volume index, in an unidentified hand, for both Prudential and Executive Committee minutes, 1924-37; and a card file index (with cards typed and hand-written) to Prudential and Executive Committee minutes, 1937-43. Indices are chronologically arranged. Also included are photocopies of index cards for the Building and Grounds Committee, 1879-1930 (span)—(originals in Secretary’s Office Records RG5)
Subseries 2. Official Minutes, Prudential Committee, 1835-1962
The official or final version of the minutes of Prudential Committee meetings (1835-1962), signed in ink by the corporate secretaries of Oberlin College, are bound in 19 black and red leather record books and housed in seven boxes. Those record books for the period 1835-77 are extremely fragile, and the ink has faded. Spine labels on the succeeding volumes indicate the date span covered by each volume. Volumes are chronologically arranged.
Subseries 3. Official Minutes, Prudential Committee, Duplicates (Loose), 1903-39, 1951-58
Official, duplicate minutes for the period 1903-39 (loose) are housed separately in three boxes. Minutes for 1951-58, formerly housed in one three-ring binder, are now boxed together. Minutes are chronologically arranged.
Subseries 4. Draft Minutes, Prudential Committee, 1907-62
Draft minutes exist for the period 1907-62. Minutes for the period 1907 July 28–1925 May 25, formerly housed in four three-ring binders, are now housed in four boxes. Minutes for the period 1925 June 3–1962 June 27 are bound in 20 red leather binders and housed in nine boxes. These minutes, lacking the Secretary’s final signature, consist of heavily annotated typescript drafts. Volumes indexed individually (in both tabbed and untabbed formats) include those for the period 1913 Nov 29–1944 July 5. Minutes are chronologically arranged.
Subseries 5. Microfilm Copy of the Minutes, 1835-1900
A positive print of minutes for 1835-1900 is available in the Archives; a master negative also exists.
Series V. Executive Committee Minutes, 1928-68 (1.0 l.f.)
Subseries 1. Indices to the Minutes
Indices to Executive Committee minutes are combined with those of Prudential Committee minutes. See Series IV, Subseries 1, above.
Subseries 2. Official Minutes, 1928-67
Official Executive Committee minutes (1928-67) are contained in five quarto volumes currently stored in the vault of the Cox Administration Building. Each volume contains its own tabbed index. Minutes are in typescript form, signed by the Secretary or Secretary Pro-Tem, and contain citations to individual Document Files by DF number. Topics voted on by the Executive Committee include faculty and staff appointments, reappointments, and promotions; financial payments; and the selections of contractors and architects for various building projects.
Subseries 3. Draft Minutes, 1928-45, 1962-68
Draft, or unofficial, minutes of Executive Committee meetings are contained in one hinged binder (1928-45) and in six tag-board binders (1962-68). Minutes in the binder are accompanied by two tabbed indices. The latter set includes a yearly “Summary of Trustee Actions.” Volumes are chronologically arranged.
Series VI. Budget Committee Records, 1892-1959 (1.6 l.f.)
Consists of paste-up College budgets (1892-1959), which were formerly housed in binders. Early budget tables are pasted down; later budgetary records are mimeographed copies. Budgets are chronologically arranged. (The committee is presently called the Budget and Finance Committee.)
Series VII. Development Committee Records, 1952, 1958-60 (0.2 l.f.)
Includes the papers of trustee Walter K. Bailey (1897-1996) and Frank C. Van Cleef (1881-1984) relating to development matters. Files contain the 1952 policy statement by the Board of Trustees used as a basis for Development Committee recommendations, as well as records for the 1958-60 building fund drive. For related materials, consult record group 26, the Records of the Office of Development. Files are chronologically arranged.
Series VIII. Investment Committee Records, 1892-1903, 1906-73 (3.2 l.f.)
Records include one volume of original ms. minutes (1892-96); minutes and memoranda (1906-53, 1957-72); reports on investments (1893-c. 1903); annual reports (1933-70); and correspondence (1952-72) related to annuities, investments, real estate holdings, and routine committee matters. Gaps exist for the period 1851-91 and 1896-1905. Trustee correspondence files have been weeded and include those (by name and date span of the correspondence) of Harry E. Barnard (1943-71), Robert S. Danforth (1964-71), Percy J. Ebbott (1952-71), Frank C. Fisher (1951-67), Louis S. Pierce (1955-69), and honorary trustee Erwin N. Griswold (1936-53).
Series IX. Presidential Search Committee Records, 1945-46, 1960, 1973-75, 1982 (2.05 l.f.)
Includes correspondence and records relating to the selection of presidents W.E. Stevenson (served 1946-59), Robert Kenneth Carr (1960-70), E.C. Danenberg (1975-82), and S. Frederick Starr (1983-94). No file is extant for the search leading to the appointment of Robert W. Fuller. Records are chronologically arranged. Permission of the Archivist is required to consult these files.
Series X. Records of Various Committees, 1903-07, 1916, 1934, 1959, 1965 (0.2 l.f.)
Includes the reports of several advisory committees to the Board of Trustees (1903-07), reports of the committee appointed to consider the relations between the trustees and faculty (1916), a report of the trustee committee on the Graduate School of Theology (1965), and reports and related documents of the special Committee on Organization (1959) responsible for the Gladieux report. Records are alphabetically arranged.
Series XI. Records Relating to Property Appraisals, c. 1942 (1.4 l.f.)
Consists of a seven volume (3410 pages) property appraisal report submitted by the Lloyd-Thomas Company Appraisal Engineers (Chicago, Illinois) to the Trustees of Oberlin College, c. 1942. The report is organized by Oberlin College building name (arranged alphabetically). The report includes an assessment of the condition of each building (by floors) and the cost to replace old/damaged materials.