Guide to the Ralph B. Dennis (1876-1942) Papers

Collection Title: Ralph B. Dennis (1876-1942) Papers
Dates: 1897-1978
Identification: 20/25
Creator: Dennis, Ralph B. (Ralph Brownell), 1876-1942
Extent: 1 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: Ralph Brownell Dennis was born September 21, 1876, in Tama, Iowa. He received a diploma from Northwestern’s School of Oratory in 1897 and a Bachelor of Letters degree from the University’s College of Liberal Arts in 1901, and then became a member of the School of Oratory faculty. Dennis became the Associate Director in 1913, Director in 1916, and Dean of the School in 1919, serving until his retirement in 1942. Dennis worked to expand and modernize the School of Oratory (later the School of Speech) during his tenure. The Ralph B. Dennis Papers fill one half-size box and span the years from 1897 to 1978. Included in the series are biographical materials, correspondence, speeches and articles, a travelogue, and materials relating to declamation contests.
Acquisition Information: The Ralph B. Dennis Papers were transferred to the University Archives on January 27, 1984 (Accession #84-17). A small amount of correspondence has been added from series 20/16, School of Speech Personnel Files.
Processing Information: Margaret Faverty, March 29, 1984.
Conditions Governing Access: This series may be used only with permission of the University Archivist.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Ralph Brownell Dennis was a student of Northwestern's School of Oratory himself before becoming a member of the faculty. Eventually Dennis became the Associate Director, the Director and later the Dean of the School. Dennis worked to expand and modernize the School of Oratory (later the School of Speech) during his tenure.

Dennis was born September 21, 1876, in Tama, Iowa, the son of Jabez and Alice Reynolds Dennis. He attended grade school and high school in Traer, Iowa, graduating from the latter in 1894. He spent his freshman year at Cornell College in Iowa then transferred to Northwestern University in 1897. He received a diploma from Northwestern's School of Oratory in 1897 and a Bachelor of Letters degree from the University's College of Liberal Arts in 1901. In 1914 Northwestern also awarded Dennis an honorary Master of Arts degree. Wabash College presented him with an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1931.

Following his graduation from Northwestern, Dennis was appointed to the faculty of the university's School of Oratory. He resigned his position in 1909 to pursue a career in banking and social service. In 1913 Dennis returned to the School of Oratory, later the School of Speech, as its associate director. He became director of the School in 1916 and dean in 1919, serving until his retirement in 1942.

Dennis worked with the YMCA in Russia during World War I and for a short while served as an American vice-consul attached to the Moscow Consulate General. In 1921 he attended the League of Nations and World Peace Conference in Geneva and in 1939 he made an extensive overseas tour.

Known to faculty and students as “Skipper” and “Cy”, Dennis made his life's work the development, expansion, and modernization of Northwestern's School of Speech. During his tenure as dean, curricular innovations included the establishment of a children's theater program, a speech clinic, a radio department, and the National High School Institute. At the close of his career in 1942 Northwestern awarded Dennis its Alumni Medal.

Dennis was active in community affairs, as a member of numerous clubs, and served for twelve years on the Evanston Board of Education.

He married Myrta McKean in 1904. Mrs. Dennis died in 1937. In 1940 Dennis married Dorothy Critchfield. He had one adopted son, Daniel. Dennis died while vacationing in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on August 23, 1942, at the age of 66.

Scope and Content

The Ralph B. Dennis Papers fill one half-size box and span the years from 1897 to 1978. Included in the series are biographical materials, correspondence, speeches and articles, a travelogue, and materials relating to declamation contests.

One folder of biographical materials which span the period 1897-1978 includes Dennis' university matriculation papers and transcript, vitae, and clippings.

The correspondence, generally copies of outgoing letters, dates from 1922 to 1942. It documents a variety of routine administrative matters pertaining to the School of Speech such as curriculum, graduate placement, and enrollment. Much of the correspondence is addressed to students and concerns academics and disciplinary matters. Numerous student recommendations also are included. A small amount of correspondence written by Assistant Dean Clarence T. Simon may be found here. The correspondence is arranged in chronological order within two folders.

A small number of Dennis' briefer speeches and articles is arranged in one folder.

A travelogue, published by Northwestern in 1940, details Dennis' world travels of 1939. The travelogue is a compilation of the letters Dennis wrote while overseas.

Materials relating to declamation contests are arranged in one folder. Included are correspondence dating from 1934-1935 as well as typewritten statements (c. 1936-1937) pertaining to the organization of these contests.

Subjects

Corporate Name

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). School of Speech--Administration

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). School of Speech--Faculty

Personal Name

Dennis, Ralph B. (Ralph Brownell), 1876-1942


Container List / Contents

  • Biographical Materials, 1897-1978Box 1, Folder 1
  • Correspondence, 1922-1939Box 1, Folder 2
  • Correspondence, 1940-1942, n.d.Box 1, Folder 3
  • Speeches and Articles, 1933-1942, n.d.Box 1, Folder 4
  • Travelogue, (1939), 1940Box 1, Folder 5
  • Declamation Contest Materials, 1934-1937Box 1, Folder 6