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Ver Steeg, Clarence L. (Clarence Lester), 1922-2007



  • Existence: 1922-2007


Clarence Lester Ver Steeg was born December 28, 1922, to John Arie and Annie (Vischer) Ver Steeg. One of twelve children, Ver Steeg spent his entire youth in the town of his birth, Orange City, Iowa. He was an excellent student, receiving high marks throughout his primary education. After graduating from high school in 1940, he attended Northwestern Junior College, now Northwestern College, in Orange City. To earn money while a student Ver Steeg embarked on a brief career selling imported Dutch novelties.

Ver Steeg joined the United States Army Air Forces in 1942 and, after basic and flight training, was sent overseas to the South Pacific. From 1943 to 1945, he saw combat as a navigator in a B-24 squadron. Participating in missions over Hong Kong, New Guinea, and the Philippines, Ver Steeg accumulated over 400 hours of combat flight experience. Among the military decorations he received was the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters and five battle stars.

Ver Steeg did not allow the war to preclude the achievement of personal goals. In 1943, he married fellow Orange City native Dorothy Ann DeVries. He received his B.A. degree in absentia from Morningside College in 1943. After the close of World War II and his discharge from the military, Ver Steeg enrolled at Columbia University in New York City. There he received his M.A. degree in political science in 1946 and his Ph.D. in history in 1950. His dissertation was a study of the Revolutionary War financier and patriot Robert Morris. While pursuing his graduate degrees, Ver Steeg served as a lecturer and instructor in Columbia's History Department.

Northwestern University appointed Ver Steeg an instructor of history in 1950. For the next two years his major teaching responsibilities included his department's survey course in American history. In 1952, Northwestern promoted Ver Steeg to assistant professor and he became an associate professor in 1955. Ver Steeg attained the rank of full professor in 1959. That same year he took up position as visiting professor at Harvard University. While spending the 1959-1960 academic year at Harvard Ver Steeg served as the First Senior Member of the Center for the Study of Liberty in America. In 1966, he lectured on American history at the Summer Institute of Stanford University held at Alpach, Austria.

After teaching at Northwestern for twenty-five years, Ver Steeg accepted appointment as Dean of its Graduate School. From 1975 to 1986, Ver Steeg served the Graduate School with distinction. His tenure saw many improvements made in the structure and functions of the school, in the promotion of research, and in the development of the life sciences. In 1986, he stepped down from his deanship and resumed his teaching responsibilities. Ver Steeg would go on to teach courses in American history until his retirement in 1992.

Ver Steeg served on many university committees, most significantly during the 1960s as chairman of the Northwestern Faculty Committee to Plan and Build the New University Library. Working with the noted architect Walter Netsch, he played a crucial role in the development, design, and construction of the new library. Ver Steeg was also chairman of the Northwestern University Faculty Committee to Plan the Future of the University (1962-1965), another prominent committee, which made significant contributions to Northwestern during a period of considerable change.

A prolific author, Ver Steeg published eleven monographs and textbooks, dozens of scholarly articles, and more one hundred book reviews (see Publications List below). He received the Albert J. Beveridge Prize of the American Historical Association in 1952 for his book, Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier (University of Pennsylvania Press). Northwestern recognized his many contributions to the university by establishing the Clarence L. Ver Steeg Professorship in the Arts and Sciences. In 2006, the Ver Steegs funded an endowment at Northwestern for the Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellow award, the university's first endowed recognition for excellence in research by a Northwestern faculty member.

Ver Steeg died July 2, 2007, at the Presbyterian Homes of Evanston, Illinois. A funeral service and burial took place July 5th at Orange City, Iowa.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Graduate School Records of the Dean, Clarence L. Ver Steeg

Identifier: 10/2

The records of the Clarence Ver Steeg cover the years 1945 to 1987; with the bulk involving Ver Steeg's tenure as Dean of Northwestern University's Graduate School (1976-1987). A few records predating or subsequent to Ver Steeg's Deanship are included.

Dates: 1945 - 1987

Records of the University Library Planning Committee Chairman, Clarence Ver Steeg

Identifier: 4/5/9
Abstract This collection documents the activity of the committee established to plan and oversee construction of Northwestern University's University Library building (completed in 1970), viewed through the lens of Clarence Ver Steeg, who chaired the committte for over a decade. The Planning/Building Committee held regular, monthly meetings in addition to engaging in ongoing, sub-committee duties, site visits, and research. The collection is centered around the working files of the committee,...
Dates: 1951 - 2001; Other: Majority of material found within 1961 - 1970; Other: Date acquired: 02/08/1984

Clarence L. Ver Steeg (1922-2007) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/16/23
Abstract Clarence Lester Ver Steeg initially joined Northwestern as a Professor of United States History in 1950 and served as Dean of The Graduate School from 1975 to 1986. Ver Steeg was most well known for teaching American history courses. Aside from his teaching responsibilities, he was instrumental in expanding graduate education programs. As chairman of the Northwestern Faculty Committee to Plan and Build the New University Library, Ver Steeg played a crucial role in the development, design,...
Dates: 1927-2005

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Air pilots, Military 1
Deans (Education) 1
Historians 1