Skip to main content

Ara Parseghian Collection

Identifier: 25/14

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Ara Parseghian Collection ranges in date between circa 1945 and 2017 although the bulk of the material dates to Parseghian’s tenure as football coach of Northwestern University, 1956 through 1963. Arranged in ten boxes, 12.3 megabytes of born-digital video, and includes two oversized drawings, the collection is organized into the following categories: biographical materials, photographs, Northwestern University football programs, trophy footballs, artifacts, audiovisual materials, and oversized items.

Biographical materials and football career include biographical items and clippings which outline the details of Parseghian’s life as well as his appointments as head football coach at Miami University of Ohio, Northwestern University, and the University of Notre Dame. Of particular note are the records associated with Parseghian’s Northwestern years, especially a game and practice diary and game plans, scouting reports, and analyses of specific games played against selected Northwestern opponents. This series includes one DVD of born-digital video content.

Photographs document Parseghian’s teams as well as showcase specific individual players, especially from his Northwestern years. Also included are game and practice views, portraits, and shots of non-football events.

Programs from Northwestern University home football games are bound together in annual volumes which cover the years 1956 through 1963. Parseghian’s name is embossed onto the covers of those volumes.

Four trophy footballs relate to important games or moments in Parseghian’s association with Northwestern.

Artifacts likewise document significant achievements related to Parseghian’s Northwestern tenure.

Audiovisual items include a 16-millimeter film from Parseghian’s coaching clinic. Also included is a videotape record from the reunion of Parseghian’s 1962 Northwestern team, a group that earned a top national ranking for a portion of that season.

Completing the collection are two oversized drawings. Especially noteworthy is an original Joe Parrish (Chicago Tribune) cartoon which celebrates the accomplishment of Parseghian’s 1962 Northwestern Wildcats.


  • circa 1945-2017 and undated


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Ara Raoul Parseghian was an American football player and coach. He was born on May 21, 1923, in Akron, Ohio, to parents Michael and Amelia Parseghian. He excelled in sports, and was a four-sport athlete at Akron South High School, playing baseball, basketball, golf and, beginning his junior year, football.

Upon graduating high school in 1942, Parseghian enrolled at the University of Akron but withdrew to enlist in the United States Navy during World War II. He was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, where he played football for, and observed the coaching tactics of, legendary Ohio high school and college coach Paul Brown. After two years of military service, Parseghian attended Miami University of Ohio and played halfback during the 1946 and 1947 seasons under coach Sid Gilman. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League in the thirteenth round of the 1947 draft and was also selected by the Cleveland Browns of the competing All-American Football Conference. At that time, the Browns were coached by his former Navy coach, Paul Brown. Parseghian signed with the Cleveland Browns. He played halfback and defensive back for the Browns for the 1948 and 1949 seasons before a hip injury during the 1949 season ended his playing career.

Parseghian promptly commenced his coaching career. Woody Hayes, varsity football coach of Miami University of Ohio, hired Parseghian to coach the freshman football team for the 1950 season. He became varsity coach the following year, following Hayes’s departure for The Ohio State University. Parseghian had four successful years coaching at Miami of Ohio, including two conference championships in 1954 and 1955. In 1955, he was hired to be the head football coach at Northwestern University.

Parseghian coached at Northwestern University from 1956 to 1963. He is credited for turning around a struggling program and achieving notable wins, including victories over Ohio State and Notre Dame, among other highly ranked teams. Under Parseghian, Northwestern was ranked number two in the Associated Press college football poll for a portion of the 1959 season and held the number one spot for a brief time during the 1962 season. He also orchestrated four straight wins over Notre Dame once the regular series against Northwestern, which had been paused for a ten-year interval, resumed in 1959. When Parseghian’s contract was not renewed in timely fashion during the 1963 season, he accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame for the following year.

Parseghian coached at Notre Dame between1964 and 1974. He enjoyed tremendous success at Notre Dame, including winning two national championships in 1966 and 1973, and was largely credited with re-establishing Notre Dame as a national football powerhouse. He had an overall record there of ninety-five wins, seventeen losses and four tie games, with his winning percentage ranked third, behind only legendary Notre Dame football coaches Knute Rockne, and Frank Leahy. Parseghian received numerous awards and accolades reflecting his coaching successes during his lifetime, including induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980. Upon his retirement from coaching, Parseghian commenced a broadcasting career, serving as a color analyst for ABC Sports from 1975 to 1981, and covering college football for CBS Sports from 1982 until 1988. He received an honorary degree in humanities from Miami University of Ohio in 1978 and served as a trustee there from 1978 to 1987. He also received an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1997.

Parseghian married Kathleen (Katie) Davis on December 30, 1948. They had three children, Karan, Kristan and Michael. Karan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her youth, and Parseghian became active in and a contributor to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, including serving on its board, to promote research and help find a cure. In 1994, three of his grandchildren were diagnosed with a rare and fatal genetic disease known as Niemann-Pick Type C disease. Parseghian, along with son Michael and daughter-in-law Cindy Parseghian, founded the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation to advance research on this rare disease. He served on the foundation’s board until 2015, when the foundation was reorganized as the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund at Notre Dame.

Parseghian died at his home in Granger, Indiana on August 2, 2017.


10 Boxes

2 folders

12.3 Megabytes

Language of Materials



The Ara Parsegian Collection fills 10 boxes, 2 folders, and 12.3 megabytes of born-digital files. Spanning 1945-2017, the collection includes papers, photographs, audiovisual materials, and artifacts documenting the career of football coach, Ara Parseghian. This collection centers largely on Parseghian’s work as coach of the Northwestern University Wildcats, 1956-1963.


Collection is arranged by format type.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Available born-digital materials in this collection are delivered to researchers in born-digital formats. Requests for different access methods, such as those not using computers or with the aid of assistive technologies, must be made in advance of a research appointment to Library staff.

Custodial History

The born-digital content from the DVD "Return to Ryan Field" was transferred using read-only technologies creating preservation copies to extract the content without altering any of its data. Preservation copies have been moved to secure digital storge with recurring digital preservation actions applied according to the Libraries’ digital preservation policy.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to Northwestern University Archives by Kathleen Parseghian, December 1, 2020 (Accession #2020-10). The DVD in the collection was imaged on April 12, 2024 to create preservation copies of the data and to transfer to data to Libraries’ managed storage.

Guide to the Ara Parseghian Collection
Kevin Leonard
March 2024
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US