Skip to main content

Northwestern University Centennial Celebration Records

Identifier: 0/12/1
These records of Northwestern University's Centennial Celebration in 1951 are, in general, comprehensive. They consist of minutes, calendars, correspondence, worksheets, planning docvuments and other materials. In many cases several drafts exist of letters, reports, and documents. This collection provides a sound historical basis for a major event in the University's development. Not only will it be useful to future historians of Northwestern but it will also be of value to other educational institutions planning for similar celebrations.


  • 1949-1952


Conditions Governing Access

Boxes 8-19 of this collection are stored off-site and require 48 hours advance notice for retrieval. This collection is stored off-site and requires 48 hours advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


19.00 Boxes


As Northwestern University approached its centennial year of 1951 plans began for both a celebration and a fund-raising campaign. Work was initiated in September 1949, when University President J. Roscoe Miller appointed A. C. Van Dusen (Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Summer Sessions) as Assistant to the President for the Centennial Celebration. The University formally announced the Centennial Campaign at the end of October 1949. The Records are arranged in eight categories: Preliminary Planning; Founders' Day (1951); Academic Conferences; Centennial Campaign; Meetings Indirectly Related to the Centennial; Related Correspondence and Greetings; Founders' Day (1952); General Reports/Publications.

Biographical / Historical

As Northwestern University approached its centennial year of 1951 plans were begun for both a celebration and a fund-raising campaign. Specific work on the Centennial Celebration was initiated early in September 1949, when University President J. Roscoe Miller appointed A. C. Van Dusen (Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Summer Sessions) as Assistant to the President for the Centennial Celebration. The University formally announced the Centennial Campaign at the end of October 1949.

This drive for $8,250,000, under the direction of Jay J. Gerber, Vice President and Director of Public Relations, was the first major fund-raising activity by Northwestern since the campaign in the early 1920s for the Chicago Campus. The Board of Trustees appointed a Centennial Committee to act as liaison for the planning.

Office space at 1815 Orrington Avenue was assigned for the Assistant to the President, the Executive Secretary, and other personnel for the Centennial Celebration. At the end of October Van Dusen left for a two-week trip to the East to discuss centennial and other celebrations with administrators of various universities and colleges that had already held such events.

Plans were developed to involve faculty members, students, alumni, and members of the Evanston community. A Coordinating Committee was established to facilitate the effective functioning of all of these groups.

The general objectives of the Centennial, which evolved out of these early meetings, included:

1. Reviewing the progress and educational achievements of Northwestern during its first century;

2. Evaluating the record of the past as the first step toward identifying and planning the goals of the University;

3. Providing a year of memorable educational experience and cultural opportunities for the various publics of the University;

4. Promoting the active interest of all those persons and groups who have been, or should be, associated with Northwestern;

5. Raising funds to provide the facilities for enabling Northwestern to meet its responsibilities for tomorrow – chief among these facilities were two buildings (a class-room building to be known as Centennial Hall, and a building for convocations and indoor sports events to be known as Memorial Hall) on the Evanston Campus, and one (an Evening Study Hall) on the Chicago Campus.

The Centennial Celebration consisted of five formal convocations, six academic conferences, and a wide variety of other events and meetings more or less directly concerned with the University. Founders' Day, January 28, 1951, was the opening event of the Centennial and the first formal convocation. The first academic conference, “International Understanding,” followed immediately on January 28-30. The next three academic conferences focused on “Science, Technology, and World Resources” (Feb. 28 - Mar. 2), “The Arts in Modern Society” (Apr. 16-17), and “Problems of an Aging Population” (June 7-8, held on the Chicago Campus). The second formal convocation, the Centennial Commencement, took place on June 11.

The new academic year saw the third formal convocation, October 1, which honored the exiled publisher of La Prensa (Buenos Aires), Alberto Gainza Paz. The fifth and final academic conferences on “Communications” and “The Individual, Group, and Government in the Modern Economy” were held on October 11-12 and November 14-16. The fourth and most widely publicized formal convocation, held on December 2, featured the presentation of “Centennial Awards for the Northwest Territory” to 100 outstanding men and women from the six states of the Northwest Territory, the area from which the University had taken its name. The Centennial Celebration came to its official closing on January 27, 1952, with the final formal convocation, Founders' Day. At this convocation the announcement was made that the Centennial Campaign had collected over $8,400, 000, about $200,000 beyond its goal.

The other events and meetings directly concerned with the University ranged from a Tree Planting (May 13) to a Special Transportation Lecture (Nov. 1). A highlight was the program on February 4 honoring John Evans (a founder of the University).

The major event not directly concerned with the University was the Centennial Jubilee (June 7-9), which was organized and managed by the City of Evanston. Several meetings of learned societies were held on the campus or in Evanston or Chicago.

Several commemorative articles were produced for the Centennial. The two most popular were a large copiously-illustrated book, “A Pictorial History of Northwestern University”, and an attractive Centennial Medallion.

The responses to both the celebration and the fund-raising facets of the Centennial suggest that the year-long program achieved its objectives.


These records are arranged in eight main categories in 19 boxes containing 195 folders, a bound volume, and several notebooks and transcriptions. Photographs of the individuals who received Centennial Awards and of the individuals and buildings involved in the John Evans Program have been removed from this collection and placed in the photographic files.

1. Preliminary Planning and Appointments, 66 folders, Boxes 1-6. This includes material on the early appointments of individuals and committees, correspondence related to Van Dusen's eastern trip, committee minutes, calendars, mailing lists, budget information, historical sketches of various departments and groups, publicity materials and reports, brochures, and clippings.

2. Founders' Day (1951) and Other Meetings and Events Directly Related to the Centennial, 34 folders, Boxes 6-9. Here are correspondence, worksheets, programs, and other items concerning Founders' Day (1951), the John Evans Program, the Centennial Convocation, and the other University-related events.

3. Academic Conferences, 34 folders, Boxes 10-15. This contains general material on the six academic conferences as well as, in most cases, planning documents and correspondence, worksheets, papers, acknowledgements, and a history of each conference.

4. Centennial Campaign, 3 folders, Boxes 15-16. Contains planning materials and correspondence, publications, and reports of gifts.

5. Meetings and Events Indirectly Related to the Centennial, 22 folders, Box 16-17. Contains correspondence and planning materials for these meetings and events, as well as some material on meetings and events that either did not ultimately take place or were finally held outside the University and its vicinity.

6. Related Correspondence and Greetings Pertaining to Northwestern's Centennial and to Centennial and Other Celebrations Elsewhere, 24 folders, Boxes 17-18. Includes material sent to or from celebrating colleges, universities, and industries.

7. Founders' Day (1952), 1 folder, Box 18. Contains correspondence and planning materials, as well as programs and announcements.

8. General Reports and Publications, 11 folders, Boxes 18-19. Includes material related to the athletic and pictorial histories and the budget, as well as information on attendance, catalogues and guides, summary reports, and outlines and notes for the history of the Centennial Celebration.

Method of Acquisition


Related Materials

Records of the Centennial Conference on the Arts, 1950-1951 (Series 0/12/2)

Records of the Centennial Loan Exhibition of Modern Painting, 1950-1951 (Series 11/3/3/3)

Separated Materials

A 12”x18”x1” serving tray illustrated with a color photoprint of Deering Library and captioned, “Deering Library [/] Northwestern University Centennial, 1851-1951.”

A wire recording identified as from the Centennial Academic Conference “Problems of an Aging Population” was discovered among the holdings of the University Archives on January 15, 1996. The “Problems of an Aging Population” conference took place on June 7th and 8th, 1951.

Transcripts of conference presentations may be found among the records of the centennial celebration.

The wire recording has been shelved with the University Archives' collection of audio discs; other centennial celebration recordings are available in disc format.

The wire recording was processed as an addition, but does not appear in the finding aid. It was Processed by Kevin Barry Leonard; January 18, 1996.

Processing Information

William K. Beatty; 1977.
Guide to the Northwestern University Centennial Celebration Records
William K. Beatty
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

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