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Records of University Chaplain, James Edward Avery (1949-1999)

Identifier: 30/16

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of University Chaplain James E. Avery date from 1960 through 1986 and fill sixty boxes. The bulk of the records date from the period of Avery's Northwestern chaplaincy, 1973-1986. They are divided into six categories: Avery's biographical and educational materials, pastoral and personal correspondence, administrative subject files, Church in the Chapel records, Quaecumque files, and records pertaining to religious and special services performed by the chaplain or his associates.

Biographical and educational materials include a folder of clippings and other biographical items and a larger volume of correspondence, notes, and coursework from Avery's undergraduate and graduate studies.

Pastoral and personal correspondence dates from 1971 through 1986 and fills more than two boxes. Entirely incoming, the correspondence largely concerns personal matters, often intimate, related to Avery by close friends. Some of the correspondence, written by those he counseled in a pastoral role, is sensitive in nature. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Administrative subject files are arranged alphabetically by topical headings and occupy more than twenty boxes, a considerable portion of the series. They concern the formal and routine work of the chaplain and staff of Northwestern's Alice S. Millar Chapel and Religious Center. The chaplain's office administered religious affairs on campus and was closely involved with the work of the Office (later Division) of Student Affairs as well as other Northwestern units. As a consequence, the files found here relate not only to the chaplaincy and campus religious concerns but also to academics, alumni, university administrators and faculty, curricular matters, social and political concerns, committees, residence halls, and other matters.

The Church in the Chapel, an interdenominational Christian congregation including members of the Northwestern community and local residents, was established in 1971. This congregation formed the core of regular worshippers at the Alice S. Millar Chapel. Northwestern's University Chaplain served as pastor to the group. (For additional information see University Archives Series 0/23/1, Records of the Church in the Chapel.) Records found here concern administrative matters relating to the congregation.

Records relating to the journal Quaecumque fill about five boxes and include files pertaining to articles, authors, and topics of interest to the publication's editors. Files are arranged alphabetically by proper names and topical headings.

Records on religious and special services are voluminous, filling twenty-five boxes. The bulk relates to weekly Sunday services, filed individually and arranged chronologically. These records include service programs, sermon texts, and other pertinent materials. Following are chronologically arranged folders containing similar items relating to Northwestern baccalaureate and commencement ceremonies. Completing this category are files on memorial services and weddings conducted by Avery or at Alice Millar Chapel.


One box of files on religious and special services has been added to the series. The files date from 1981 and from the period 1985-1986. Included are service programs, texts and drafts of Avery’s homilies, and related notes and correspondence. The files are arranged in chronological order.


  • 1960 - 1986
  • Other: Majority of material found within 1973 - 1986


Conditions Governing Access

Sensitive materials may be present in pastoral and personal correspondence; consultation with University Archivist required prior to use.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days 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.


59.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



While attending Northwestern, James Edward Avery developed a calling toward the ministry. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Avery began studies at the Yale Divinity School. In 1973, Avery was hired as Northwestern’s interim chaplain. The following year he accepted the appointment of University Chaplain. During his tenure at Northwestern, Avery continued the development of the Alice Millar Chapel into a working congregation of regular attendants. Very popular with students, faculty, and staff, Avery often spoke at or presided over various community functions. Avery's records primarily date from the 1973-1986, during his chaplaincy. The series are divided into six categories: Avery’s biographical and educational materials, pastoral and personal correspondence, administrative subject files, Church in the Chapel records, Quaecumque files, and records pertaining to religious and special services performed by the chaplain or his associates.

Arrangement Note

Materials are organized alphabetically by folder title, or chronologically.

Method of Acquisition

James E. Avery donated these records to the University Archives in two accessions: 87-130 and 87-186.

Addition: Transferred to the University Archives by Marge Bradford on March 2, 1994 (Accession #94-35).

Separated Materials

Approximately one linear foot of duplicate material has been discarded. Another linear foot of space was saved by flattening correspondence and discarding covering envelopes.

Processing Information

Nathan Youngblood; June-August, 2006.

Addition: Kevin B. Leonard; December 6, 2006.

Guide to the Records of University Chaplain, James Edward Avery (1949-1999)
Nathan Youngblood
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

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