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  • Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers, 1941-2001 (Bulk 1941-1974)-- Finding Aid

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Drew University Archives
36 Madison Avenue
Madison, NJ 07940
Phone: 973-408-3532
Fax: 973-408-3770

http://www.drew.edu/library/special-collections/university-archives

Summary Information

Creator
Oxnam, Robert Fisher.

Title and dates
Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers, 1941-2001 [Bulk 1941-1974]

Abstract
Dr. Robert Fisher Oxnam was the eighth president of Drew University from 1962 to 1974. He served as Drew's first and only chancellor following his resignation from the presidency due to a serious illness. This collection includes a journal and scrapbooks compiled while in the U.S. Army and working at Boston University and Syracuse University ; correspondence and speeches from Oxnam's time as president of the Pratt Institute and Drew University.

Size
2.125 linear feet (5 boxes)

Location
Drew University Archives, Madison, NJ

Language of materials
English

Biography

Dr. Robert Fisher Oxnam served Drew University from 1961 to 1974 as the first lay person to hold the position of university president in Drew history. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Oxnam was the son of Garfield Bromley Oxnam and Ruth Fisher Oxnam. Oxnam graduated from De Pauw University (Indiana) in 1937, then earned a master's degree in political science at the University of Southern California. He enlisted in the army and served in Europe as an infantry captain during World War II. He returned to USC to complete a second master's degree in public administration in 1947 and a doctorate in political science a year later.

While at USC, he served as an assistant director of public affairs and then went to Syracuse University ( New York ) in 1948 to be assistant dean of liberal arts, acting dean of the School of Speech and Dramatic Art, assistant professor of government, and assistant to the chancellor. In 1953, he filled a new post at Boston University as vice president for administration, and in 1958 became president of the Pratt Institute ( New York ). He was later honored by Syracuse University with a medal “for service to education and society.” He also received honorary degrees from the American University ( Washington, DC ), De Pauw University, West Virginia Wesleyan College, and Norwich University ( Vermont ).

A son of the late Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, he was a leader in the United Methodist Church, holding memberships on the Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council, the Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas, and the Commission on Ecumenical Affairs, and the chairmanship of the Crusade Scholarship Committee. He was active in educational, international, and civic affairs, holding memberships in the American Society of Public Administration, the American Political Science Association, the American Academy of Political Science, the American Association of University Professors, and The Century Association of New York City. He was also president of the College-Federal Agency Council of the New York Region, U.S. Civil Service, and a director of the Greater New York Council for Foreign Service.

Oxnam left his mark during his tenure as Drew president. The enrollment rose from about 950 to 1,844, the number of buildings from 26 to 41, and the library budget from $100,000 to about $450,000. The University budget, balanced throughout his term in office, quadrupled from just over $2 million to about $8 ½ million. Dr. and Mrs. Oxnam frequently opened their home to student organizations, alumni groups, and visitors to the campus, including Martin Luther King, Madame Indira Ghandi, and Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan.

Under Oxnam's leadership, the College of Liberal Arts introduced a half-dozen off-campus and overseas programs, including semesters in Brussels and with the United Nations in New York. The Theological School developed innovative programs in continuing education, field work, and the professional doctorate, using outstanding clergy from the New York metropolitan area as adjunct faculty. Drew's public service role was also expanded during Oxnam's presidency by the formation of a division of special programs and continuing education for the general public and the offering of about 250 free public events annually, including major conferences on such matters as futuristics, regional planning, and the environment, and academic consultation on hermeneutics and civil religion. The New Jersey Shakespeare Festival and offices for the Arts Councils were relocated to Drew, the affiliation with the Colonial Symphony was continued, and the University received the New Jersey Drama Critics Association community service award for its support of the Festival.

As president, Oxnam spoke out strongly on behalf of civil rights, academic freedom, and an end to the war in Vietnam, even at times when these ideas were not especially popular among the general public. Faculty groups occasionally disagreed with him on various issues, but Oxnam received multiple tributes from students and faculty, praising his “humanity, vision and wise leadership,” and thanking him for “encouraging broader dialogue with students, opening avenues of discussion with trustees, establishing a fair and equitable judicial system,” and, through it all, “maintaining fairness and equanimity.”

Once the archery champion of both New York and Massachusetts, Oxnam was also an active skier, fencer, cyclist, and sail boating and scuba diving enthusiast, and served on the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1962 to 1966. He was a widely traveled student of international affairs and widely read student of history, a traveler, professional actor, amateur gardener and photographer, private pilot, radio announcer, carpenter and craftsman, Sunday School teacher, Parent-Teacher Association officer, and den father.

His resignation came suddenly after the discovery of a fatal malignancy during a hospital stay for the flu. Shortly after his departure in June, Oxnam was named Drew's first and only chancellor. He passed away on July 19, 1974.

Scope and Content Note

The Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers provide insight into the personal side of Drew University 's eighth president. He held the position from 1962 to 1974, resigning only after the diagnosis of a serious illness in June 1974. The collection materials were generated in the United States and in Wiesbaden, Germany, where Oxnam was stationed during World War II.

This collection includes a journal and scrapbooks compiled while he served in the United States Army and working at Boston University and Syracuse University ; correspondence and speeches from Oxnam's time as president of the Pratt Institute and Drew University.

Arrangement

The Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers are arranged into three series:

Access and Use

Access
The Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers collection is available for research.

Restrictions on Use and Copyright Information
One photocopy may be made of each document for the purpose of research. Permission to publish must be obtained from the Drew University Archivist. Researcher responsible for further copyright restrictions.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
The Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers collection contains 10 reel-to-reels.

Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition
The Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers collection was donated in August 2004 by Dr. Oxnam's widow, Mrs. Dalys Oxnam Jaecker.

Related Materials

Related Archival Materials
Drew University holds several related collections:
President's Office Papers from 1867 to the present
People and Events photograph collection (finding aid)
George Eberhardt Audio Collection, which contains Oxnam's speeches and other audio material of events during his tenure at Drew University.

Processing and Other Information

Processing Information
This collection was processed by Anna Henderson in April 2007. The finding aid was written by Anna Henderson in April 2007.

Descriptive Rules Used
Finding aid content follows the guidelines suggested by Describing Archives: A Content Standard.

Language
English

Notes
Newspaper articles were photocopied for preservation purposes. Photographs were removed from photo albums and placed in mylar sleeves.

Preferred Citation
Identification of item; Date (if noted); Robert Fisher Oxnam Papers, Box and Folder Number; University Archives, Drew University Library, Madison, New Jersey.

Subject Headings

Oxnam, G. Bromley (Garfield Bromley), 1891-1963.
Oxnam, Robert Fisher.

Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972.

Boston University.

De Pauw University.
Drew University.
Pratt Institute.
Syracuse University.
United States. Army.
University of Southern California.
Civil rights.
College presidents.
Methodism.
Vietnam.
World War II.
Correspondence.
Photographs.
Sound recordings.

Contents List

Series 1: Bound Volumes, 1941-1957

Series Description
The Bound Volumes Series contains Oxnam's Master's thesis in Political Science from the University of Southern California, and a journal and scrapbooks containing detailed information from Oxnam's service in the United States Army during World War II, and his tenure at Syracuse University and Boston University.

Arrangement
Arranged chronologically.

Title

Date

Journal

1941

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: A New Frontier in Labor History

June 1942

Scrapbook, United States Army

1942-1943

Scrapbook, United States Army

1944-1945

Scrapbook, United States Army

1945-1946

Scrapbook, Syracuse University

1948-1950

Scrapbook, Syracuse University

1951-1953

Scrapbook, Boston University

1953-1957

Series 2: Pratt Institute, 1950-1961

Series Description
The Pratt Institute Series provides insight into Oxnam's first stint as a university president. It includes correspondence, newspaper articles, speeches, and photographs. Some photographs were removed from albums and remain in their original order in the folder. One folder relates to Syracuse and is also included here.

Arrangement
Arranged chronologically.

Box

Folder

Title

Date

1

1

Syracuse

1950-1960

1

2

Inauguration at the Pratt Institute

1957

1

3

Congratulatory Letters, A-L

1957

1

4

Congratulatory Letters, M-Z

1957

1

5

Administrative File

1957-1960

1

6

Work at the Pratt Institute

1957-1961

1

7

Speeches

1957

1

8

Speeches

1958

1

9

Speeches

1959

1

10

Speeches

1960

111Departure from the Pratt Institute1961

2

1

Photographs (from album)

1957-1961

2

2

Photographs

1957-1961

23

Photographs

1957-1961

24

Photographs

1957-1961

25

Photographs

1957-1961

26Pratt Miscellaneousundated

Series 3: Drew University, 1961-2001

Series Description
The Drew University Series documents Oxnam's activities while serving as president of the university. It includes correspondence, newspaper articles, reel-to-reels and other documentation of Drew events. The collection includes many photographs; some were loose in the collection, while the majority were arranged in photo albums. They have been removed from the albums for preservation and remain in their original order within their respective files. The series has been divided into two subseries: Subseries A includes papers and photographs; and Subseries B includes alternative medium items, such as a platter and reel-to-reels. The HMS Pinafore reel-to-reels have been digitized and are currently located on G:\Special Collections & Archives Department\Digitization.

Arrangement
Subseries A arranged chronologically. Subseries B arranged by medium.

Box

Folder

Title

Date

 

 

Subseries A: Papers and Photographs

2

7

Newspaper clippings

1959, undated

2

8

Administrative File

1960, undated

2

9

Inauguration at Drew University

1961

2

10

Congratulatory Letters

1961

2

11

Public Speaking and Publications

1961-1971, undated

2

12

Drew Speeches

1961-1973

2

13

The Great Swamp of Morristown, NJ

1962-1964

2

14

Student Activism

1962-1970

3

1

Sympathy letters regarding the death of G. Bromley Oxnam

1963

3

2

The Barber Affair

1963-1964

3

3

Little Brook Farm Convention Center

1964

3

4

The Mellon Affair

1965

3

5

Honorary Degree from Norwich University

1966

3

6

The Ranson Affair

1967

3

7

Correspondence

1967-1975

3

8

Illness and Resignation

1974

3

9

Obituaries and Memorials

1974-1975

3

10

Oxnam Awards and Chairmanships

1974, undated

3

11

Correspondence with Dalys Oxnam Jaecker

1974-2001

3

12

Miscellaneous

1963-1975

3

13

Book of Sermons and Prayer Book

undated

3

14

Photographs

undated

3

15

Photo Album #1

undated

3

16

Photo Album #2

undated

3

17

2 Photographs: Harry S. Truman with G. Bromley Oxnam

March 7, 1946

4

1

Photo Album #3

undated

4

2

Photo Album #4

undated

4

3

Photo Album #5

undated

4

4

Photo Album #6

undated

4

5

Photo Album #6 copies

undated

4

6

Photo Album #6 contents

undated

 

 

Subseries B: Alternative Mediums

4

7

Round platter with Drew University crest

undated

4

8

Framed membership certificate to Drew University 's New Founders Society awarded to Dalys Oxnam Jaecker

undated

5

Reel-to-reel

Highlights of Robert Fisher Oxnam Addresses

1961-1966

5

Reel-to-reel

Highlights of Robert Fisher Oxnam Addresses

1966-1974

5

Reel-to-reel

“The Methodist Layman on the Frontier”

March 1961

5

Reel-to-reel

Drew University Presidential Inaugural Ceremony

October 1961

5

Reel-to-reel

The Cooper Union Forum

March 1962

5

Reel-to-reel

Meeting with College Student Body

October 1965

5

Reel-to-reel

HMS Pinafore, Act I (featuring Oxnam's daughter)

August 1968

5

Reel-to-reel

HMS Pinafore, Act II (featuring Oxnam's daughter)

August 1968

5

Reel-to-reel

Oxnam's Memorial Service at Drew University

September 1974

5

Reel-to-reel

President Oxnam's Commencement Address

undated

Last updated 11/2018 by Matthew Beland