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John R. Coleman presidential papers

Identifier: HCB-001-012

Scope and Contents

The files of John R. Coleman, 1969-1976, are a random selection from what was undoubtedly a much larger record. The main series is alphabetical. There is a small series of material that was added at some later time with speeches, statements, and other miscellaneous material. Additions also has a small file of letters from distinguished people, including U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, U. S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, United Farm Workers of America President Cesar Chavez, journalist Studs Terkel, and author Lillian Hellman. The files of some other administrators on expansion, coeducation, and cooperation were, for unknown reasons, placed with President Coleman's papers. This is the Supplement Series.

Two subjects that are well documented are the protests against the Vietnam War which swept college campuses during the 1969/1970 academic year and the controversy over the admission of women.

Coleman inherited from his predecessor Hugh Borton the question over whether or not to expand the student population. Coleman came to feel that expansion would provide some solution to the financial difficulties he faced. However, he was not sure that there would be an ample enough pool of qualified men to support an increase, and so he began to investigate the possibility of opening admissions to women. The lengthy deliberations, through Coleman's entire career at Haverford (he would resign because of it), including the struggles to enhance cooperation with Bryn Mawr College, are represented in his own files and well as those of other administrators involved, primarily the Vice President for Development Steve Cary.

College concern over the Vietnam War took place over a far briefer period of time, but from Fall 1969 through Spring 1970 Haverford participated in, and in some cases led, protest. In the first semester a two-day moratorium was held, and Coleman wrote a statement against the war and gathered signatures from college and university presidents for presentation to President Nixon. In May 1970 almost the entire campus vacated for a discussion with legislators in Washington D. C.

There is a large file of correspondence, memoranda, and briefs on Haverford's (et al.) successful class action suit against of Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency over requirements for reporting on activities of students receiving state scholarships and loans.

Governance was a frequent concern, with two efforts to reform it: the first to examine new ways for decision-making; the second to better incorporate diversity. The struggle for diversity is also documented in the Black Students League file. Some debate over changes in the Freshman and Sophomore Inquiry and other curricula are also present.

In 1974 Haverford was evaluated by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association. The background papers prepared for the study, the Commission's report, focusing on strengths and weaknesses, Haverford-Bryn Mawr relations, resources and financial management, and governance, and Coleman's reply are included in these records.


  • Creation: 1967-1976


Conditions Governing Access

Permission for all access must be obtained from the College Archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.


John R. Coleman initially resisted the efforts to bring him to Haverford, but he eventually reconsidered and became the College's ninth president. In announcing his appointment he was introduced as "a man of ideas, of energy, of integrity." He was a naturalized U. S. citizen, having grown up in Canada. After getting his PhD. in economics from the University of Chicago he entered teaching, and he became Dean at Carnegie Institute of Technology. He started at Haverford in September 1967, leaving the Ford Foundation where he had worked for the previous two years. He was the first president who was not a Quaker although he later became Quaker.

Haverford had not been immune to the unrest on college campuses during the late 1960's. Coleman's early years involved managing a variety of protests, not only by students but by his own administration against government intrusion. Vietnam and minority student concerns were faced. As those issues faded, his administration tackled the need for an expanded student body and the related issue of coeducation and Haverford's relations with Bryn Mawr College.

Coleman took a sabbatical from February to May 1973, during which he experimented in a variety of manual labor jobs. The experience drew much publicity and Coleman wrote about it for New York magazine and his book Blue-Collar Journal: A College President's Sabbatical.

After the College's Board of Managers declined to provide for full coeducation Coleman announced his resignation and left in May 1977. He became president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, after which he became an innkeeper in Vermont.

On his resignation, it was said that Coleman's "popularity among students and alumni is probably unparalleled," that he steered the college through the "troubled times" of the late 60's and early 70's, made the college better known, and "challenged old mores."

Sources: Horizons, Summer 1967, 22; Horizons, v. 74, #4, 2-3; Horizons, [Fall 1977]; Wikipedia.


4.63 linear ft. (6 boxes)

Language of Materials



The John R. Coleman files, 1967-1977, document the presidency of Haverford's ninth President. These are only a selection of the president's files. Although they do not give a full record of Coleman's administration, there is substantial information on Haverford's response to the Vietnam War and the debate over bringing coeducation to the college. Debates over diversity, governance, and curriculum are also found in Coleman's files.

Custodial History

The transfer of the Coleman records to the College Archives does not appear to be the result of any systematic effort. Some of the transferred records were placed in the vault, some in the 5th tier, some were transferred with the Thomas Tritton files. The "supplemental" records from the offices of Stephen G. Cary, Sam Gubins, and Edwin Bronner were, for unknown reasons, included with Coleman's files (perhaps they were sent to the President's office once the issue had been decided).

Separated Materials

Several folders marked "Prior" ("Corporation of Haverford College—Annual Meeting—Prior) include files from the Borton administration , presumably used by Coleman for reference. They have been transferred to the Borton papers. Some Borton files were retained when they directly related to Coleman's actions.

John R. Coleman presidential papers
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