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Frank Aydelotte Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG6-D07

Scope and Contents

The Presidential Papers contains President Aydelotte's official correspondence and correspondence with faculty. [There are also congratulatory letters (from D07/36) regarding Inauguration located in RG6 Oversize]. The collection is organized into the following series as received: 1. Correspondence 2. Faculty papers

The Personal Papers, now Series 3, reflect the wide variety of Aydelotte's activities: academic, cultural, philanthropic, family matters, and governmental advising, in which he acted in a personal capacity and not as an officer of Swarthmore College. These papers span his entire career, as a Rhodes Scholar, professor of English at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President of Swarthmore College, and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. The series is organized into the following sub-series as received: 1. Biographical and genealogical; 2. Diaries; 3. Correspondence.


  • Creation: 1905-1956


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research with the understanding that certain confidential materials may be redacted. Please contact the repository for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.

Biographical / Historical

Frank Aydelotte was born on October 16, 1880, in Sullivan, Indiana, the oldest of three children. His family was not Quaker, and he was the first president of Swarthmore College who did not belong to the Society of Friends, although he attended Quaker meeting at Swarthmore Monthly Meeting and was in accord with its principles. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Indiana in 1900 and three years later received an M.A. from Harvard. He taught high school in Kentucky and then was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1905 and studied at Oxford University. In 1907 he married Marie Jeanette Osgood. Upon his return to the United States, he taught at his undergraduate alma mater from 1908 to 1915, taking one year off to research at Oxford. From Indiana he went on to teach English Literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he taught until he became President of Swarthmore College in 1921. Aydelotte remained very active in the Rhodes Scholar Program because the time he spent in Oxford was so influential to him. He was the secretary of the Alumni Association, editor of the magazine, and in 1917 appointed American secretary of the Rhodes Trust and was responsible for the administration of Rhodes Scholarships in the United States until 1953. One of his goals as an educator was to find an institution in the United States where he could implement the intense type of education he had received in England. This place was Swarthmore College, and the accelerated education took the form of the Honors Program, initiated during only the second year of his presidency.

While Swarthmore College had made academic gains during the administration of Joseph Swain, it was under Aydelotte that it became committed to excellence. Aydelotte is best remembered for the drastic changes he made in the school, not only in his revision of the curriculum but changes in student life as well. His first year was spent planning Honors courses, the structure of which would be seminar style, similar to what he himself had experienced at Oxford. An alternative to the pass degree, the Honors Program included examinations at the end of the senior year conducted by external examiners distinguished in the appropriate fields. In the fall of 1922, 22 juniors enrolled in the two year Honors Program in English Literature or Social Sciences. The number of students enrolled in the Honors Program continued to grow to about 40 percent and stayed there until the late sixties and early seventies, with the exception of the World War II years. Though the Honors Program was a great success, it was costly to run. However, Aydelotte had a wonderful ability for raising money, and during the years of his presidency he raised the endowment from three to eight million dollars and increased the yearly income from $470,000 to $925,000.

In other efforts to place the school into the realm of other prestigious colleges and universities, Aydelotte changed the student body and life on campus as well. The success of the Honors Program was largely due to the fact that he began raising the intellectual level of the college as a whole. He appointed teachers who were experts in their particular fields and improved the student/teacher ratio. Wanting to downplay the highly social aspects of campus life, he began to de-emphasize the role of football on campus, abolished hazing in fraternities, reduced the number of fraternity dances, and organized the independent male students. During his presidency, sororities were abolished. He raised the academic standard for admission by making acceptance much more competitive. Enrollment increased as he reached out to qualified students across the country and managed to gain applicants from a number of different states and ethnic groups.

In October 1939, Aydelotte resigned from the presidency Swarthmore College to become the second director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he served until his retirement in 1947. He had been a trustee at the Institute since its founding in 1930. Leaving Swarthmore College, he had succeeded in raising the intellectual level, established the Honors Program, and increased the College's endowment. Upon resigning from the presidency of the College and no longer concerned that joining the Society of Friends would give an appearance of partiality, he joined Swarthmore Monthly Meeting on Oct. 17, 1939. In 1945, he became a member of the Swarthmore College Board of Managers and also participated in the Joint Anglo-American Commission on Palestine. Frank Aydelotte died in Princeton, New Jersey, on December 17th, 1956, after several years of failing health.


120.5 linear ft. (276 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Frank Aydelotte Papers consists of President Aydelotte's official correspondence, correspondence with faculty, and personal papers.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Series 1 and 2 were deposited by the President's Office, ca. 1972.

Series 3 was donated in 1977 by President Aydelotte's son, William O. Aydelotte.

Related Materials

Swarthmore College Board of Managers Records, at Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa.

Processing Information

Series 1 and 2 of this collection (formerly Series A, Presidential Papers, were tranferred from the Office of the President and processed in the early 1970s, at which time materials were sorted, placed into folders, and inventoried. Series 3 (formerly designated Series B, Personal Papers) was received and processed in 1977 at which time materials were sorted, placed into folders, and inventoried. Since Aydelotte himself did not make a clear distinction between personal and official papers, some official papers concerning his Swarthmore College Presidency were inevitably included with his personal papers. Both collections were reprocessed in 1998/99 as part of the reorganization of the Swarthmore College Archives. Items were placed into acid-free folders and boxes and identification clarified. The Series 1 and 2 were numbered consecutively; Series 3 numbered separately. A complete finding aid was produced. In 2013, Series 3 was reboxed and the inventory reviewed and corrected.

Frank Aydelotte Papers, 1905-1956
FHL Staff
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