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Robert B. Stevens presidential papers

Identifier: HCB-001-013

Scope and Contents

The papers of Robert Bocking Stevens, ca. 1978 to June 1987, are the files maintained and transferred by his office staff during his Haverford presidency. The files include a wide range of materials, but primarily memoranda and correspondence with faculty, administrators, students, alumni, and colleagues, with reports and studies on a variety of issues. The files were kept alphabetically within chronological spans, and that organization represents the four main series: Pre- 1984, from the 1970's to 1984, with reference materials from the previous administration; 1984-1985, from the 1970's to June 1985, representing primarily the academic year but with earlier reference and file items included; 1985-1986, from July 1985 to June 1986, during which from January to June 1986 Stevens was on sabbatical and Ronald Thiemann served as Acting President; 1986-1987, from July 1986 to June 1987. Some additional files represent four other smaller series: Chronological, November 1985 to June 1987; Speeches, September 1978 to June 1987; Budget, March 1985-June 1987; Miscellaneous calendars, phone logs, travel expenses, and files relating to his move to Santa Cruz. Stevens' files appear to be less complete for his earliest years, perhaps a reflection of Stevens' later observation that "My first two years were absolutely ghastly. It was quite unpleasant. There was a great deal of talk of Quakerism and a very lack of Quaker behavior." After much controversy, Haverford admitted women in 1980 under Stevens' administration, but there is little documenting the transition to coeducation nor is there much evidence of the work to provide a sounder financial footing. There is more evidence of many of Stevens' other accomplishments, including the effort toward greater diversity among students, faculty, and staff, and curriculum. The reports of the many visiting committees that evaluated academic departments were one strategy in working "to shore up the college's academic reputation." Developing increased cooperation with Bryn Mawr College is also a subject covered in the files. Other issues are fund raising, divestment of South African holdings, maintaining Quaker values in the Haverford experience, broadening the character of the governing bodies, and improvements to buildings and grounds.


  • Creation: 1970-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1977-1987


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Restricted. Permission for all access must be obtained from the College Archivist. Files closed until 2023 at Stevens request, letter, May 10, 2005; Letter to Stevens from Thomas R. Tritton, May 17, 2005: "I suggest that the College be in contact if requests come to locate specific information in your papers so that you might consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether historical information could be made available prior to 2023."

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.


Robert Bocking Stevens (1933-) was inaugurated as Haverford's tenth president in September 1978 amid turmoil over whether or not to admit women, an issue over which his predecessor had resigned. Stevens' primary charge was "to shore up the College's academic reputation and programs which, some thought, had become tarnished." He was met with other challenges, including budget deficits and demands for greater diversity. Stevens resigned to become Chancellor of University of California at Santa Cruz in June 1987. At his departure, John Jones, Board Chairman, observed that among Stevens' "lasting contributions were the successful transition to coeducational status [which the Board had approved in May 1979], the growth of an outstanding faculty, exceptional success in encouraging donations for endowment and other capital purposes, the development of a sound financial basis and a detailed planning process, improvement of relations with Bryn Mawr, real movement toward an effective diversity on campus, recruitment of talented administrators and, above all, the ability to attract superb students." Stevens was born in England and moved to the United States when he was 23, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1971. He was educated at Oxford University, the London School of Economics, Stanford University, the University of Texas and the University of East Africa. Before becoming president at Haverford, Stevens served as provost of Tulane University for two years. Following his Chancellorship at Santa Cruz, he returned to England where he has had several academic appointments. An expert in legal history and legal education in the United States and England, Stevens is the author of over 50 articles and several books.

Sources: Founded by Friends: the Quaker Heritage of Fifteen American Colleges and Universities, 2007; Haverford Horizons Magazine, Spring 1987; The Bryn Mawr-Haverford College News, April 24, 1987; President's Report, [1987]; Wikipedia.


30 linear ft. (32 boxes)


Robert Bocking Stevens files, from ca. 1978 to June 1987, are the administrative files of Haverford's tenth President. Memoranda, correspondence, reports, and other material document his administration, particularly issues of diversity, improvements to the academic program and administrative functions, cooperation with Bryn Mawr College, fund raising, and the college's Quaker foundation.

Custodial History

Transferred from President's Office in three different transfers.

Processing Information

For the most part, the order in which the files were maintained in the President's office was maintained. Three different transfers were interfiled (three different series of Pre-1984, 1984-1985, etc.). The first transfer is identified on file folders and in catalog records as POF1; the second transfer is identified as POF2. Some materials were removed and approved by the President's Office for disposal (list available).

Robert B. Stevens presidential papers
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Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

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