Skip to main content

Office of the President (Ell) records

Identifier: A002

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Office of the President (Ell), consist of approximately 13 cubic feet of material.  Because the original order of the records was indiscernible, they were arranged into 3 series:  (1) Correspondence and Memoranda, (2) Subject Files, and (3) Writings and Speeches.  The bulk of the collection documents Carl Stephens Ell's tenure as the second president of Northeastern University, 1940-1959.  The collection also includes a significant amount of material generated by CSE in his various other capacities at NU, reflecting CSE's involvement in the administration of the University prior to his appointment as president.

The collection includes material dating prior to CSE's inauguration as president; however, the bulk represents the years 1938-1959.  Also included letters from individuals who were prominent in politics, education and business, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, G. Bromly Oxnam (a president of DePauw University), and Clarence Birdseye (scientist and inventor of the process for quick-freezing of foods).  The bulk of these letters are unsubstantive.  There are also folders of correspondence between CSE and Francis Bulfinch , partner in the architectural firm Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott which designed the core of the Huntington Avenue physical plant (box 11, folder 158), Everett Churchill, an administrator at NU (box 11, folder 159), and Schell Lewis, draughtsman responsible for the drawings of the physical plant (box 11, folder 160).  Correspondence on specific subjects also may be found under the topic or name of the individual in Series II.  Subject Files.

CSE was extremely interested in documenting the development of NU from a small educational program under the auspices of the Boston YMCA (founded 1851) to a major university.  Correspondence and other materials documenting the gradual separation of NU from its parent institution can be found in YMCA Relationship (boxes 5-6, folders 119-127 and box 32, folders 561-563).  Detailed information on the enrollment, faculty, curriculum and finances of NU at several crucial points in its history can be found in Development of NU: Reports, 1904-35 (box 2, folder 19), Enrollments, 1909-74 (box 17, folder 264), Faculty, Staff, Alumni (box 3, folders 49-57; box 20, folders 328-339; box 21, folders 340-350; and box 39), and Financial (box 21, folder 354 and box 22, folders 355-356).  Researchers should note that the program from the musical "Listening In" includes information on the University in 1924 (box 29, folder 494b).  In addition, CSE compiled historical data on the early years of what later became NU, and carefully recorded the dates and circumstances of significant events throughout his association with NU.  This information, including some that is not recorded in the official published histories of the University, is located in Historical Compilations (box 3, folders 70-78; box 10; and box 27, folders 437-470).

During CSE's presidency, NU's physical plant grew significantly.  Documentation on the acquisition of land, fund raising for specific building projects, and university events surrounding the building of each new structure are located primarily in Events (boxes 2-3, folders 29-47; box 8, folders 144-153; box 8, folders 663-674; and boxes 17-20, folders 271-323) and Fund Raising and Development (box 3, folders 59-68 and boxes 22-26, folders 358-432).  Materials relating to the construction of specific buildings can be found in Physical Plant Construction (box 31, folders 514-520).  Information on buildings can also be found in Historical Compilations: Acquisition of Land and Buildings, 1929-60 (box 27, folder 437), Historical Compilations: Chronologies, Student Center, 1946-8 (box 27, folder 443), Historical Compilations: Chronological [and Alphabetical] Card File (box 10), YMCA Relationship: Correspondence: Charges, Costs, Rentals, 1940-53 (box 5, folder 120), and YMCA Relationship: NU Library in YMCA Building, 1940 (box 6, folder 125).This series information on specific individuals associated with NU, particularly early members of the faculty, administration, and Corporation such as,Robert Gray Dodge (1872-1964) (box 2, folders 20-21 and box 15, folders 229-230), Asa S. Knowles (1909-1990) (box 4, folders 83-85  and box 29, folders 485-490), Roland Guyer Porter (1894-1953) (box 4, folder 92), James Lorin Richards (1858-1955) (box 5, folders 105-107; box 14, folder 214; and box 31, folder 534), Frank Palmer Speare (1869-1954) (box 5, folders 109-112 and box 31, folders 540-544), Russell Whitney (1896-1944) (box 5, folder 114), Stuart Mead Wright (1904-1946) (box 5, folder 118), and John A. Volpe (1908-1994) (box 32, folder 553).  Biographical information on others associated with NU can be found in Faculty, Staff, Alumni (box 3, folders 49-57; box 20, folders 328-339; box 21, folders 340-350; and box 39), Corporation (boxes 12-16, folders 190-248 and boxes 40 and 41), and Fund Raising and Development (box 3, folders 59-68 and boxes 22-26, folders 358-432).

Some information on faculty and staff activities can be found in University Cabinet (box 32, folders 551-552) and Women's Cabinet (box 32, folders 554-555).  Because these two organizations often worked together, information on the Women's Cabinet can also be found in University Cabinet.

Throughout his presidency and chancellorship, CSE kept notebooks in which he recorded information about NU: statistics on each of the NU buildings, such as square footage, construction cost, and the dates of ground-breakings, cornerstone layings, and dedications; names and addresses of Corporation members; birth dates of members of the faculty, staff, and administration.  The original pages of the notebooks have been arranged by subject.  Photocopies of the original notebooks can be found under Notebooks, c1940-1972 (box 38, folder 661b).

Finally, this collection also includes writings by CSE, including articles, books and speeches. Additionally, poems, quotations and stories that CSE collected for inclusion in his speeches can also be found in these records.


  • Creation: 1883-1974


Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

Carl Stephens Ell (CSE), the second president of NU from 1940 to 1959, was associated with the University from 1910 when he began teaching surveying on a part-time basis at the Co-operative School of Engineering at the Boston YMCA.  When he received his master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1912, CSE became a full-time member of the faculty of the School of Engineering, which consisted of seven men, and the Head of the Department of Civil Engineering.  In 1914 he became the Assistant Dean of the School of Engineering, and in 1917 Ell was promoted to Dean of the School of Engineering, a position he held during the time he was Vice President (1925-40). CSE succeeded Frank Palmer Speare as President in 1940.

During his tenure as President, CSE was responsible for the accreditation of the College of Business Administration, the College of Liberal Arts (now the College of Arts and Sciences), and the School of Law, and the establishment of the College of Education (now part of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), the Evening Graduate Program in Engineering, and the Army R.O.T.C. Program.  In addition, the physical plant of NU expanded considerably under CSE's direction.

In 1943, Ell expanded the University's student population to include women.  While women had been allowed to attend some NU programs in the past (e.g., women had attended the School of Law since 1922), Ell opened the Day Division to women.

In 1953, Ell closed the School of Law, the oldest school at NU, because a lack of enrollment and funding made the continued operation of the school financially untenable.

Through his tireless fundraising efforts and school spirit, Ell turned NU into a cohesive educational institution with nationally recognized programs, an endowment, extensive facilities, and a loyal, active alumni association.

Ell resigned from the presidency at age 70, in 1959.  He personally chose his successor, Asa S. Knowles, a former faculty member and administrator at NU.



Instructor, Civil Engineering
Head of the Department of Civil Engineering
Assistant Dean of the School of Engineering
Dean of the School of Engineering
Vice President of the University
President of the University
President Emeritus


Chronology of NU Expansion Under Ell

Mugar Life Science Building (Science Hall)
Carl S. Ell Student Center (Student Center)
North Parking Area (Land bounded by Hemenway, St. Stephen and Forsyth Streets)
Greenleaf Building (Tufts College Medical and Dental Buildings)
428 Marlboro St.
Forsyth Building (Sylvania Building)
Dodge Hall (Dodge Library)
Land adjacent to Kent St. Brookline property
402 Marlboro St.
Cabot Physical Education Center
Hayden Hall (Classroom-Laboratory Building)
Boston Opera House
Churchill Hall (Graduate Center)


13.00 cubic feet (44 containers, 3 flat file folders)




Carl Stephens Ell (CSE) was the second president of Northeastern University from 1940 to 1959. During his tenure as President, CSE was responsible for the accreditation of several of NU's academic programs and the rapid expansion of the physical plant. His other positions at NU included instructor at the Co-operative School of Engineering of the Boston YMCA (1910-1912), Head of the Department of Civil Engineering (1912-1917), Assistant Dean of the School of Engineering (1914-1917), Dean of the School of Engineering (1917-1940), Vice President (1925-1940), Chancellor (1959-1975), and President Emeritus (1959-1981).


The records document Carl Stephens Ell's (CSE) tenure as the second president of Northeastern University (NU) from 1940 to 1959. Also included are CSE's records from the other positions he held at NU. The records include correspondence from prominent individuals in politics, education, and business; subject files concerning the relationship between NU and the YMCA, CSE's election and inauguration as president, his retirement from the presidency, individuals associated with NU, the development of the physical plant, and university events; and CSE's writings.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into 3 series: Series 1. Correspondence and Memoranda; Series 2. Subject Files; and Series 3. Writings and Speeches.

Physical Location

22/1, FF1/D1

Related Materials:

Finding aid for the Office of the President (Ell) Records
Finding aid prepared by Abigail Schoolman
1995, 1996, 2004
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US