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President, Office of - William S. Carlson Files

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UR 114M

Scope and Contents

Series contains the official university records of William S. Carlson, tenth president of the University of Toledo. The bulk of the records date from 1958 to 1971. The files are arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically therein.

Most of the series relates to Dr. Carlson’s university work, but a few files relate to personal or professional activities. Scattered correspondence is from personal acquaintances, while other letters are from local, state, and national elected leaders.

Also in the material are plans, drawings, and budgets for buildings completed or begun during President Carlson’s tenure. These files also contain letters to and from contractors and bids for construction or renovation work.

An important, if not large, portion of the series pertains to reports President Carlson received from various sources (government, colleagues, and institutions) concerning the growth of the university and the handling of campus unrest problems. These reports often include hand-written marginal comments by Carlson.

Virtually all aspects of the university during Dr. Carlson’s tenure are documented in this series. Researchers should consult the attached file folder listing for information on specific topics. For related materials, consult the William S. Carlson manuscript collection, UM 14.


  • 1954-1972

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials may be accessed by request at the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections on the fifth floor of the William S. Carlson Library on the main campus of the University of Toledo. Materials do not circulate.

Conditions Governing Use

In most cases, the Canaday Center does not own the copyright and literary rights to items in its collections; it is the responsibility of the researcher to adhere to U.S. Copyright and Fair Use laws, including seeking permission from the copyright holder and payment of any royalty fees, in the reproduction and use of archival materials. Providing copies or scans does not constitute a license to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.

Biographical / Historical

“Experiment and explore – these should be the watchwords if we are to keep pace with a changing world,” said William S. Carlson in his inaugural address as president of the University of Toledo on June 13, 1959. With these words he began fourteen years of great change at UT.

Dr. Carlson was appointed president of the University of Toledo in 1958. His honeymoon with the university did not last long because of the financial problems the university faced. UT had run a large deficit and on May 14, 1959, it lost a bid for partial state support. Carlson quickly helped convince Toledo voters to pass a two-mill operating levy on October 6, 1959, which kept UT solvent.

After the election President Carlson was partially free from the major problems which faced his predecessors. He began to focus on raising the academic standards of UT. He introduced a university-wide honors program in February 1962 and then brought the College of Law to full-time status in June 1963, which led to its accreditation in 1968. Carlson also arranged joint graduate programs with Bowling Green State University and helped many UT departments begin master and doctoral programs. These changes helped to demonstrate to the Ohio General Assembly that UT was ready to become a state university.

The battle for state aid was long. For years Toledo’s city council had been trying to get the state to help fund UT, or to take over funding completely in order to free city tax money for other uses. Council was refusing to grant another tax increase for the university when the 1962 gubernatorial election brought James Rhodes and a promise of $3.4 million to the three Ohio municipal universities: Akron, Cincinnati, and Toledo. This was the first state aid the university had ever received.

Even though this money was helpful, it could not last long and full state support was needed to keep the university a first-rate school. After much campaigning Carlson was finally successful: UT became a state school on July 1, 1967.

State support brought much physical development to the campus. In all, fifteen buildings were completed and three more started during Carlson’s tenure. First there was the Student Union, in 1959, then the Engineering Science Building in 1960, Carter Hall and Snyder Memorial in 1964, the Ritter Observatory in 1967, the Biology/Chemistry building in 1968, the Health Education Center in 1969, Parks Tower in 1970, and six buildings on the Scott Park campus. Groundbreakings for the Student Union addition and Carlson Library were in 1970; the Law Center was begun in 1971.

Even though President Carlson was involved in many off-campus activities, he never forgot his most-important role at the university and was attentive to the needs of students. For example, when a handicapped student wrote Carlson complaining about access problems on campus, some of the student’s suggestions were implemented immediately. And, when dormitory residents protested the quality of the food served, throwing food and blocking roads into campus, Carlson met with the leaders the next day. The service was changed with student approval for the following year.

Carlson’s tenure was also important for its protection of First Amendment rights on campus. His style was to avoid heavy-handedness and talk directly with students. Protests against the war in Vietnam generally turned into protests against the ROTC and the U.S. Reserve unit stationed on campus. To quell controversy, Carlson arranged with the U.S. Department of Defense to move the reserve unit off campus. He was criticized by some Toledoans, but the action calmed campus and enabled the ROTC to continue its work.

After four students were killed on the Kent State University campus, Carlson called a three-day mourning period with optional classes and ordered all flags flown at half-mast. The deaths of two Jackson State students, however, was a different matter. He did not order any special activities and the Black Student Union blocked the doors to University Hall in protest. To appease them, Carlson promised to fund a black studies program and attempt to increase the minority enrollment.

In 1971, President Carlson announced his retirement. He was the first UT president to retire from office. In the year of the University’s 100th anniversary, he stepped aside to let a younger man begin UT’s new century.


35 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Office of the President

Related Materials

Other series from President, Office of are listed below:

President, Office of - Asa S Knowles records, UR 114A

President, Office of - Faculty Memoranda, UR 114C

President, Office of - Horton Inauguration Committee Files, UR 114D

President, Office of - Inauguration Files, UR 114F

President, Office of - Legal Case Files, UR 114G

President, Office of - Miscellaneous Files, UR 114H

President, Office of - Philip C Nash Papers, UR 114I

President, Office of - Policies and Procedures Manua,l UR 114J

President, Office of - Subject Files, UR 114K

President, Office of - Wilbur W White Papers, UR 114L

President, Office of - Presidential Search Committee, UR 114N

President, Office of - Glen Driscoll, UR 114O

University Manuscripts - William S. Carlson Papers, UM 14

Please note that some of the listed collections may not yet be published. Please contact the Archives for more information on these collections if you are unable to access their guides online.


Accession number is PA/55.
President, Office of - William S. Carlson Files
R. Fuerst, 1/12/1987; updated by Lisa K. Meyer, 09/17/2020; update completed by Sara Mouch, 3/15/2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections Repository

2801 West Bancroft Street
William S. Carlson Library, Fifth Floor
Toledo Ohio 43606 United States