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O. Meredith Wilson papers

Identifier: UA 010

Scope and Contents note

The O. Meredith Wilson Papers span the time period of 1929-1989 and include personal as well as professional correspondence, academic writings, speeches, presidential communications, and administrative reports. The collection emphasizes his role as an administrative consultant and the time period of 1967-1975. Professional and administrative correspondence are generally filed under the organizational title in the appropriate series and subseries. Where a subseries emphasizes a particular time period, the files are organized alphabetically by organization; where they span a greater range of dates, they are organized chronologically. Though Wilson’s presidency of the University of Oregon launched his administrative career, the collection accentuates his work as an administrative consultant.

The papers are arranged in five series. The Personal series contains the subseries General and Correspondence. General subseries includes biographical information, news clippings, academic records, and Wilson family material, while correspondence includes letters he wrote to family and friends.

The Professional series includes the subseries Oregon, Minnesota, Stanford and Professional Inquiries. It is arranged chronologically through his presidencies, though the Inquiries subseries covers both his time at Minnesota and Stanford. The subseries Oregon contains correspondence pertaining to his presidency and a noteworthy Interview on Leaving Oregon in which he discusses his reasons for accepting the post at Minnesota and his reservations about leaving Eugene. The papers from his presidency of Minnesota include congratulatory letters, presidential reports, and an outline for a plan to develop undergraduate education. The subseries of his presidency of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) detail his development of the Center’s fellowship programs, and his involvement in Stanford’s many visiting committees. The collection of inquiries includes correspondence regarding invitations Wilson received to attend events or contribute writings.

The Administrative Consultation series is by far the most voluminous. It reveals Wilson’s prominence as a widely sought expert on educational institutions. He was most engaged during his time at Stanford, which seems to have allowed him the flexibility to contribute to a vast array of organizations. Wilson consulted with numerous universities and organizations to improve the focus of their missions and the efficacy of their policies. He was actively engaged in the United States’ efforts to promote higher education in developing countries. Wilson’s work on the board of directors of the Northrop Corporation and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco brought him in practical relation to U.S. economics and politics. Because the series is largely focused on the period of 1967-1975, it is arranged alphabetically by organization.

Wilson’s collection of writings and sources includes manuscripts, essays, and speeches. The subseries of his writings is arranged chronologically, while his reference sources are listed alphabetically. His writings demonstrate his expertise and passion for education and his authority as an administrator. The manuscript for his collected essays is especially notable in both its volume and range of ideas. His reference sources show an interest in political history.

The Audio/Visual series contains several items which celebrate his tenure as University of Oregon President. It also includes four cassette tapes of sessions presented at the Invitational Conference on Testing Problems held at Princeton in 1971. Wilson acted as discussant for a session discussing Economics and the Values of Society .


  • Creation: 1929-1989


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Owen Meredith Wilson (1909-1998), the ninth President of the University of Oregon, was born on September 21, 1909 to the educational director of the Colonia Juarez Mormon colony in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Raised and educated in Utah, he received his BA from BYU in History in 1934. Wilson completed graduate work at the Universities of Heidelberg and London before receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California in 1943. After serving as President of the University of Oregon, the University of Minnesota, and the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Wilson and his wife Marian returned to Eugene upon his retirement in 1975 and lived there for the remainder of his life. O. Meredith Wilson died November 7, 1989.

Wilson’s academic career began at BYU, where he taught for a year before moving to the University of Utah. He was soon hired to the University of Chicago but returned to Utah after two years as Dean of the College, a post he held from 1947 to 1952. Wilson was appointed President of the University of Oregon in 1954 after serving as the Executive Secretary for the Ford Foundation’s Fund for the Advancement of Education. Wilson left the UO for the presidency of the University of Minnesota in 1960, where he served until 1967. He left Minnesota after a distinguished career to become the director of Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, where he served until retirement in 1975.

Wilson was a noted administrator, serving on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 12th District, the University of Notre Dame, and as a director of the Northrop Corporation, among many other educational and professional organizations. Wilson’s writings on the philosophy of education, at the University level in particular, were widely published. He served on the Commission on Minorities in Higher Education, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the board of Jundi Shapur University (Dānishgāh-i Jundī Shāpūr) in Iran, and the Royaumont Foundation in Paris. He was also a member of President Johnson’s advisory committee on labor management policy.

Throughout his career in education administration, Wilson was an unwavering champion of intellectual freedom. His advice was widely solicited, and his experience in administration made him an asset to organizations both national and international.


7 linear feet (21 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection comprises the papers of prolific university administrator O. Meredith Wilson, who served as the ninth president of the University of Oregon, 1954-1959, the president of the University of Minnesota, 1959-1967, and the director of the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), 1967-1975. The collection includes correspondence, writings, speeches, and sources reflecting his career as an administrator and as a scholar of education. It also includes personal material revealing his role as father, son, and husband. Of particular note is the manuscript for his collected essays, which was never published. The collection of his administrative consultations reveals the breadth of his expertise and involvement with the social function of higher education.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I: Personal Subseries A: GeneralSubseries B: Correspondence Series II: Professional Subseries A: OregonSubseries B: MinnesotaSubseries C: StanfordSubseries D: Professional Inquiries Series III: Administrative Consultation Work Subseries A: GeneralSubseries B: UniversitiesSubseries C: International EducationSubseries D: Educational OrganizationsSubseries E: Business and Finance Series IV: Writings, Speeches, and Sources Subseries A: Writings and SpeechesSubseries B: Reference Sources Series V: Audio/Visual materials

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Marian Wilson.

General Physical Description note

21 containers, boxes 1 & 2/Series I; boxes 3-7/Series II; boxes 8-16/Series III; boxes 17-20/Series IV; box 21/Series V

Processing Information note

Collection processed by Kellen Norwood.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the O. Meredith Wilson Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Kellen Norwood
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA