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Guide to the Records of the Office of the Chancellor (Elmer Ellsworth Brown) RG.3.0.4

New York University Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2641

New York University Archives

Collection processed by Processed by Tom Frusciano 1989, Revised by Maggie Williams 1991.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on February 02, 2018
Description is in English.

Biographical/Historical Note

On November 9, 1911 Elmer Ellsworth Brown (1861-1934) became the seventh Chancellor of New York University. Chancellor Brown's predecessor, Henry Mitchell MacCracken ushered the University into the new century and laid the groundwork for the transformation of NYU from a small educational institution to a modern University. Brown's task upon assuming the role of Chancellor was to realize that transformation. He guided the University through an enormous growth in student enrollment, significant transformations in the structure of schools within the University, and challenges brought by the First World War and its effects on the city and economy.

Brown desired to establish the school as a legitimate university, distinct from other institutions in the city. In his inaugural speech, he stated, "We need a wider understanding and appreciation of the large purpose and the high responsibilities of this institution. But we need to have it more generally known in the City of New York that this is not the City College nor even a department of Columbia University." Additionally, he emphasized the public duty and responsibility of the University.

During the first decades of the century, NYU expanded both in terms of its academic offerings and physical space. By the end of Brown's tenure, NYU had outgrown the three floors in the Main Building, to occupy ten buildings around Washington Square. New academic buildings and athletic facilities expanded the Heights campus grew to 50 acres. Numerous colleges were organized under Brown, including Washington Square College, Graduate School of Business Administration, School of Retailing, College of Dentistry, School of Aeronautics, and the College of Fine Arts. Other divisions, notably the School of Education, were reorganized.

The over ten-fold growth in enrollment numbers delighted and worried Brown. That NYU had become one of the largest universities in terms of numbers in the country was encouraging, but Brown feared that the large number of students could overwhelm the school's resources and sacrifice the quality of education. Additionally, the University began to rely on student tuitions for income, as the meager endowment could not meet the needs of the growing University. A decrease in enrollment would pose a serious threat to university finances. America's entry into the First World War in 1917 had just that effect. Fewer students and a wartime economy strained the budget of the University. NYU's agreement to receive branches of the Student Army Training Corps at the University Heights campus and at the Medical College both fulfilled Brown's desire for the University to meet it public responsibility and helped to save the school from financial ruin.

"The development within the institution during the period of Chancellor Brown's administration gives to his work an influence and outstanding character in the history of the institution, and one which, in spite of the degree of expansion, has developed upon the lines true to the principles upon which the University was founded."