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Guide to the Robert M. Lester Photograph Collection
 PR 215

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jennifer Lewis and Margaret Evans

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on August 23, 2017
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

Teacher, education scholar, and philanthropy executive Robert M. Lester was born in Center, Alabama, on November 7, 1889. He received degrees from Birmingham Southern College and Vanderbilt University. He became a teacher and later superintendent of schools in Mayfield, Kentucky, and then served in the Army during World War I. Lester taught and served as an administrator at Columbia University, and in 1934 was elected Secretary of the Carnegie Corporation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in New York. Lester served on a variety of educational boards and foundations, and counted among his achievements an appointment as a trustee of American University in 1941. In 1954, he left the Carnegie Corporation to become executive director of the Southern Fellowships Fund of the Council of Southern Universities, Inc., a position he held until 1968.

Lester wrote and spoke frequently on issues relating to education, libraries, and philanthropic programs. He published several books and articles relating to his work with the Carnegie Corporation, the Southern Fellowship Fund, and other fundraising organizations, including the well-received Forty Years of Carnegie Giving: A Summary of the Benefactions of Andrew Carnegie and of the Work of the Philanthropic Trusts Which He Created (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1941).

Lester resided on East 52nd Street near First Avenue in Manhattan from the 1930s through the early 1950s. As an amateur photographer, he pointed his camera toward the radical changes in the face of the city just blocks from his home where the United Nations Headquarters complex was undergoing construction between 1947 and 1954.

Robert M. Lester died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on February 21, 1969, after a brief illness.