Collection inventory

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Beverly Cassara Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

The adult education holdings are collectively known as the
Alexander N. Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: Jan 2007

Biographical History

Beverly Benner Cassara is an American professor of adult education, with a particular focus on participatory research, international/multicultural education, and women's education,

Beverly Cassara was born in Hanover, MA, daughter of the Reverend Guy Percy Benner and Julia Caroline Whitney Benner. She received her B.A. from Colby College in 1947 and her first job after graduation was as a news editor and broadcaster for WBET in Brockton, Massachusetts. Soon after this she married Ernest Cassara (1949) and taught in the Massachusetts schools for several years while working on her Master's degree which she received from Bridgewater State University in 1954. She and Ernest had three children: Catherine (??), Nicholas (1957), and Shirley (1962).

In 1962 Cassara was a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University and in 1963-1964 she and her family spent a year in Churwalden, Switzerland where she was the Director of Personnel and student counselor at the Albert Schweitzer College. Returning to the United States, she worked for four years (1966-1970) as the Director of Adult Education at Goddard College, a small liberal arts college with a highly individualized approach to instruction. She continued to take graduate courses while working, and in 1970 received her Ed.D. from Boston University; one of her professors was Malcolm Knowles, with whom she became good friends.

For the next twenty years (1970-1990), Cassara's primary position was Professor of Adult Education at Federal City College (FCC) in Washington, D.C. and then at the University of the District of Columbia, created by FCC's merger with two other institutions. During these years, in addition to her regular work at FCC and later UDC, she served as Acting Director of the Institute for Continuing Education for Women (1972-1976) and as Dean of Graduate Studies (1973-1985), produced several television programs for the local NBC affiliate (1979), and taught at several other institutions including Northern Virginia Comunity College (1971-1972), Fairfax County Adult Education Program (1971), and Virginia Polytechnic (1974-1979).

In 1974 she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and as a result the Casssaras spent much of 1975-1976 in Berlin, Germany where Ernest guest lectured in American History while Beverly lectured at the Pädagogische Hochschule Berlin and undertook an extensive research project into women in adult education in Germany. She put serious effort into becoming fluent in German; many of her lectures were delivered in German and she maintained close professional relationships with several educators whom she met in Berlin including Helge Pross, Gerd Doerry, and Helmuth Dolff. In 1982 she returned to Germany to give a series of lectures under the auspices of the Forschungsinstitut für Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften (FIGS) at the Universität Gesamthochschule Siegen.

Cassara was also interested in adult education in third-world countries, particularly Africirca The University of the District of Columbia maintained a collegial relationship with the University of Nairobi, including doctoral student sponsoring and faculty exchange, and Cassara visited Kenya more than once and worked closely with several visiting faculty and doctoral students.

One of Cassara's projects in Washington, D.C. involved work with low-income women, and she encouraged her adult education students to become involved as part of their coursework. She directed adult education students who worked in the Jubilee Housing Project as well as a similar project at the Montana Terrace Housing Project (which resulted in a number of articles and papers). One of her students, Eve Tetaz, went on to found Life Pathways, Inc., a literacy and educational assistance organization in the D.C. area.

After retiring from UDC, she worked as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern Maine (1990-1995) and then founded the Cambridge Senior Volunteer Clearinghouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The CSVC matches seniors and other persons interested in volunteering with agencies in Cambridge and nearby communities that can utilize their skills and talents.

Ms. Cassara received a number of awards and recognitions over her career from organizations with whom or for whom she worked, including the Vermont Council for the Social Sciences (1968), the District of Columbia Public Schools (1976), and the Adult Education Association of the USA (1978). In 1978 she was named a "Woman of Achievement" by WETA in Washington, DC (the audiotape of her interview on this occasion is in the collection) and was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in 2003.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Beverly Cassara Papers include correspondence, writings, research material, and personal papers of the American adult educator and researcher. The collection provides an overview of her career and offers insight not only into her professional concentrations of international/multicultural adult education, participatory research, and women's education, but also into the challenges of combining a career with motherhood and some of the challenges faced by professional women in the 1970s, just as the women's rights movement was gathering momentum.

Correspondence-subject files comprises correspondence and other material relating to colleagues in adult education both in the United States (Rowena Ansbacher, Thelma Barer-Stein, Julius Seelye Bixler, Gordon Darkenwald, James Draper, William S. Griffith, Myles Horton, Faustine Jones-Wilson, Malcolm Knowles, Charlotte Morgan, John Niemi) and abroad (Gerd Doerry, Gunther Dohmen, Helmuth Dolff, Werner Düchting, Martha Friedenthal-Haase, Heribert Hinzen, Florida Karani, Peter Kinyanjui, Volker Lühr, Khalfan Mazrui, Helge Pross, Matthias Wesseler); and organizations (American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, Association for Women in Development, International Council for Adult Education, Metropolitan Washington Association of Adult and Continuing Education, Society for Participatory Research in Asia, Unitarian Universalist Association, Vermont Governor's Commission on the Status of Women). Here also is material from institutions at which Cassara was a student (Boston University, Colby College) or professor (Goddard College, Federal City College, University of the District of Columbia, University of Southern Maine) as well as from some of her former students (Cara Fulton, Eve Tetaz). Correspondence relating to some of Cassara's writings is also here, listed under the book title (American Women: The Changing Image, Adult Education in a Multicultural Society, Adult Education Through World Collaboration, "Love and the Affluent Suburban Woman," Rethinking Adult Education for Development).

Writings includes articles, book reviews, Cassara's dissertation, papers, school papers (written for both Master's and doctoral courses), the Siegen lectures (in English and German), and speeches, as well as miscellaneous material not related to adult education (Colby College alumni magazine class of 1947 columns, German language notes and translations, sermons and readings for Unitarian Universalist services, travel pieces, and so on). This series also includes the drafts, typescripts and galleys of the three books Cassara edited: Adult Education in a Multicultural Society (chapter abstracts, contributor bios, drafts of introduction and all 13 chapters, index, typescripts, galleys, published editions, and reviews/publicity), Adult Education Through World Collaboration (prospectus, chapter abstracts, contributor bios, drafts of preface, introduction and all 16 chapters, index, typescripts, galleys, published editions, and reviews/publicity), and American Women: The Changing Image (drafts, published hardcover, reviews and publicity, and a Japanese abridged edition).

Research material contains documentation related to Cassara's areas of interest or to one of her publications. Topics include the Antigonish movement, folk schools or volksschule (including a significant amount concerning the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee), German adult educators, Nikolai Grundtvig (a Danish folk school proponent), international studies in adult education, multicultural education, participatory research, study circles, and women's issues (including one folder on "Early 70s women's movement").

Personal papers comprises material related to Cassara's personal life. It includes address books, appointment books, awards and recognitions, clippings about her, family memorabilia, medical and dental insurance information, passports and other identity papers, resumes, "The story of 529 Webster Street" (Cassara's family reminiscences), travel souvenirs, and miscellany. Also included here are all of Cassara's personal journals, covering nearly thirty years (1966-1991). Where the journal is entirely or primarily concerned with one topic, it has been so annotated (e.g., "1975 - BC's Fulbright year in Germany"). Not all years are equally well covered, and individual entries range from several pages to a few jotted phrases.

Audiovisual material covers all videotapes, audiotapes and slides present in the collection (photographs are dispersed throughout the collection). Of particular interest are the 23 audiotapes Cassara made in 1982, interviews with German adult educators including Gerd Doerry, Helmuth Dolff, Werner Düchting, Volker Lühr, Monika Oels, and Matthias Wesseler. There are also tapes of other individuals (President Jimmy Carter, Paolo Freire, American educator Malcolm Knowles, the Finnish Minister of Education, German educator Martha Friedenthal-Haase, Anita Hill (presumably relating to the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings), and African-American professor and scholar Manning Marable. Slides include Kenya, the USSR and Finland.

Printed material comprises a variety of articles, books, brochures, clippings, fliers, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, etc, mostly on geographical areas (Africa, Eastern Europe, Germany, Hong Kong, Kenya, the Middle East, Thailand) with a few miscellaneous other topics (World Bank, minorities).

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Writings are subdivided by type and arranged alphabetically by title within each subseries. Research material, personal papers, audiovisual material, and printed material are arranged alphabetically by title or topic.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Three books by photographer Edward Steichen, two of which are signed and inscribed to "B.B." with thanks for her assistance, were removed for separate cataloging. Beverly Cassara worked with Steichen as his secretary at the Navy Department and assisted him in the preparation of these books.

Also removed for separate cataloging was an edition of The Knight in the Panther's Skin , a medieval narrative poem from Eastern Europe which is sometimes considered Georgia's national epic.

Several of the audiorecordings have been digitized. Please contact the repository listed above for more information.

The library holds a considerable number of collections related to adult and continuing education. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Callender, Willard D., Jr.
Cassara, Beverly Benner.
Doerry, Gerd.
Friedenthal-Haase, Martha.
Jones-Wilson, Faustine C. (Faustine Childress), 1927-
Knowles, Malcolm S. (Malcolm Shepherd), 1913-1997.
Marable, Manning, 1950-2011.
Pross, Helge, 1927-

Corporate Bodies

Federal City College.
International Council for Adult Education.
University of the District of Columbia.

Associated Titles

Adult education in a multicultural society.
Adult education through world collaboration.
American women: the changing image.


Adult education -- Africa.
Adult education -- Germany.
Adult education -- Research.
Adult education -- United States.
Alternative education.
Educators -- United States.
Highlander Folk School (Monteagle, Tenn.)
Highlander Research and Education Center (Knoxville, Tenn.)
International studies in education.
Multicultural education.
Participant observation.
Women -- Education.

Genres and Forms

Book reviews.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Drafts (documents)
Manuscripts for publication.
Meeting notes.
Papers (document genres)
Research notes.
Slides (photographs)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Beverly Cassara Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Beverly Cassara, 1994-1999

Table of Contents

Correspondence-subject files


Research material

Personal papers

Audiovisual material

Printed material


Note on alternate formats:

Several of the audiorecordings have been digitized. Please contact the repository listed above for more information.