Collection inventory

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William S. Griffith Papers

An inventory of his 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: MRR
Date: 15 Sep 2006

Biographical History

William S. Griffith earned his Ph.D. in Adult Education in 1963 from the University of Chicago. He was a professor of Adult Education at the University of British Columbia and the University of Chicago, and taught at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Australian National University and the University of Sydney. He was an active member of the Commission of Adult Education, President of the Northwest Adult Education Association (1990-1991), Chairman of the Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE), and President of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE). He also served on the steering committee of the Adult Education Research Conference (AERC) and chaired the program committees for the AEA/USA and the NAPCAE national conferences (in 1966 and 1975 respectively) and the Research Section of the National University Extension Association. In 1986-1987, Griffith spent a year in the Philippines as part of a joint pilot project of SEAMEO and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Bill Griffith had a number of research interests including extension education, correctional education, literacy, population education and international education. He wrote extensively on these and other topics -- articles, books, papers, speeches, reports, and studies -- and made a significant contribution to the field by co-editing (with Howard McClusky) the 8-volume Adult Education Association Handbook Series in Adult Education in 1980-1981.

His contributions to the field have been widely recognized. He was named a Fulbright-Hayes Senior Research Fellow to Australia in 1972-1973, and in 1980 the AEA/USA awarded him its Research to Practice award as well as its Leadership Award.

Bill Griffith died on August 12, 1996 at the age of 64.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William S. Griffith Papers represent the papers and research material of the adult educator and researcher. They reflect Griffith's research interests in population education, correctional education, extension education, and international comparative education. There is also a considerable amount of material from organizations with which Griffith was closely involved, including the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), the Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE), the Northwest Adult Education Association, and the Universities of Chicago and of British Columbia.

The first three series comprise Griffith's own output. Biographical material is sparse, consisting of two interviews, a clipping from the University of British Columbia alumni magazine, and some campaign fliers from Griffith's campaign for AAACE President. Correspondence-subject files consists of correspondence with individuals (Robert Luke, Roger Clark), organizations (among them AAACE, CPAE, the Fielding Institute, and Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada), and universities (University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, University of Calgary), as well as clusters of topical information (adult basic education, correctional education, literacy, population education) and specific activities or projects with which Griffith was involved, including the International Symposium on Adult Education, Rape and Violence End Now (RAVEN), the Ukrainian Dairy Training School, and the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). The latter has material from Griffith's year in the Philippines under the auspices of SEAMEO/CIDA, including background material on education in the Philippines, a course description, and Griffith's own notes from regular meetings held during that year in the Philippines. Writings comprises Griffith's articles, books, class syllabi and curricula, manuscripts, papers, reports, reviews, and speeches. Of particular interest are the 30+ manuscript papers on various aspects of community colleges. It is unclear whether these were intended eventually to be merged into a book or whether they were written for different times and occasions and simply share a theme.

The remaining series organize material collected by Griffith as relevant to his interests, but not written by him. Articles (by others) contains reprints, photocopies and clippings of articles on topics related to adult education; the earliest item is a photocopy of the text of a speech delivered at the University of Michigan in 1855; the latest are transparencies of two Calvin and Hobbes comic strips.

Griffith attended (and presented at) a vast number of Conferences; this series includes material from nearly 50 conferences covering more than thirty years, and provides an overview of the changing emphases in adult education during that time. The material is in order by conference name. If the sponsoring organization is not part of the name, and if there is a single sponsoring organization, its name is given in parenthesis following the conference title.

Griffith also amassed a valuable library of papers, reports, studies, speeches and printed material on adult education-related topics. Papers (by others) comprises scholarly papers written by others in the field, including a substantial 1940s paper by well-known adult educator Cyril O. Houle on "Adult Education as a Function of State Government." Reports and studies (by others) represents a comprehensive 40-year overview of the field of adult education worldwide in the form of formal reports and studies undertaken by organizations, foundations and government agencies in the United States, Canada, and around the world. The documents are divided into particular topics (Adult Basic Education (ABE), correctional education, extension education, literacy, and women's education) and Miscellaneous; the Miscellaneous papers are then subdivided by geographic area and range from Scotland to Iran to Africa. Speeches (by others) contains the text of miscellaneous speeches. Theses (by others) contains more than 25 masters theses and doctoral dissertations, for which Dr. Griffith was the faculty adviser or a dissertation committee member.Printed material is a motley collection of brochures, pamphlets, handouts, booklets and fliers from a variety of organizations, associations, and agencies.

Arrangement of the Collection

Material is arranged alphabetically, with the exception of the subdivisions "Books" and "Classes and curricula" under Writings; these are arranged chronologically.


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

Some items have been removed from the collection for separate cataloging. For more information on these items, please contact the repository listed above or search the Classic Catalog with "William S. Griffith" as "Keyword Anywhere."

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. In particular, the researcher may wish to consult the following:

Subject Headings


Griffith, William S., 1932-1996 -- Archives.

Corporate Bodies

American Association for Adult and Continuing Education.
Commission for Professors of Adult Education.
National Association for Public Continuing & Adult Education.


Adult education -- Evaluation.
Adult education -- Research.
Adult education educators.
Adult education teachers -- Training of.
Adult education.
Agricultural extension work -- Research.
Birth control.
Community colleges.
Continuing education.
Prisoners -- Education.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Minutes (administrative records)
Papers (document genres)


Adult educators.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William S. Griffith Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Majority of papers, gift of William S. Griffith. Theses and dissertations, gift of Beverly Griffith, 2008.

Table of Contents

Biographical material

Correspondence-subject files


Articles (by others)


Papers (by others)

Reports and studies (by others)

Speeches (by others)

Theses (by others)

Printed material