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Chancellor John E. Corbally Records

A description of the records at the Syracuse University Archives


Creator: Corbally, John E. (John Edward), 1924-2004.
Title: Chancellor John E. Corbally Records
Dates: 1967-1971
Size: 46 boxes (22.5 linear feet)
Abstract: Correspondence, committee and various subject files, reports, and other material related to his time as Chancellor of Syracuse University
Language: English
Repository: University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Ave., Suite 600
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010


John E. Corbally, Jr. (1924-2004) was Chancellor at Syracuse University from September 1969 to March 1971. He received his bachelor's degree in 1947 and later received his master's degree in 1950, both from the University of Washington. In 1955, Corbally finished his Ph.D. from the University of California. His major field of study was educational administration and finance.

Portrait of John E. Corbally, Jr.

Before completing his degrees, Corbally served in the United States Navy between 1943 and 1946. Upon returning, he taught at Clover Park High School until 1950, when he accepted the position of principal of Twin City High School in Stanwood, Washington. In 1953 Corbally moved on to work as a consultant at the University of California while working on his Ph.D. Upon its completion, he served as a professor and in various administrative positions at Ohio State University until he started at Syracuse University.

Beginning his term at Syracuse University in September of 1969, Corbally became the University's eighth Chancellor. His first order of business was to restructure the administration. He added a provost and several vice chancellors, including the vice chancellors of Academic Affairs, Administrative Operations and Student Affairs, as well as several vice presidents. In comparison, Chancellors before him may have had only one vice chancellor. Corbally sought to strengthen Syracuse University's administration with this expansion.

Corbally stepped into the University at a time of financial difficulties, including a huge financial deficit. With the help of Ronald Brady, vice chancellor of Administrative Operations, Corbally created a strategy to help move Syracuse University toward more stable financial times. Their plan included an increase in tuition by 5% and increased enrollment of 1%. Despite the fact that by the time Corbally left, Syracuse University's financial situation was not fully resolved, he did in fact lead the University toward more stable financial conditions.

The financial issue was not the only crisis the University was facing during Corbally's short term. When Chancellor Tolley left, the question of whether or not the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) would remain on Syracuse University's campus was not yet answered. After a long debate, Corbally proposed housing the ROTC under the Division of General University Programs, and it was swiftly approved by the Senate. Students were unhappy with the quickness of this process, and many did not support the armed forces-managed ROTC program. Additionally, student distrust of the University administration had increased during the latter years of Chancellor Tolley's leadership. As a result, many student began to distrust Chancellor Corbally.

Complicating matters even more for Corbally was national student protest against the war in Vietnam. Students at Syracuse University were no exception in this matter. On May 4, 1970, four students were killed in a protest at Kent State University. This event added to the unrest of students across the country, including that of Syracuse University students. During the University's Student Strike, student protesters barricaded entrances to campus, broke windows, marched peacefully downtown, and staged a sit-in in the Tolley Administration Building. During the entire strike, Corbally maintained the philosophy that allowing the students to protest would prevent any real violence from occurring, and he accomplished this through cooperation with the Syracuse police. In light of the protests, classes were canceled for the remaining days of the semester. For Syracuse University, the 1970 Student Strike ended without the occurrence of major violence and with minimal damage.

The 1970 Student Strike was not the only significant instance of student unrest. Long before the start of the Football Boycott, racial tensions existed on Syracuse University's football team. Nine black football team members urged Corbally to discuss athletic practices as well as follow through with the employment of a black assistant football coach. When these demands were not met, the nine players, mistakenly known as Syracuse 8, boycotted practice in the spring of 1970. Corbally worked with Coach Ben Schwartzwalder to reinstate the players, but no compromise could be reached. In September, Corbally established a commission to investigate the situation further and to investigate the allegations of racism. By December, the commission reported that racism was "real, chronic, [and] largely unintentional." The major outcome was the replacement of the Administrative Board on Athletics with the Athletic Policy Board, which included student members.

Corbally resigned in 1971 when he accepted the position of president of the University of Illinois, where he remained until 1979. In 1980, the board of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago named Corbally as its first president.

Note: Much of the material in this biographical note was drawn from Syracuse University: The Eggers Years by John Robert Greene (1996).

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Scope and Content Note

The Chancellor John E. Corbally Records contain correspondence, committee and various subject files, reports, and other materials related to his time as Chancellor of Syracuse University. Also included are materials relating to the Football Boycott and the 1970 Student Strike.

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Access Restrictions

The collection is currently unprocessed and not available for research. Please contact the University Archives for more information.

Records of the Office of the Chancellor are restricted for 50 years from date of creation.

Use Restrictions

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

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Related Material

The Archives has a portrait file, a clippings file, and a small reference collection on Chancellor Corbally. There are also audio tapes of some of Corbally's press conferences that can be found in the Audiovisual Collection in the Archives.

More information relating to the Football Boycott can be found in the Syracuse 8 Collection or in the clippings file in the Archives.

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Selected Search Terms


Corbally, John E. (John Edward), 1924-2004.
Syracuse University -- Chancellors.
Syracuse University -- Football -- History.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University -- Student strike, 1970.
Syracuse University.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Chancellor John E. Corbally Records,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

The Chancellor John E. Corbally Records were given to the University Archives by the Office of the Chancellor in June of 1971.

Processing Information

This collection has not been processed.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: Anna Smallwood
Date: 2015
Revision history:

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An inventory has not yet been created for this collection. Please contact Syracuse University Archives for more information.

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