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Chancellor William P. Graham Records

An inventory of his records at the Syracuse University Archives

Finding aid created by: Dane Flansburgh
Date: 2019


William Pratt Graham (1871-1962) was Syracuse University's sixth Chancellor, serving for 6 years (1936-1942). Under his short tenure the University erected a building for the Maxwell School of Citizenship, the ROTC expanded its presence on the campus, and the nation prepared their young men and women for war.

Portrait of William P. Graham

Graham was born in Oswego, New York, but he and his family moved to Syracuse when he was three. A product of the Syracuse City School District, Graham was a bright boy who stayed in his hometown and attended Syracuse University. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1893, and then traveled to Germany to conduct his graduate work in electrical engineering. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in 1897 and then went back to Syracuse University in 1898 to work as an instructor. A few years later, Graham helped found the College of Applied Science and became the dean of the college in 1911. He held that position until he accepted the position of Vice Chancellor for Chancellor Flint in 1922.

When Chancellor Flint took the position, the University faced a financial deficit, and thus he was often away from the campus in order to raise money. Graham, therefore, handled most of the University's daily operations. When Flint left the University in 1936, Graham took over as Acting Chancellor. A search committee was formed, yet it had a difficult time finding Flint's replacement. When no suitable outside candidate was found, the committee determined "that we have on our own campus a man well qualified to assume the duties of this office...we, therefore, recommend to the board the election to the office of chancellor of Syracuse University the present acting chancellor, William Pratt Graham." Graham agreed to take the appointment, with the condition that he would only serve for only a year while the University found a younger man to take the job (Graham was 66 years old at the time). He ended up serving as Chancellor for six years.

When Graham took over as Chancellor, student enrollments had climbed to 6,ooo, the highest they had ever been up to that point. Additionally, because of prudent financial decisions made by Chancellor Flint, the University's finances were sound. Graham was well-liked as Chancellor. Graham was often described as quiet and kind, yet firm and efficient. He was active on the campus, and his wife, Cora, often entertained guests in their home. Despite Graham's affability, he espoused racist beliefs, which informed his policy decisions, notably the decision to limit Black student enrollment during the 1920s.

Under Graham's leadership, both the Maxwell School of Citizenship and School of Education received graduate status. In 1937, the Maxwell School of Citizenship building finished construction. Graham calmly led the University for a few years before the breakout of World War II in Europe caused disruptions to campus life. Once the United States entered the war at the end of 1941, and enrollments began to drop as young men and women left to fight the war, Graham announced that he would be retiring in the summer of 1942. At the time of his retirement, Graham had spent a total of 53 years at Syracuse University as a student, instructor, professor, dean, vice-chancellor, and chancellor.

After retirement, Graham served on the Syracuse Common Council for four years. He died in 1962 at the age of 90.

Scope and Content Note

The Chancellor William P Graham Records contain materials that document the activities of Graham and his administration. The collection is arranged into two series.

The Correspondence-subject files series comprises the bulk of the collection. Materials in this series include correspondence, newspaper clippings, telegrams, petitions, meeting minutes, and reports. The correspondence and subject files cover Graham's six-year tenure as Chancellor, and address a myriad of University-related issues and topics. These include the building of the Maxwell School of Citizenship, obtaining graduate level status for Maxwell School of Citizenship and the School of Education, and the University's preparation for World War II. Furthermore, there is documentation in these records indicating that Graham was racist. For example, in the fall of 1937 he attempted to expel Black football and basketball player Wilmeth Sidat-Singh when Graham discovered the student was Black.

The last series, Writings, includes the addresses and speeches Graham delivered while serving as Syracuse University Chancellor.

Please note that names of colleges and schools are inverted in the inventory (for example: Fine Arts, College of).


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

A file regarding blind and deaf students has been restricted in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Files regarding the discipline of students have been restricted in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

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.

Related Material

The University Archives originally held one collection for Chancellors Graham and Flint, his predecessor. In 2019, Flint's records were separated into Chancellor Charles W. Flint Records, and Graham's personal papers were separated into the William P. Graham Papers.

The Archives holds clipping files on Graham as well as portrait files. The Syracuse University Photograph Collection also features items related to Chancellor Graham.

Selected Search Terms


Arents, George, 1875-1960.
Graham, William P., 1871-1962.
Hendricks Chapel (Syracuse University)
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Center for the Study of Citizenship.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.
Syracuse University. School of Education.


Chinese students -- United States.
College campuses.
College environment.
College sports.
College students.
College trustees.
World War, 1939-1945.
College administrators.
Higher education.

Types of Material

Academic addresses (documents)
Administrative reports.
Minutes (administrative records)
Speeches (documents)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Chancellor William P. Graham Records,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

The materials included in the Chancellor William P. Graham Records were transferred and donated to the University Archives in a series of acquisitions up to 1992.

Processing Information

This collection was fully processed in 2019 by Dane Flansburgh. Materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes. Photocopies were made of original newspaper clippings, which were then discarded.

Roughly five linear feet of Chancellor Graham's records were previously stored with the William Galpin Papers. William Galpin was a History professor at Syracuse University who wrote on the history of the University. While writing Syracuse University, Volume III: The Critical Years, a history of Chancellor Flint and Graham's administration, Galpin was allowed to keep some of Graham's records. In 2019, these records were transferred back to Chancellor Graham's records.


The collection is arranged alphabetically. The Correspondence-subject series is arranged alphabetically by last name or subject, and further arranged chronologically within the folders.

Table of Contents

Correspondence-Subject files