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Bruce K. Nelson papers

Identifier: 02.BKN

Scope and Contents

The Bruce K. Nelson papers documents Nelson's role at Eastern Michigan University as the Vice President for Instruction (a role on campus now known at Provost) a position he held from 1956-1974. Nelson worked at the College for 2 years as the Principal of the Lincoln Consolidated Schools, on the Education faculty and as the director of the Laboratory Schools program before being promoted into his administrative role. Records in the collection document his time in this administrative role as VP for Instruction and does not document his time as a member of the teaching faculty before 1956 or after 1974.

The collection is organized into 8 record groups: Administrative Duties; Annual Reports; Budgets; Colleges, Departments, and Program; Curriculum; Faculty and Staff; Registration and Enrollment; and Student Affairs. Some record groups, series and subseries are more extensively documented than others.

The Administrative Duties record group focuses on Nelson's role on external and internal committees and organizations. Included in this record group is a series of Correspondence, materials related to his role in the Central State colleges and Universities; Michigan Council of State College Presidents, sub group for Vice Presidents of Instruction; North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools; the State of Michigan, Department of Education; The Administrative Council, through the University President; Office of Information and Research, and SPARD or Special Projects & Research Development Office. Materials related to institutional accreditation can be found in the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Also included in this record group is a series of Topics and Research Files which relates to academic issues he faced during his tenure, including Jr. Colleges, and one in particular titled 'Black Unrest' which pertains to the issues happening on campus in the late 1960s, including a take over of the administrative building by African American students in 1968. Materials are generally organized by office and when possible the archives has retained the order in which Nelson maintained them.

The Annual Reports record group are arranged chronologically and is not a complete set of records for his tenure, but are from the major colleges, departments and programs that he oversaw. The Budgets series, is further organized first alphabetically by type and then chronologically. Included in this record group are series for Equipment, General, SSM or CSSM, Salaries and Wages and Unmet needs.

Colleges, Departments, and Programs record group is organized by Colleges first and includes the College of Arts and Science, College of Business (which was created during Nelson's tenure) and College of Education; and is followed by the Graduate School, Unaffiliated Departments, Grant Programs, and Support Programs. Most of the major academic colleges and the Graduate School contains a subseries of materials related to the Dean, including correspondence, memorandum and in the instance of the CAS, COB, and COE materials related to the search committees for new Deans. The College series, especially CAS and COE contains files on each department or specialty within the college, e.g. Special Education, Educational Leadership, History and Art. The Unaffiliated Departments includes files on Contemporary Issues, Field Services, Home Economics, Industrial Education, Media Services, Military Services/ROTC, and Nursing. Grant programs series includes some but not all grant files that came through Nelson's office, one major grant for the School of Education is filed with those records. Support services includes files on the library, and instructional computer services. Given how involved Nelson was the push for a new library [now the John Porter Education Building] there was little in the collection to support this involvement.

The Curriculum Committee record group contains minutes and reports from the committee as well as changes from the various colleges. Some additional materials related to course proposals and course changes can be found within the Colleges, Departments, and Programs record group. The Faculty and Staff record group is further divided into two series, one for files pertaining to general staffing, the other for files pertaining specifically to faculty. The faculty series contains information on the American Association for University Professors (AAUP) the union on campus; faculty council; new faculty hires, tenure, sabbaticals and resignations. Files in both series are arranged alphabetically.

Records pertaining to Registration and Enrollment can be found in the record group of the same name. Included in this record group are files pertaining to College Level Equivalency Program and Credit by Exam; Space and Facilities usage specific to classroom teaching. Files for Registration are specific to the process of registration, which given the analog nature of class registration at the time coupled with the growth of the University during Nelson's tenure, explain the need for this level of documentation. Topical files pertaining to Summer School and Thursday evening classes are grouped in separate series, and both were changes Nelson made during his tenure to increase enrollment. The remaining files in the series are schedules organized in chronological order. They are the semester schedules with notations on faculty, space and enrollment made by Nelson and his support staff.

Student Affairs and Academic Advising is the final record group of the collection and includes files pertaining to the office of academic advising, the Vice President of Student Affairs, and then a larger series for Student Services. The Student Services includes files for Housing, McKenny Union, and the office of Religious Affairs. The remaining files in this record group are specific to Student Government and Student Organizations.


  • Creation: 1954 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

Researchers are asked to request materials 24 hours prior to visiting the the University Archives.

Biographical Note

Bruce K. Nelson, was born in Marquette, Michigan 13 November 1915 and graduated from Marquette High School in 1932. He earned his A.B. from Northern Michigan University in 1936. He went on to earn both a master's (1944) and doctoral degree (1953) from the University of Michigan. Nelson was married to Agnes June Johnson in 1939 and they had one daughter prior to Johnson's death in 1949. He served as an officer in the Naval Reserve during World War II (1944-46). In 1950, Nelson was remarried to Frances Stakel and they had four children together.

Nelson taught at the junior high school level before going into school administration as an elementary and high school principal. He served as a consultant to the Battle Creek Schools before relocating to Lorain, Ohio to serve as an assistant superintendent. Nelson returned to Michigan in 1954 to fill the role of superintendent of the Lincoln Consolidated School District and served on the the teaching faculty in the College of Education at the Michigan State Normal College and the Director of the Laboratory Schools for the Normal College.

In 1956, Nelson was appointed as the Dean of Instruction (later the Vice President of Instruction and Vice President of Academic Affairs) and held the position for 19 years before returning to the teaching faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership in 1975. At the time of his return to the teaching faculty he had earned the honor as the longest serving chief academic officer at an institution of higher learning in the state of Michigan. He taught for 6 years before retiring in 1981.

During his time at Vice President for Instruction Nelson approved offering classes during the noon hour and in the evenings as a response to the lack of classroom space in the late 1950s; ensured that the building boom on campus during the 1960s which included the Quirk Theater, Sill Hall, Pray-Harrold and the conversion of Roosevelt School, Warner Natatorium and the field house met the needs of the teaching faculty and students; oversaw the hiring of enough qualified tenure track faculty members to teach courses for the growing student body; and shepherded the construction of a new library building (now the John Porter Building for Education). Nelson was honored in 1975 with the Outstanding Educator Award by the Phi Delta Kappa, Delta Gamma Chapter an international honorary fraternity in education.

When asked upon his retirement from Eastern Michigan University in 1981 the key to his success as an administrator Nelson responded that his "success was due to a faith in the individual and his (or her) desire to do well. [And that] if you select a person to do something, then have faith in them and given the support so they can do their job."

Professionally active in the National Education Association, he was a member of the Boards of Directors, National Higher Education Association (1969-71), and the National Association of Colleges and University Administrators (Vice President, 1969-71 and President, 1971-72). Additionally, he served the Michigan Education Association from 1969-74 as a member of the Board of Reference, and President of the Michigan Association for Higher Education (1967-68). He was a member of the Michigan Schoolmaster's Club and Chairman of the Michigan Council of Academic Vice Presidents. His service to the community included service on the Board of Trustees for the Ypsilanti District Library, and various leadership positions with the Presbyterian Church including service as an Elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Ypsilanti.


28.2 Linear Feet (25 record center cartons, 7 archive boxes, 2 halfsize archive boxes )

Language of Materials



Bruce K. Nelson, was the longest serving administrator at Eastern Michigan University when he retired from his role of Vice President for Instruction in 1974. The Bruce K. Nelson papers documents his tenure in this position and does not include records from his time as administrator of the Lincoln Consolidated Schools from 1954-56, or as a member of the teaching faculty (1954-56 and 1975-1981). The records in the collection are organized into eight record groups: Administrative Duties, Annual Reports, Colleges, Departments and Programs, Curriculum Committee, Faculty and Staff, Registration and Enrollment, and Student Affairs and Academic Advising. Nelson documented most of the work he did on and off campus with meticulous notations, memorandum, and correspondence and subject files. Of particular interest in the collection are the files pertaining to the creation of the College of Business, the Black Studies program, changes in the curriculum and the dissolution of the laboratory schools on and off campus.

Related Materials

Related materials can be found in the following collections:

North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary School records [07.NCACSS]

Self Study Reports for University Accreditation record[011.SSR]

University Library collection [00.UL].

Office of Religious Affairs records [04.RA].

Bruce K. Nelson papers
Office of the Vice President of Instruction
Alexis Braun Marks, CA, Brooke boyst
2023 April 26
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Eastern Michigan University Archives Repository

Bruce T. Halle Library, Room 310
955 West Circle Drive
Ypsilanti Michigan 48197