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Richard P. Unsworth Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00365

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Richard P. Unsworth papers contain biographical materials, correspondence, photographs, speeches and writings spanning Unsworth's career.

Dates of Materials

  • 1880 - 2014
  • Majority of material found within 1945 - 2000


Language of Materials

English French

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical Note

Eminent minister, educator, and race relations activist, Richard Preston Unsworth (1927-2016) served Smith College for more than fifty years as a member of the faculty and as Chaplain of the College. Unsworth came to Smith College after serving as the Assistant Chaplain at Yale University. First appointed an Associate Professor of Religion and Chaplain of the College in 1954, he left in 1964 to become the Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation and Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College. During his tumultuous two years at Dartmouth, Unsworth was tasked with addressing several controversial topics including his personal activities with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, women's reproductive rights, and Vietnam.

Resuming his position as Chaplain of the College and Professor of Religion under President Tom Mendenhall, he saw his role as liaison between the college administration and students expand. In 1980 he assumed the role of headmaster at Northfield Mount Hermon preparatory school. In addition to strengthening the school's outreach and development program, he is credited with providing Northfield Mount Hermon with its reputation for minority inclusion and developing its resources in support of the curriculum.

Professionally, Unsworth was a noted figure in the development of ecumenical services across higher education campuses and the incorporation of ethics into rigorous cross-discipline curricula. He published numerous sermons, monographs, essays, and articles on a variety of contemporary He lectured widely and facilitated several national surveys across various institutions. In 1949, he and Joy Merritt (1927-2014) were married. Joy was a graduate of Wheaton College and later completed her Master of Social Work in 1959 from Smith College. In 1975, after serving various roles in the Northampton Public School system, she was named the first public school psychologist in Massachusetts. In 1980 Mrs. Unsworth was appointed the director of special education for the Greenfield Public Schools where she worked tirelessly towards pathways and policies to achieve student integration until her retirement in 1989.


10.125 linear feet (23 containers)


Chaplain of the College and Professor of Religion. Contains biographical material, correspondence, photographs, speeches, and writings.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into five series:

  1. General
  2. Activities and Interests
  3. Professional Life
  4. Writings
  5. Audiovisual

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by John Unsworth, 2014.

Processing Information

Processed by Elizabeth Carron, Archives Specialist

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the Richard P. Unsworth Papers.
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Carron.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2018-12-10: Finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063