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Thomas Corwin Mendenhall Personal Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00086

Scope and Contents

The Mendenhall Papers include 10 linear feet (24 document boxes) of material dating from 1910-1999. The papers include correspondence, writings, professional records, news clippings and photographs. For more specific information about the contents of the collection see the series descriptions and folder listing below.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1895 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use with following restrictions on access: the letters of recomendation in Series IV are RESTRICTED.

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 / Historical

Thomas Corwin Mendenhall was born on June 14, 1910 in Chicago, IL to Charles E. Mendenhall, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin and Dorothy Reed Mendenhall, an 1895 graduate of Smith College and noted pediatrician.

Mendenhall received B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale in 1932 and 1938, respectively, and held B.S. and B.Litt. degrees from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Mendenhall was a history professor at Yale University and coach of the crew team (1937-1959). Six years later he began taking on administrative duties, first as assistant to the provost at Yale University (1943-1950), then as the master of Berkeley College, an undergraduate residential college at Yale University (1950-1959). During his time at Yale, Mendenhall assisted in the establishment of the Directed Studies Program, and, with other colleagues in the history department, initiated the "problem method" of teaching history, which emphasizes the analysis of source materials as the foundation for the development of historical generalizations.

Mendenhall was the sixth president of Smith College. He accepted the position in 1958, and began work in the fall of 1959. He remained at the college for 16 years, retiring in the spring of 1975. He guided Smith through a succession of changes that significantly altered the college's social environment and curriculum. Smith participation in intercollegiate athletic competition greatly increased on his watch. In addition, Mendenhall's interest in increasing the collaboration among Smith and its four neighboring institutions -- Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges and the University of Massachusetts -- led to the founding of Five Colleges, Inc., of which he was president from its beginning until his retirement. Beyond the Smith community, Mendenhall served on the boards of a number of secondary schools and was actively involved with the Council for Basic Education. In 1962, Mendenhall helped found Catalyst, the national, nonprofit organization that seeks to advance women in business and the professions, and he later chaired its board.

Mendenhall retired to Martha's Vineyard in 1975 with his wife Cornelia Baker Mendenhall. He married Cornelia Baker in 1938. Cornelia was born in Englewood, NJ and graduated from Vassar with a degree in biology in 1935. She was a very caring and nurturing wife. During his retirement Mendenhall was active in the community life of Martha's Vineyard, serving on the boards of the Martha's Vineyard Hospital and several conservation groups and regularly sailing his Menemsha 24 sloop on Vineyard Sound. He researched and wrote books on the history of rowing in America (1975-1993). Crew and boating were two of Mendenhall's lifetime passions. He found rowing to be a great source of relief throughout his life. He captained the Balliol College crew while at Oxford, coached the Berkeley College crew while teaching at Yale, served as an informal coach for college rowers at Smith and wrote three books on the subject, including A Short History of American Rowing (1980).

Mendenhall was loved by many, and his death on July 18, 1998 at the age of 88 on Martha's Vineyard was mourned by all those whose lives he had touched. Surviving him are his two daughters Bethany Mendenhall and Cornelia Small, and two grandchildren. Cornelia Mendenhall died on October 17, 2002 on Martha's Vineyard.


13.396 linear feet (27 containers)

Language of Materials



President, Smith College and professor, Yale University. Papers include correspondence, memorabilia, writings, hobbies, course materials, Rhodes Scholarship information, professional records, news clippings, portraits and photographs.


This collection is organized into six series:

  1. I. Biographical Material
  2. II. Education
  3. III. Personal Correspondence
  4. IV. Professional Records
  5. V. Writings and Speeches
  6. VI. Photographs and Ephemera

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Mendenhall papers were donated to the College Archives by Thomas and Cornelia Mendenhall in a number of accessions following his retirement as the president of Smith College in 1975.

Related Material

Additional material in the Smith College Archives may be found in the papers of Mendenhall's mother, Dorothy Reed Mendenhall. They are housed in the Sophia Smith Collection. The presidential papers of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall may also prove useful.

Processing Information

Processed by Amy Melanson and Laura Finkel

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 Thomas Corwin Mendenhall Personal Papers.
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Amy Melanson and Laura Finkel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: manosca86 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-12-07: 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