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Office of the President Marion Le Roy Burton files

Identifier: CA-MS-00009

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the Office of the President Marion LeRoy Burton files contain his correspondence between 1909-1917, leading up to and during his years as Smith College president. Other materials include publications, sermons, photographs and press articles.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1874 - 1941


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

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

Marion Le Roy Burton, the second president of Smith College, was born in Brooklyn, Iowa on 30 August 1874, the youngest child of Ira and Jane Simmons Burton. The family moved to Minneapolis when Burton was very young. A short time later Ira Burton died after suffering financial reverses. Jane Burton worked hard to support her family and her sons took jobs after school to ease the financial strain. Burton's early jobs included selling newspapers and raising pigeons.

The day after his 1900 graduation from Carlton College, Burton married classmate Nina L. Moses, and they went to Minnesota's Windom Institute to gain teaching experience. By this time, he had decided that a college presidency was the job for him and would let nothing draw him from that path. With this goal in mind and the knowledge that all college presidents of the day were clergymen, Burton went to Yale University to study theology and earn his Ph.D. in philosophy. He graduated summa cum laude in. Leaving Yale in 1908, having taught there after his graduation, Burton went to preach at the historic Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn, New York. The following year, Smith offered him the presidency and he was inaugurated in 1910.

The institution Burton came to lead in 1910 was in a precarious position. Though the original endowment had been shrewdly managed and substantially enlarged, it was not enough to provide for the vast improvements the College needed. These included a new gymnasium, two laboratories, more student housing and a larger campus. To pay for these improvements, Burton announced a million-dollar fundraising campaign. Such an ambitious campaign had not been embarked on before and, despite the doubts of many, it succeeded. During his seven years at Smith, Burton encouraged changes in the curriculum designed to meet more of the challenges students would be facing in the outside world and significantly altered the admissions procedure to a more comprehensive examination of the student's abilities, achievements, interests and character. One of Burton's greatest dreams for Smith was a vast enlargement of the campus to provide for semi-separate schools devoted to different areas of study, resulting in Smith College changing into Sophia Smith University. The plan was received relatively well and plans were made to acquire the necessary land, but Burton left Smith before much could be accomplished and without his energy behind the project, it fell through.

In 1917, Burton resigned from Smith, to the despair of the entire college community, to become president of the University of Minnesota. His time at the University of Minnesota was very brief, only three years, but he is credited with keeping the students' morale up during the difficult war years. In 1920, Burton accepted the presidency of the University of Michigan and threw himself into the school's campaign for more and much-needed buildings and brought greater organization to the large and complicated university. He died suddenly from pneumonia on 18 February 1925.

Burton was mourned deeply at the schools he had headed. Following his death, the Smith College Alumnae Association, noting his interest in the cause of students of limited means, began raising money for a scholarship in his name devoted to that cause.


5.042 linear feet (12 containers)

Language of Materials



Marion LeRoy Burton was the second president of Smith College and later president of the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan. This collection contains correspondence, publications, sermons, photographs, and press articles.


This collection is organized into five series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Biography
  3. III. Smith Documents
  4. IV. Inauguration
  5. V. Publications

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Marion Le Roy Burton Office of the President files were donated over a period of time to the Smith College archives from a variety of sources.

Processing Information

Processed by Caroline Hasenyager 2002

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 Office of the President Marion Le Roy Burton files
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Caroline Hasenyager 2002; Ellice Amanna
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: manosca9 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 11/13/18: Finding aid updated with top containers
  • 12/13/18: Container added, finding aid updated with notes, dates, barcodes

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063