Guide to the Clarence A. Steele papers, 1933-1969

Clarence A. Steele C0056

Published by George Mason University Libraries

Contact Information:

Fenwick Library (2FL)

George Mason University

Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4444


Phone: (703) 993-2220

Fax: (703) 993-8911



Descriptive Summary

Repository George Mason University. Special Collections Research Center.
Creator Clarence A. Steele
Title Clarence A. Steele papers
Date 1933-1969
Physical Characteristics 1.25 linear feet (3 boxes)
Abstract This collection contains papers and material owned by Clarence A. Steele relating to the Advisory Council to the Northern Virginia University Center. Included are minutes of meetings, letters, newspapers, and miscellaneous documents.
Collection number C0056
Language English

Biographical Information

Clarence A. Steele was the chairman of the Exploratory Committee and Advisory Council to the Northern Virginia University Center (NVUC). The Center was established in September 1949 as an adult education extension of the University of Virginia (UVa) at Charlottesville. A few years before, the idea for a center was set into motion. Seeing an opportunity for educational expansion and recognizing the needs of the growing Northern Virginia population, University of Virginia's Extension Division, headed by Professor George B. Zehmer, formed an Exploratory Committee to work out a feasibility plan for creating an extension in Northern Virginia. The result was the Northern Virginia University Center, which became fully operational in February 1950, with six classes enrolling about 50 students.

The Extension Division named John Norville Gibson Finley as the Center's first director. The Center's administrative offices and "campus" were located on the campus of Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. During the Center's early years, it offered college-level courses for adults. By the fall of 1953, the Center grew to 55 classes with 900 enrolled students. The Center, which had set out to serve only the immediate Washington metropolitan area in Virginia, expanded to serve an area that encompassed a radius of thirty miles around Arlington. This significant growth forced the Center to reevaluate its mission to the population it served. So in 1954, an Advisory Council formed to examine the challenges of expansion and to consider a "possible change of character" for the Center. Moreover, it was asked to "interpret the community and its desires to the University" and to "assist in creating a climate of demand for the educational services offered."

The Advisory Council consisted of sixteen members, all of whom resided in Northern Virginia. The Council's first meeting was on January 4, 1954 in Washington-Lee High School, called and chaired by Clarence A. Steele, former chairman of the Center's Exploratory Committee, which the Council superseded. As chair, Steele presided over meetings and directed the activities of the Council. Together with Mr. Zehmer, head of the Extension Division, and President Colgate W. Darden of the University of Virginia, the Council explored ways to convert the Center into a formal branch of University of Virginia. Steele and the Council immediately began a dialogue with prominent members of the community, including Virginia senators Charles R. Fenwick and Harry F. Byrd, Jr., hoping to find support for a branch of the University of Virginia.

In order to establish a branch, the Center had to comply with standards enacted by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, of which the University of Virginia was a member. Standards included: (1) a centrally located building sufficient for administration and instruction; (2) a sizable nucleus of full-time faculty members to ensure permanence and continuity; (3) adequate library and laboratory facilities; (4) a stable pattern of course offerings. Aware that the Center did not meet all of these conditions, the Advisory Council used the Southern Association standards as a foundation for their proposal. Steele thereby formed committees to focus on meeting the standards. The committees included: Building and Grounds, Ways and Means, Public Relations, Legal Council, and Research. This focus streamlined the Council, allowing members to use their expertise most productively. President Darden gave his full support to the endeavor, providing his own philosophy as an impetus: "bring the University of Virginia to the people" and "promote adult education formally and informally; culturally as well as technically."

The most important task facing the Council was the search for a location for the new college. Throughout late 1954 and all of 1955 they searched for tracts of land suitable for a permanent location. In the meantime, the Northern Virginia Center (as the Center was now called) continued to grow, expanding to 110 classes with 2,100 enrolled students in the spring of 1956. More startling was the prediction that enrollment would reach 8,000 adult students within a decade. This, along with the area's growing number of high school graduates, necessitated a new emphasis: one which would make the branch an affordable two-year institution with day classes - serving all students, not just adults. At this time, a Virginia House Joint Resolution passed, "authorizing the establishment of a branch of the University of Virginia to be located in Northern Virginia" (passed by the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia in February 1956), thereby providing the legal underpinning to continue the expansion of the Center.

By early 1956, many locations for the branch had been scouted out and researched. President Darden insisted that the college "have an appropriate campus, an ample campus, ample acres for spacing buildings, for parking, for playing fields of various kinds, for woods and vistas." Later in the year, three sites were seriously considered: the Ravensworth estate, between Annandale and Springfield, along Braddock Road; the Bowman or Herndon tracts, on the Sunset Hills farm land near Herndon; and seven Prince William County sites, including one along the border of Manassas Battlefield Park. In the summer of 1956, the Advisory Council unanimously endorsed the Ravensworth site. But not long after, a sub-committee assigned by the University of Virginia Board of Visitors was charged to survey the locations, and, to the Council's chagrin, it recommended the Bowman tract.

The disagreement arose from an apparent conflict of interest between the Advisory Council and the Visitors sub-committee. A few years prior, the Virginia Advisory Legislative Council to the Governor and the General Assembly (VALC) drafted a report, recommending that new university branches should only be two-year institutions and be self-supportive. In other words, VALC "wanted to establish urban branches [without dormitories] where students could live at home," and thus raise the cost of tuition, saving the state from unnecessary expenses.

Accordingly, in their search for branch locations, the Advisory Council looked for sites that would accommodate a "2-year, non-dormitory type of institution ONLY." They found the Ravensworth site ideal for those purposes. Conversely, the Visitors sub-committee's choice of the Bowman tract - a much larger and even more isolated area - clearly "envisioned a full scale dormitory type institution." The Council was unaware of the University of Virginia's plan to establish a large, four-year college with an extensive campus, and was unprepared for such a shift in focus.

Gathering what support they could, the Council sent delegations from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax Counties to persuade the Board of Visitors to reconsider. Several members of the Visitors were openly antagonistic to the Ravensworth site, mainly because the Bowman tract offered a firmer political base to the region. Others felt that there was "little use for Northern Virginia" for the future of the University. After some debate the Visitors dryly agreed to "take the whole matter of establishing a branch under advisement." A few years later, in 1959, the Council and the Visitors settled their differences and decided on an entirely new site: the Farr tract, the site on which George Mason University now stands, located less than one mile south of Fairfax City.

The Advisory Council to the Northern Virginia Center, with Clarence A. Steele at the helm, faced many challenges during the early years of its existence. The problems associated with growth, the evaluation of educational needs in Northern Virginia, and the search for a new location for the University branch occupied much time and required considerable investment.

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Scope and Content

This collection contains papers and material owned by Clarence A. Steele. Papers, relating to the Advisory Council to the Northern Virginia, include minutes of meetings, letters, newspapers, and miscellaneous documents. In addition the collection includes road-use surveys, manuals, personnel hiring and correspondence for surveys managed by Clarence A. Steele in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio and Pennsylvania from 1935 to 1936.

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This collection is arranged chronologically.

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Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

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Related Material

Special Collections Research Center also holds the George Mason University records and collections on transportation.

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Index Terms

Corporate Names:

George Mason University--History--20th century.
University of Virginia. Northern Virginia Center.
University of Virginia--History--20th century.


Transportation--United States--Planning.
University extension--Virginia, Northern.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Clarence A. Steele papers, Collection #C0056, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Acquisition Information

Collection donated by Clarence A. Steele in 1999.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections Research Center staff. EAD markup completed by Eron Ackerman and Jordan Patty in March 2009. Additional processing and EAD markup completed by Maria Forte in March 2010.

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Contents List

Clarence A. Steele papers
Box Folder
1 1 Northern Virginia Center: Correspondence and Related Papers, Calendar Year , 1954
2 Northern Virginia Center: Correspondence and Related Papers, Calendar Year , 1955
3 Northern Virginia Center: Correspondence and Related Papers, Calendar Year [1 of 2] , 1956
4 Northern Virginia Center: Correspondence and Related Papers, Calendar Year [2 of 2] , 1956
5 Northern Virginia Center: Miscellaneous , 1956
6 Original Newspapers and Commonwealth-Magazine of Virginia , 1955
Box Folder
2 1 Letters C. A. Steele , 1936
2 Letters Captain C.D. Curtis , 1936
3 Douglas Eiseman/Steele Correspondence , 1935-1936
4 R.H. Paddock Correspondence , 1935-1936
5 L.V. Sheridan Correspondence , 1936
6 H.M. Sims Correspondence , 1935
7 Employment Estimate , 1935
8 Letter to the Convention of the Road Use Survey , 1936
9 Manual of Instructions for Pavement Life Studies , 1936
10 Memorandum to District Engineers , 1935
11 Planning Survey Memorandum NO 79 , 1936
12 Comparative Study of Motor Vehicle , 1936
13 Notes on Suggested Outline for Instructing Road Use Survey Personnel , 1936
14 The Purpose and Method of Making Road-Use Surveys , 1936
15 Road Use Survey Personnel Required , 1936
16 Illinois Highway Planning Survey-R.H. Burrage , 1936
17 Correspondence to William L. Haas (Missouri) , 1936
18 Missouri Road Use Survey Allocation , 1936
19 Missouri State Highway Commission Examination , 1936
20 Road Map of Missouri , 1936
21 General Instructions for Road Use Missouri , 1936
22 Form H.P.S. RU1 Missouri (interviews) , 1936
23 Percentages in Occupations by Classes , 1936
24 Population Numbers for Missouri , 1936
25 Road Use Plan for Missouri , 1936
26 Supplies for Missouri Road Use Survey , 1936
27 Minnesota Road Use Survey-W.J. Titus , 1936
28 Superior National Forrest Minnesota Map , 1936
29 Michigan Road Use Survey , 1936
30 Notes on the Selection, Training and Supervision of Road Use Survey-New York Survey , 1936
31 Homer Baker-Ohio Road Use Survey , 1936
32 Road Use Plan for Ohio , 1936
33 Ohio Road Use Survey (Questions for Examination) , 1936
34 Pennsylvania Highways Legal Background , 1936
35 Report on Inspection of Pennsylvania Financial and Road Use Survey , 1936
36 Pennsylvania Instructions for Checking Road Use Interview Forms , 1936
37 Pennsylvania Road Interview Requirements by County Map , 1936
38 Miles Travelled in Pennsylvania by Motor Vehicle Owners , 1936
39 Notes on Conference (School District Population) , 1935
40 Pennsylvania Road Use Survey Location of Field Papers , 1936
41 Plan for Pennsylvania Road Use Survey , 1936
42 Pennsylvania Road-Use Proposed Population Classification , 1936
43 U.S. Department of Transportation Administrative Memorandum Emergency Readiness Plans , 1969
44 Coding Instructions Oklahoma Road Use Survey , 1936
45 Correspondence to J.M. Maurer , 1936
46 Western Union to J.S. Logan , 1936
47 R.H. Paddock Correspondence , 1936
48 Counties to be Studied in Oklahoma Road Use Survey , 1936
49 Oklahoma Highway Planning Interview Packet , 1936
50 Inspection of Oklahoma Road Use Survey , 1936
51 General Memorandum on Oklahoma Road Use Survey Interviews , 1936
52 J.S. Logan Bureau Manager Correspondence , 1936
53 Oklahoma Allocation of Road Use Interviews , 1936
54 O.H.S. Form R-79 Instructions to be followed in Securing of Road Use Survey Interviews , 1936
55 Manual for Interviewers , 1936
56 Miles Traveled in Oklahoma by Motor Vehicle Owners , 1936
57 Road Use Plan for Oklahoma , 1936
58 Oklahoma State Planning Board , 1936
59 Oklahoma Tax Commission Ports of Entry , 1936
60 Interview Follow Up Letter to Paul Reynolds Requesting Employment , 1933
Box Folder
3 1 47th Annual Convention American Association of State Highway Officials , 1961
2 C.A. Steele , 1936
3 Economics 189 Steele Course Questions , 1933
4 The Evolution of Three Squares (Wesley Lunch Club) , 1936
5 George Washington Memorial Parkway ,
6 Official Ceremony the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways , 1975
7 Phi Mu Delta , 1935
8 Public Roads A Journal of Highway Research , 1936
9 Mr. Richard G. Steele ,
10 U.S. Civil Service Commission ,
11 Why I Cannot Accept Socialism ,
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