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Robert S. Shaw papers

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-2.1.11

Scope and Content

The Robert Shaw papers contain correspondence (1891-1940), publications, petitions, reports, legislation, council, and other university-related information, news clippings, an article on the sugar beet, and biographical papers, including honorary degrees and a memorial.


  • Creation: 1890 - 1953
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1890 - 1941


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

Robert Sidey Shaw, eleventh University President, was born in Woodburn, Ontario, Canada, July 24, 1871, the son of Thomas and Mary Janet (Sidey) Shaw. His father was an educator and agricultural journalist. Robert S. Shaw graduated from Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph with a B.S.A. in 1893 and then for five years managed his father's farm in Woodburn. He came to the United States in 1898 and during the following four years was assistant professor of agriculture and animal husbandry at Montana State College. In 1902 he went to Michigan Agricultural College in the same capacity and six years later was named dean of agriculture and director of the experiment station there.

In 1928 he became president of the college, which he continued to head until his retirement in 1941 as president emeritus. He had served on three occasions (September 21, 1921-July 1, 1922; May 1923-September 1924; May 24, 1928) before his appointment as acting president, and he was succeeded as president of the college by his son-in-law, John A. Hannah. In 1925 the name was changed to Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. Immediately after his appointment as president, Shaw instituted a major reorganization of the curriculum and established a graduate school. Under his direction the Applied Science Division was established, including new courses in Hotel Administration, Public Administration, and Physical Education for Men and Women. An All-College Division was set up, including Military, Competitive Athletics, Health Service, Registrar, Publications and Journalism, Library, Radio Broadcasting. He created the positions of Dean of Men and Dean of Women.

Many new structures were erected during his administration and the college's program of erecting buildings on a self-liquidating basis was launched. Mary Mayo Hall, completed in 1932, was reputedly the first college dormitory in the United States to be built on a self-liquidating basis. Much of the development of the school was credited to Shaw's foresight in purchasing 1,000 acres of land surrounding the college. At the time of his retirement in 1941, the staff of the college numbered 680 in contrast to 331 when he became president in 1928. During the same period the enrollment had increased from 2813 to 6776. He succeeded in having the College accredited by such groups as the American Association of University Women, National Association of Schools of Music, and took out an institutional membership in the American Council on Education.

He was a member of Alpha Zeta, Phi Gamma Phi and Sigma Delta Psi. An honorary degree was conferred on him by Michigan State College in 1922. In religion he was a Presbyterian, in politics he was a Republican, having become a naturalized citizen on January 14, 1903. He was married in Portland, Oregon on January 2, 1900 to May, daughter of William Travis, a clergyman of the Presbyterian church, and had four children: Robert Linn, Thomas Travis (died age 10), Sybil (died at birth), and Sarah May, who married John Alfred Hannah (mentioned above). His death occurred in East Lansing, Michigan, February 7, 1953.


2.33 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Office of the President. Robert S. Shaw Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US