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Richard O. Niehoff papers

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-17.110

Scope and Contents

The collection documents Niehoff’s work in the field of personnel and staff training in large national and international programs. The collection has papers from his experiences with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the United Nations, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and Michigan State University. The collection also contains three significant manuscripts by Niehoff: a biography of Floyd Reeves, a biography of John Hannah, and an autobiography. With the exception of the autobiography, there is little personal matieral in the collection; the materials focus primarily on Niehoff's professional activities.


  • Creation: 1934 - 1984


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

Richard Niehoff was born in Quincy, Illinois on September 25, 1907 to John and Emma. John Niehoff died in 1910 in an accident when startled horses threw him from a wagon. He was raised by his mother and his brother, George, who was 20 years older. At about the same time that Niehoff began high school, he also became a member of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA.) There he began to learn about leadership, and continued those lessons through his high school years. While in high school, he was business manager of a literary magazine and the yearbook, class president and a member of the National Honor Society.

Niehoff entered the YMCA College (now known as George Williams College) in Downer’s Grove, Illinois in September 1925. Niehoff graduated after four years and then moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to take up a three-year appointment with the Milwaukee YMCA as the Community Secretary of the Northwest Branch. After completing three years in Milwaukee, Niehoff returned to Chicago in 1932 to attend the University of Chicago. In his three years there, Niehoff earned a Ph.B., M.A., and passed preliminary examinations for a Ph.D. It was during this time that he married Helen Elizabeth Morehead on September 5, 1935.

In 1935, Niehoff left the University of Chicago before completion of his doctorate to take a position with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) at the salary of $2,300 per year. His responsibilities included organizing and managing a program of in-service training for staff, conducting program and orientation lectures for new employees, maintaining contact with the Provost and Dean of the University of Tennessee for courses taught by TVA personnel, and developing and supervising internship programs in public administration. Helen completed her teaching agreement with the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in June 1936. After Helen moved to Tennessee, the couple gave birth to their first child, Pete, born in May 1938. Their second child, David was born 18 months later.

Though things were going well with the TVA, the attack on Pearl Harbor signified the beginning of the end of Niehoff’s time there. He felt that he wanted to make a contribution to the war effort. He was invited to Washington D.C. in June 1942 to interview for the position of Training Officer with the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The interview went well, however, he was offered and accepted the position of Director of Training in the Office of Price Administration (OPA). After 14 months with the OPA, Niehoff transferred to the National Housing Authority (NHA).

Niehoff remained with the NHA until 1946 when he was persuaded to take a position with the Department of State as the Public Affairs Officer in Bombay, India. However, a few days earlier a friend from the TVA had been appointed as Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which led to Niehoff’s involvement with that organization. His position in the AEC was Special Assistant to the General Manager and Deputy Director of Public and Technical Information. In this role he made recommendations on hiring, worked with personnel policy, and had to prepare an agenda for the first meeting of several managers and other top officials with the General Manager. During his years with the AEC, Niehoff wrote and published the first article about the organization and administration of the AEC, which ran in the Spring 1948 issue of The Public Administration Review. Niehoff remained with the AEC until 1950.

During his last few years with the AEC, Niehoff enrolled his sons in the Burgundy Farm County Day School. This was a private school located on part of a former dairy farm near Alexandria, Virginia. Niehoff served as Chairman of the Board in the family’s second to last year in Washington. Among the issues he dealt with was the policy regarding the admission of African-American students to the school. Some parents were opposed and threatened to withdraw their children if an open enrollment policy were passed. However, the Board did pass the policy making Burgundy the first integrated elementary school in Virginia.

In 1950, Niehoff returned to the TVA. His second stint with the TVA lasted until 1956. He prepared a report on changes in the TVA over the eight years he was away, worked on personnel policy, and ghost wrote a chapter for the general management section of a book on the first 20 years of the TVA. Niehoff left the TVA six years later when he accepted a position from the United Nations as Technical Co-Director of the United Nations/Egyptian Institute of Public Administration. He left for Cairo in January 1956 with his wife and children following in February. In this position, he was responsible for coordinating the work of UN experts, reporting to New York, and for collaborating with the administrative co-director in overall instructional and research programs. At one point political events led to military conflict which forced an evacuation of the family to Rome, Italy for a short period of time. Niehoff was allowed to return to Cairo ahead of his family, with little trouble experienced upon his return. Eventually, the UN presence was no longer needed at the Institute, which ended Niehoff’s stay in Cairo in 1958.

Shortly before finishing the work in Cairo, Niehoff was asked to go to Ethiopia to become Director of the Imperial Institute of Public Administration in Addis Ababa. He agreed and held the position from October 1958 until January 1960. Although there was some staff disillusionment as to whether or not their school would have an impact on the Ethiopian government, some of the more influential students of the Institute included the Lord Mayor of Addis Ababa and the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

Niehoff left Ethiopia in January 1960 and began work for Michigan State University on the Pakistan Project. Niehoff served as the Chief Advisor to the Pakistan Rural Development Project for approximately two years in Pakistan (1960-1962) and upon his return to campus assume the position of Assistant Dean for International Programs in the College of Education (1962-1965). Niehoff held his last position at MSU, in the Office of the Dean of International Studies from 1965 through his retirement in 1976.


2.6 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Series Description

The collection is arranged according to the various positions held by Niehoff, in roughly chronological order.

I. Tennessee Valley Authority, 1938-1984 (13 folders)

This series contains materials from both terms Niehoff spent with the TVA. Included are publications and handbooks from the TVA, papers by Niehoff on TVA personnel and training issues, reports, and manuals. There are also some cartoons by Washington Post political humorist Herblock on TVA scandals in the mid-1950s. This series also includes a copy of a transcript of an oral history interview conducted with Niehoff on his terms with the TVA. Arranged alphabetically.

II. United States Atomic Energy Commission, 1946-1952 (19 folders)

This series contains primarily publications about the AEC and people who were instrumental in its beginnings. There are several reports about organizing the personnel of the agency and a chart showing agency structure. The first AEC Personnel Policy is included as well as the first AEC phone book. Arranged alphabetically.

III. United Nations, 1955-1959 (10 folders)

This series contains materials related to the positions held by Niehoff in Egypt and Ethiopia. The Egyptian files contain clippings about the political situation in Egypt. One clipping is about the Niehoffs’ experience being evacuated from Alexandria. The series also contains Niehoff’s reports to the United Nations about the voyage and activities of the evacuees while in Rome, Italy. There are publications about the Institute of Public Administration in Cairo. The Ethiopian files contain correspondence and reports about the Imperial Ethiopian Institute of Public Administration in Addis Ababa. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

IV. Michigan State University, 1958-1983 (23 folders)

This series contains materials relating to work Niehoff performed as part of various committees and offices while at MSU. Major topics of non-formal education, the Pakistan project, Committee on Aging are covered here. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

V. Other Professional Positions, 1945-1946, 1974 (3 folders)

This series contains materials that do not relate to Niehoff’s positions in the other series. Included are a publication written by Niehoff during his time with the National Housing Authority and two folders of materials dealing with a consulting position Niehoff took with the World Bank.

VI. Manuscripts, (26 folders)

This series contains four major writings by Niehoff beginning with his master’s thesis from the University of Chicago. There are three major manuscripts. The first manuscript is a biography of Floyd Reeves. Reeves was a professor at the University of Chicago at the time Niehoff was there, and was also in the Tennessee Valley Authority and served as one of Niehoff’s superiors. He left the TVA to work at MSU as an advisor to John Hannah and as a professor of educational administration. The second manuscript is a biography of MSU President John Hannah, focusing on Hannah’s work with the United States government, the United Nations, and various Michigan organizations after his retirement from MSU. There are several folders of research notes dealing with Hannah. The third manuscript is an autobiography which documents Niehoff’s life up to 1980. With his autobiography are copies of personal correspondence which were used to help write the manuscript. Arranged chronologically.

VII. Audio-Visual (3 folders, 2 boxes)

The Photographs series contains one file of photos from the Tennessee Valley Authority. These pictures contain images of construction on dams and dams on the waterways. The second file in this series contains three images of Niehoff as a member of a panel at the Conference on Ethiopian Education.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Richard O. Niehoff Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
P. Vescio
March 2003
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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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