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Records of the Office of the Provost

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-03-001

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the Office of the Provost span the years 1930 to 2005 and from 2018 - Ongoing for its archived website, although records are rather scant prior to 1942. While the position of provost was established in 1924, no records are extant for the first two incumbents, Charles K. Edmunds and Joseph S. Ames. Every other provost is represented in this record group, often in more than one series or subseries. This record group includes subject files, budget records, academic department and division records, visiting committee records and an archived website.


  • Creation: 1930 - 2005
  • Creation: 2018 - Ongoing


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Administrative records in series 1 (subseries 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8), series 2 (subseries 2), series 3, series 4 (subseries 1, 2, and 3), series 5 and series 6 are restricted for twenty-five years from their date of creation. Education records in this record group, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as employment records in this record group, are also restricted.gin or original owner until processed. University records are closed for 25 years from the point of creation. These files contain personnel records, which are subject to further restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Special Collections department. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

On December 3, 1923, the Board of Trustees authorized President Frank J. Goodnow to "secure the services of Dr. Charles K. Edmunds, an alumnus of the University" (Trustees Minutes, 12/3/1923). While no official authorization for the position of provost can be found, Edmunds is referred to as provost in early newspaper accounts and appears to have been the first person to use that title. Along with his duties as chief assistant to the president, Edmunds also held the title of Alumni Director, and appears to have assumed both positions in 1924. According to John C. French's A History of the University Founded by Johns Hopkins, the impetus for securing Edmunds' services was the impending Half-Century Celebration, which required "carrying out ambitious designs already formed and announced" (p. 199). The duties of the new position were not clearly defined, but rather involved meeting the demands of special occasions. Edmunds had earned his A.B. from Hopkins in 1897, and, in 1903, his Ph.D. in physics. Prior to joining the administration, Edmunds served as both professor of physics and president of Canton Christian College in China, from 1907 until 1923. Upon his resignation in September 1926, he returned to China to become American director of Lingnan University in Canton.

When Ames assumed the presidency, Edward W. Berry was appointed to replace him as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Since Ames did not appoint a provost, Berry served as the president's chief advisor. Ames retired from the presidency in 1935 and was replaced by Isaiah Bowman, who immediately appointed Berry to the post of provost, vacant since 1929. The earliest records indicate that, by this time, the provost had become the chief academic officer in the University. Berry held the distinction of being one of the few senior college or university adminis- trators without an earned college degree. He had studied briefly at Hopkins as a geology graduate student in the early 1900s, and eventually worked his way up through the faculty ranks to the position of professor. He was known, despite his lack of any degree credentials, as one of the foremost paleontologists of his time.

Berry resigned as provost in 1942 and was succeeded by P. Stewart Macaulay. Macaulay, born in Nova Scotia and raised in Ohio, received his A.B. from Hopkins in 1923. After graduation, Macaulay worked as a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Sun, until Hopkins named him secretary of the university in 1936. Macaulay served as provost from 1942 to 1959, when, in recognition of his years of service to four university presidents, he was named to the new position of executive vice president. This new post carried with it expanded duties, including those of provost, and adding responsibility for divisions remote from Homewood, as well as greater authority to prepare and administer the University's budget. Upon Macaulay's retirement from Hopkins in 1966, the position of executive vice president was abolished and the post of provost, vacant since 1959, was filled by William Bevan. Bevan received his bachelor's degree from Franklin and Marshall College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. Prior to coming to Hopkins, Bevan taught at Heidelberg College, Emory University and Kansas State University. His primary research interests were in psychophysics and physiological psychology. In August 1970, Bevan left Hopkins to become Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. While a search committee sought a permanent successor, John P. Young, Associate Provost, served as Acting Provost. During the search for Bevan's successor, the committee reviewed and redefined the position. President Lincoln Gordon advocated dropping the title "provost" entirely, preferring the title of senior vice president. Gordon also spelled out the duties of the position as follows:

"The Vice President is to be the second ranking officer of the University, who will function as Acting President during the President's absence or illness. He will be expected generally to complement the President in function and activities and share the President's duties in external as well as internal relationships. He will have special responsibilities to coordinate the work of the academic Deans, the Vice President for Administration, and other officers with line responsibilities in the formulation and review of the University budget.... He will take leadership in continuing long-range planning of University activities and assuring the proper relationship between operating budgets and long-range plans.... Although the Vice President should have academic interests and significant academic qualifications, it is especially important that he have substantial administrative experience.... (Minutes of the Board of Trustees, October 19, 1970)"

In January 1971, Gordon announced that Steven Muller had been chosen as the new provost (there is no evidence that the title "provost" was actually dropped, as was stated above). Muller received his B.A. from UCLA in 1948, studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned his Ph.D. in political science from Cornell in 1958. He taught briefly at Haverford College and then at Cornell, where he became vice president for public affairs in 1966. Shortly after naming Muller provost, Lincoln Gordon was forced to resign by the faculty. President Emeritus Milton Eisenhower returned to the presidency temporarily, until a permanent president could be found. In January 1972, ten months after assuming his duties as provost, Steven Muller was named president of the University. Harry Woolf came to Hopkins in 1962 as the first incumbent in the Willis K. Shepard Chair in the History of Science. He received his Ph.D. in 1955 from Cornell and had taught physics and the history of science at Boston University, Brandeis University, and the University of Washington. In April 1972, he assumed the duties of provost at Johns Hopkins. In August 1976, Woolf resigned his position at Hopkins in order to become director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.

To replace Woolf, the University again brought in someone from outside Hopkins. Richard P. Longaker, a professor of political science at UCLA, was appointed on November 1, 1976. Longaker had received a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore, a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1950 and the Ph.D. from Cornell in 1953. Longaker, like his predecessors, served as chief academic officer and acting president in the absence of the president, and presided over faculty assemblies, councils and boards in the University. In December 1986, Longaker resigned in order to return to Los Angeles as west coast representative for Hopkins. In the interim period between provosts, M. Gordon Wolman, professor of geography and environmental engineering, served as acting provost, until, in July 1987, John V. Lombardi arrived from Indiana University to assume the permanent position. Lombardi, who left his post as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana, holds a bachelor's degree from Pomona College and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia. Prior to becoming dean at Indiana, Lombardi was a professor of history.

In November 1988, President Steven Muller announced that he would be devoting the majority of his time to fundraising. As a result, the Trustees approved conferring the duties of chief operating officer on Provost Lombardi, giving him responsibility for all day-to-day operations of the University in addition to academic affairs. In December 1989, Lombardi announced his resignation, in order to assume the position of president of the University of Florida. M. Gordon Wolman again served as Interm Provost until Joseph Cooper was named Provost in 1991. In January of 1995 Joseph Cooper resigned as Provost and returned to his position as a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins. Steven M. Knapp was appointed acting provost and in October of 1996 was officially appointed the Provost.


161.89 Cubic Feet (62 record center cartons, 219 letter size document boxes, 2 letter half-size document boxes, 1 legal size document boxes, 1 flat box (15.5 x 12 x 3 inches))

1 Website(s)

Language of Materials



The records of the Office of the Provost span the years 1930 to 2005 and from 2018 - Ongoing for its archived website, although records are rather scant prior to 1942. This record group includes subject files, budget records, academic department and division records, visiting committee records and an archived website.


Arranged into eight series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These records were transferred to the Archives by Bette J. Palmer, Executive Assistant to the Provost.


Accession Numbers: 79.10, 79.107, 80.45, 81.3, 81.34, 82.37, 84.5, 84.46, 85.36, 87.13, 87.44, 90.003, 90.037, 91.036, 93.006, 94.019, 95.020, 95.021, 96.028, 97.026, 98.010

Processing Information

Processed by James Stimpert, Jennifer Allain Rallo, Evan Yost, Connor Larr.

Records of the Office of the Provost
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA