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NEWS

Archives offer glimpse into CSU history

BY EDUARDO OTERO

Those seeking comprehensive information about the history of Cleveland State University may find comfort within the records of a relatively unknown archive on the third floor of the Michael Schwartz Library.

The repository for the permanent records of the university, located in RT 310, contains no shortage of non-current permanent records in its collection, according to longtime CSU archivist and avid university historian William Becker.


Photos by Eduardo Otero

The University archives, located on the third floor of Rhodes Tower, are maintained by archivist William G. Becker, a CSU graduate. The office, which opened in 2004, maintains an extensice collection of non-current university records that trace back to CSU's historical beginnings as a set of courses offered by the Cleveland YMCA in the late 19th century (top). The school would later become the Cleveland YMCA School of Technology, and be renamed Fenn College in 1929 (bottom).

“I have office records, departmental records, and university publications dating back to the beginning,” Becker said.

University catalogs and yearbooks can be found within the archive, he said, along with back issues of The Cauldron and an image library used to compile the photographic album “Fenn College,” published in 2005.

“I have four filing cabinets full [of photos], with four drawers each,” Becker added.

Those records have no association with the external, or non-university, history or the Cleveland Memory Project, Becker said. That information is in the Special Collections department of the library.

The Cleveland Memory Project is a compilation of records chronicling Cleveland’s history.

Becker, a CSU graduate, said the archive was originally located on the fifth floor of the library. However, the expansion of Special Collections, which culminated in the hiring of a special librarian to collect data regarding Cleveland’s physical history, led to the reorganization of the entire archive to its current office in 2004.

Becker said he believes the best moment in the university’s history is Fenn College’s acquisition of Fenn Tower in the 1930s. The purchase, he said, created a unique opportunity to fulfill government contracts for revenue when the college struggled to maintain an adequate student population in the face of smaller enrollments during World War II.

“They were training the 53rd Detachment to be pilots here,” he said, citing just one of the era’s contracts. Had it not been for the tower, “Fenn [College] might’ve gone belly up, because they didn’t have the money or students coming in,” according to Becker.

Fenn Tower was recently renovated, reopening in August 2006 and housing more than 400 students.

“You could go to a school and not know anything about its history,” Becker said, “but it does help to know about the history of your school.”

“For example, it’s interesting [to know] that this was once a YMCA school located on Prospect Avenue,” he continued.

Photo courtesy of CSU Archives

Fenn College was named in honor of its director and president Sereno Peck Fenn. The College legally became Cleveland State University in December 1964.

CSU, christened the Cleveland YMCA School of Technology more than a century ago, was renamed Fenn College in 1929 and gained its current label in 1964.

“I like the historical aspect of it,” Becker said of working the university archive.

“It’s really a service job,” he continued, “[and] there’s satisfaction in knowing you’re helping folks.”

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