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New School Adult Division Office of the Dean records

 Record Group
Identifier: NS-02-01-01


These records were created by the dean's office of the adult education division of The New School (as of 2022, Schools of Public Engagement), and predominantly reflect the activities of two deans, William Birenbaum and Allen Austill, 1961-1979. A subset of records document the formation of New School College in the 1960s, the Institute for Retired Professionals, and the Physicians Assistant program. A number of files are restricted due to confidentiality.


  • 1928-circa 1991
  • Majority of material found within 1959-1979



21.1 Cubic Feet (16 boxes, 8 oversized folders, and 12 legal-sized folders)

Language of Materials



Scope and Content of Collection

The group of records described in this finding aid date from 1928 to approximately 1991; most of the files were created between 1959 and 1979. The collection documents the activities of the Office of the Dean of the adult education division of The New School university during the last years of leadership by Dean Clara Woolie Mayer, and predominantly created during the deanships of William Birenbaum and Allen Austill. The presidents of the university in these years include Hans Simons (1950-1960), Henry David (1961-1963) and John R. Everett (1964-1981). The records contain very few documents dating from the presidency of Jonathan F. Fanton (1982-1999).

Documentation in this collection relates to the administration, faculty relations, curriculum development, and promotion of the division as reflected in correspondence between deans and other administrators and faculty members; course descriptions and bulletins; event planning and promotion; and outreach and coordination of initiatives and partnerships with external organizations; and reports analyzing the school, itself. The collection also contains a series of records documenting the Institute for Retired Professionals; a series documenting the development and operations of New School College (The New School’s first attempt at establishing a degree program for students of traditional undergraduate age); and the shortlived Physician’s Assistant program; as well as records documenting the development of student guidance as it evolved during the period of explosive growth and change in student population following World War II.

The collection includes records created by a range of administrators and faculty, including deans Mayer, Birenbaum, and Austill, as well as Saul Padover and Arthur L. Swift, Jr. (successive deans of the School of Politics and Social Studies); President Simons; Issai Hosioski (Treasurer, 1943-circa 1971); and associate deans Robert DeMaria (1962-1964) and Michael Vollen (assistant and associate dean, later chair of Social Sciences, circa 1975-1987). A small number of files seem to have emerged directly from the office of student advising, including reports by Miriam Fraser Bennee (either a student advisor or consultant in the late 1950s and early '60s), Helen Williams (assistant dean and counselor, 1958-1960) and Herman Eichner (student advisor, 1943-1962).

The school that came to be referred to as the Adult Division (see below for details about name changes in the division) underwent several significant administrative and programmatic shifts over the years and these files extensively document a few of those moments of change, including a period of self-study and transition that lasted from the late 1950s through around 1963. Reports documenting this period will be found in Series V. under Reports. Another shift reflected in these records was brought about by the profound political, cultural and social changes of the 1960s and '70s, evident especially in the Office files series through documentation of correspondence with community organizations to form educational partnerships, courses, exhibitions and special programs exploring the civil rights movement, and initiatives to attract students from underrepresented communities, among other efforts.

Series I. Faculty files (1948-1977) is comprised of files that were withdrawn by dean's office staff from the active files of the dean's office (those which comprise Series V. Office files) after a faculty member had died or otherwise ceased affiliation with The New School. The bulk of the files in this series stem from Allen Austill's tenure and represent communications between the dean and associate dean Robert DeMaria, and departmental chairs and faculty, as well as course proposals, syllabi, and correspondence regarding scheduling and faculty compensation, student feedback, and special programs.

Series II. Files of persons of note (1928-1972) retains the title it was given before the files came to The New School Archives, and includes files of communications with notable, "celebrity" faculty, administrators, and visiting lecturers. The files were probably separated out from the larger series of faculty files found in Series I. and Series V. by a New School librarian or by a researcher. The bulk of the files date between 1946 and 1959. Correspondents include deans Clara Mayer, Saul Padover, and Allen Austill, as well treasurer, Issai Hosiosky, and President Simons.

Series III. Institute for Retired Professionals (1955-1979) includes records of and relating to the Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP), founded at The New School in 1962 by a group of New York City schoolteachers who sought to continue their intellectual development after retirement. Correspondents include Hyman Hirsch, founder and director of the IRP, William Birenbaum, Allen Austill, and other administrators.

Series IV. New School College (after 1951-1977). Most of the files in this series stem from the 1960s, especially the lead-up to 1966, when The New School launched its first undergraduate program for traditional college-age students, and following the establishment of the school. Correspondents include Dean Austill; Elizabeth Coleman (associate dean circa 1965-1972; director, Freshman Year Program and Seminar College, and dean of Undergraduate Studies (circa 1973-1984); faculty members and departmental chairs Leonard Gardner and Merrill Rodin; and Albert Landa (who held various roles, beginning as director of Public Information in 1960 until retiring as vice president of The New School in 1985).

Series V. Office files (1944-circa 1991, with the bulk falling between 1960-1975) constitutes two thirds of the files in the entire collection. Correspondants include deans Birenbaum and Austill, New School presidents Henry David and his successor, John Everett, as well as longtime dean's office staff member, Wallis (Wally) Osterholz. Communications with current and potential faculty regard curriculum development, course proposals and administrative matters; correspondence with students relate to admissions issues and complaints.

Series VI. Physician's Assistant program (1973-1978), includes files created and received by Michael Vollen and/or Allen Austill documenting a short-lived joint project between The New School and Harlem Hospital to train physician's assistants. The series contains a great deal of personal information about the students enrolled in the program, including immigration status, academic performance issues, and, in some cases, disciplinary matters. Files also cover personnel matters. Confidential files are restricted.

Series VII. Student advising and counseling services (1944-1962) are comprised of a set of files that came into The New School Archives in a separate accession from the bulk of the adult education division office files. The series documents student advising and counseling services, 1944-1962, including a series of reports authored by Miriam Fraser Bennee and the files of Herman Eichner, a student advisor from 1947-1962.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use, except for files containing personally identifiable personal data, such as student financial and counseling records, which are restricted for a period of time based upon The New School Archives' Confidentiality Policy. Please contact for appointment.

Historical Note

The New School was founded in 1919 as a "center for discussion and instruction for mature men and women," offering no degrees. This original institution was the progenitor of the adult division. In 1933, a second division, the University in Exile, was created, which in 1934 was renamed the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science and began conferring Master of Social Science and Doctor of Social Science degrees. Later, the adult education division experimented with a variety of certificate and degree programs, as well, eventually incorporating various undergraduate and graduate degree tracks. But until 1970, the adult education division and the Graduate Faculty were the two divisions of The New School, and for many years the adult education division (see below for detail on the evolution of the division's names) constituted the financial engine of the university, with a large, transitory part-time student population attending single lectures as well as lecture series, semester-long courses and special programs, covering an extremely wide range of subjects, from traditional academic disciplines to an evolving array of nontraditional issues and topics.

The adult education division of The New School has had a number of names since the school's 1919 founding: New School for Social Research (1919-1943); School of Politics/School of Philosophy and Liberal Arts (1943-1961); the New School (1961-1972); New School Adult Division (1972-1985); The New School (1986-2004)*; The New School for General Studies (2005-2011); The New School for Public Engagement (2011-2014); Schools of Public Engagement (2014-2022).

*Beginning in Fall 1986, the course catalog no longer lists the division as New School Adult Division, but calls it The New School (Adult Division), with the school frequently referred to in the catalogs and other materials as the Adult Division throughout the 1990s.

Along with its name changes the division has undergone significant administrative and curricular shifts over the years. From 1943-1961, it was divided into two units, the School of Politics (in its last several years, the School of Politics and Social Studies) and the School of Philosophy and Liberal Arts. According to the 1943-1944 course catalog this separation was made "for administrative convenience," but for more than a decade each school maintained its own dean and offices, with little coordination between the schools. Clara W. Mayer, a former student and longtime member of the Board of Trustees, served as dean of the School of Philosophy and Liberal Arts from 1943-1961, spanning its entire existence. The School of Politics was first headed by Hans Simons, a member of the Graduate Faculty who later became president of The New School, then Saul K. Padover (1950-1955); followed by Arthur L. Swift, Jr. (Swift's 1956 appointment coincides with the school's name change to the School of Politics and Social Studies). Swift remained in the post until Fall 1960, when Clara Mayer once again became dean of the New School adult education division for a short time, as she had been prior to 1943 (the catalog continued to list the two schools as separate units for another two years.)

After a decade of intensive self-evaluation and attempts to articulate a vision for adult education, the school launched an administrative and curricular overhaul in the fall of 1961. Incoming university president Henry David forced Clara Mayer to resign as dean and installed William M. Birenbaum with a mandate to establish consistent educational standards across programs, to formalize salary and fee structures, and to establish an infrastructure for fiscal accountability. Some of Birenbaum's in-depth reports about this transition period will be found in Series V. of this collection and are available online in The New School Archives Digital Collections at

In addition to his work to stabilize the administrative and financial infrastructure of the school, Birenbaum introduced a host of new arts and cultural offerings, including a popular though shortlived Summer Festival in what is now the Vera List Courtyard that brought leading poets and jazz and folk musicians to the school. Birenbaum also committed to broaden the communities of adults served by The New School, strengthening opportunities and support for English language learners and exploring initiatives to address the needs of Black and Puerto Rican students in New York and beyond. Examples of his efforts in this regard include the Emancipation Centennial lecture series (1962), the American Race Crisis lecture series (1964), and the Negro Writer’s Vision of America conference, co-sponsored by the Harlem Writers' Guild (1965). Birenbaum also fostered the launch and growth of several centers offering alternative educational models, including the Institute for Retired Professionals (1962), the Human Relations Workshops (renamed Human Relations Center in 1963), and the Center for New York City Affairs (1964).

In 1963, the board of trustees ousted Henry David after just two years as president, replacing him first with Robert MacIver, then John Rutherford Everett. In 1964, Birenbaum left The New School and was replaced by Allen Austill, associate dean in the Office of Advising, who started out as acting dean, becoming dean in 1965. Austill remained in this role for fourteen years, until 1979, when he was appointed vice president of The New School. James Kraft succeeded him as dean. Everett stayed in the presidency for nineteen years.

Across this era of rare administrative stability, Austill, in close partnership with Al Landa (Director of Public Information, 1960-1967, Vice President for Development and Public Relations, 1968-1979; Vice President, 1979-1985), presided over explosive growth in the adult division, expanding enrollment with offerings attuned to the personal growth and career goals of adult students. In the 1970s, the division enrolled as many as 30,000 non-degree students per year, with a dizzying sprawl of nontraditional courses, special programs, and public events examining contemporary political and social issues, arts and cultural trends, alongside more traditional academic subjects. A sampling drawn from the 200 page course catalog in Fall 1975 includes Political Power for Women, The Heroin Problem--and A Solution, and Future Environments of Man and Current Ecological Fantasies. A section titled "Courses You Always Wanted to Take But Didn't Know Where to Find" offers Auto Mechanics, Fly Tying, and Magic and Mind-Reading, among many others.

During this period, the adult division also continued to experiment with certificate and credit-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs. In the 1960s the adult education division's undergraduate studies program, the New School Senior College, extant since 1944 as an evening college for adults, was reformatted to offer a fulltime day program for college-age students, the New School College, a two-year college for students who had completed coursework at other institutions. While the New School College was shortlived (circa 1966-1970), it provided a framework for what was to become a separate four-year liberal arts division (as of 2022, Eugene Lang College).

Austill ushered Parsons School of Design into The New School in 1970, which soon began offering undergraduate degrees, and he was an early supporter of the Center for Understanding Media, which evolved into the Media Studies program, a graduate degree program that remained under the auspices of the adult education division. The Center for New York City Affairs became part of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, which became a graduate school of public administration in 1975.

The 1970s represented a high water mark for the adult division. By the 1980s, enrollment was in decline and by 2016, The New School counted barely 1,400 continuing education students out of 13,000 enrolled across the divisions. There are a variety of explanations for the decline and the decentering of adult education at The New School. These range from financial concerns-—degree students pay far more than non-degree students; to concerns that the ecclectic array of course offerings may be compromising the school's academic reputation; to competition brought on by the proliferation of continuing education programs at other institutions.

In 2022, the school that represents the founding adult education division of The New School is called the Schools of Public Engagement and is composed of Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment, School of Media Studies, Julien J. Studley Graduate Programs in International Affairs, Creative Writing Program, and Bachelor’s Program for Adults and Transfer Students. All of them are degree programs. In addition to the five schools the division includes 15 centers, institutes and labs, including the Center for New York City Affairs, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the New Historia, and the Tishman Environment and Design Center.


Information used to formulate this note was largely found in documentation within this record group, as well as in finding aids and content of other New School collections, as noted below.

Allen Austil records (NS.02.01.03), New School Archives and Special Collections.

Clara Mayer papers (NS.02.01.02), New School Archives and Special Collections.

Foulkes, Julia and Mark Larrimore. Realizing The New School: Lessons From the Past (Public Seminar Books, 2020).

Foulkes, Julia. "What Does it Mean to Educate Adults?" Public Seminar.

Hendershott, Carmen. "Allen Austill." Histories of The New School website (2015).

John R. Everett records (NS.01.01.02), New School Archives and Special Collections.

New School course catalogs collection (NS.05.01.01), New School Archives and Special Collections.

Rutkoff, Peter M. and William B. Scott. New School: A History of the New School for Social Research. New York: The Free Press, 1986.

Swadosh, Jenny. "William Birenbaum." Histories of The New School website (2015).

Deans and Acting Deans 1943-1987

Clara W. Mayer, Dean, School of Philosophy and Liberal Arts
Hans Simons, Dean, School of Politics
John H. Ferguson, Dean, School of Politics
Hans Simons, Dean, School of Politics
Saul K. Padover, Dean, School of Politics
Ludvig H. Grunebaum, Acting Dean, School of Politics
Arthur L. Swift, Jr., Dean, School of Politics and Social Studies
Clara W. Mayer, Dean, The New School
William M. Birenbaum, Dean, The New School.
Allen Austill, Acting Dean, then Dean, New School Adult Division
James Kraft, Dean, New School Adult Division
Elizabeth Coleman, Dean of Undergraduate Studies
Allen Austill, Dean, New School Adult Division


The collection is organized into 7 series: 1. Faculty files; 2. Files of persons of note; 3. Institute for Retired Professionals; 4. New School College; 5. Office files; 6. Physician's Assistant program; 7. Student advising and counseling services. Files within each series are arranged alphabetically, mostly by topic or institution, except occasionally, when correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name.

Custodial History

The first two transfers of files making up this collection came in 2012, directly from the administrative offices of the present day Schools of Public Engagement. These two transfers constitute the bulk of this record group, found here as Series IV, V, VI, and VII. Four smaller transfers occurred in 2013, two additional groups of files from Schools of Public Engagement and two from The New School's Raymond Fogelman Library. The two 2013 library transfers form Series I. Faculty files and Series II. Files of persons of note. They have been included in this record group because many of the files were created or received by Deans Birenbaum and Austill and other members of the deans office staff. While the records in Series III. Institute for Retired Professionals were transferred from the Institute's administrative offices in 2016 at the tail end of the IRP's long tenure at The New School, the files indicate they had formerly been in the custody of the dean's office, as well.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

New School Archives staff created this record group by bringing together several internal transfers, mostly in 2012 and 2013, of files from university offices based upon probable shared provenance.

Related Materials

The Clara Mayer papers (NS.02.01.02), created during Mayer's tenure as dean of the School of Philosophy and Liberal Arts, include files that overlap chronologically and subject-wise with the records in the New School Adult Division Office of the Dean records. The Clara Mayer papers also include correspondence created by Saul Padover, dean of the School of Politics in the 1950s.

The New School Schools of Public Engagement Office of the Executive Dean records (NS.02.01.04) documents the office after Austill's tenure as dean. There is very little chronological overlap between the two record groups.

The Allen Austill records (NS.02.01.03) documents the New School administrative activities of Austill outside of his primary responsibilities as dean.

Other collections with asssociated subject matter in The New School Archives include the Albert Landa records (NS.02.03.07); Human Relations Center records (NS.02.03.01); Institute for Retired Professionals collection (NS.02.21.01); John R. Everett records (NS.01.01.02); New School course catalog collection (NS.05.01.01); the New School Office of Public Information records (NS.03.1.08); the New School press release collection (NS.03.01.07); New School Publicity Office records (NS.03.01.05).

Processing Information

The New School Archives staff gratefully acknowledges the assistance of former Schools of Public Engagement administrative staff Thelma Armstrong, Nicholas Allanach, and Caitlin Ringwood for preparing inventories of files prior to transfer.

Guide to the New School Adult Division Office of the Dean records
Wendy Scheir
December 1, 2022
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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