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Allen Austill records

 Record Group
Identifier: NS-02-01-03


Allen Austill (1927-2016) joined The New School in 1962. In 1965, he was appointed dean of the Adult Division and in 1987, he was named chancellor of the university and held this position until his retirement in 1989. The Allen Austill records are a small but significant set of materials largely relating to Austill's activities at The New School that fell outside of his primary role as dean of the Adult Division, including new program initiatives.

Some documents in this collection are restricted. Please email for further information.


  • 1957 - 1989
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 1980



2.9 Cubic Feet (3 boxes, 4 folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Allen Austill records are a small but significant set of materials largely relating to Austill's participation at the New School in activities that fell outside of his primary role as dean of the New School's Adult Division. The collection is comprised of two series. Series I. New initiatives, documents Austill's role in executive-level decision-making related to mergers and new programs across the New School in the 1960s and '70s. Series II. Parsons School of Design administrative files, covers the decade after Parsons became part of the New School. Material here pertains to educational collaborations, the initiation and closure of programs and departments, faculty matters, and the process of establishing Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles as a branch of Parsons. Most of this latter series consists of copies of the correspondence of Parsons dean, David C. Levy. The records here contain no substantive material related to Austill's role as dean of the New School's Adult Division.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Several files related to faculty and personnel salary, performance reviews, hiring information, or grievances are restricted. Please contact for details.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical note

William Allen Austill (1927-2016), the son of a Methodist minister, was born in Newton, Massachusetts. He earned a BA in 1948 and an MA in 1951, both from the University of Chicago. Austill began his career as a research assistant for the Council of State Governments on a project that produced the publication, Higher Education in the Forty-Eight States. Austill returned to the University of Chicago to serve as director of student housing, then moved on to St. John’s College as director of admissions and placement. In 1957, he served as chief administrator for the State University of New York, establishing SUNY's new Stony Brook campus.

Austill joined the New School in 1962 and remained at the institution in a range of roles until his 1989 retirement. He started out as associate dean of the New School (known as the Adult Division), in charge of the newly-developed Office of Educational Advising. In 1964, Austill was appointed acting dean of the Adult Division following the depature of William Birenbaum, and became dean in 1965. He remained in this position for the next fourteen years. In the fall of 1979, Austill was asked to take on concurrent positions as executive dean and vice-president of the New School. During this same period he also stepped in as dean of the Graduate Faculty (now, The New School for Social Research). In the spring of 1981, Austill resumed his former position as dean of the Adult Division. In 1987, he was named chancellor of the university and held this position until 1989, when he retired.

Austill made significant contributions to the New School, including more than doubling enrollment in the Adult Division, championing the Institute for Retired Professionals, and fostering the growth of credit-based programs at the institution. This latter activity included helping to develop the long-running undergraduate studies program to offer a fulltime day program for college-age students, the New School College. While the New School College was shortlived, it provided a framework for expanding the New School later realized in the four-year liberal arts division, Eugene Lang College. Austill also ushered Parsons School of Design into the New School in 1970, was an early supporter of the Media Studies program, and helped establish the Jazz and Contemporary Music program as a separate division in 1986.

Perhaps Austill’s most challenging moment at the New School came in 1979, when he was asked to lead the Graduate Faculty through a division-wide crisis. Longtime, core faculty were departing, retiring, and dying. The Sociology and Political Science Departments were losing accreditation. The short-staffed Philosophy Department was threatened, as well. As dean, Austill assessed the departments and solicited support from the Board of Trustees. He strengthened the Psychology Department, helping it to earn APA clinical accreditation. He saw that faculty was hired for the Economics Department, and reconstituted the Philosophy program. For the de-accredited departments, Austill helped in establishing consortial arrangements with local schools, allowing the programs at the New School to remain active until accreditation could be reestablished.

When Allen Austill arrived in 1962, the New School was comprised of two divisions. When he retired twenty-seven years later, he left behind a university with five divisions. Austill played a key role in developing the shape and substance of the enlarged institution. His goal, keeping an eye on economic viability, was always to protect and strengthen the New School's core values, building a dynamic institution with a commitment to intellectual curiosity, creative pursuit, and engagement with pressing social issues.

Allen Austill died in 2016.


Source: Hendershott, Carmen. "Allen Austill." The New School History Project (2015).


Arranged in two series: 1. New initiatives; 2. Parsons administrative files.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Allen Austill records were transferred to the New School Archives in 2015 as part of a larger accession of records from The New School President's Office.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds the records of the New School Adult Division Office of the Dean records, (NS.02.01.01), encompassing the years in which Austill was dean; and the Schools of Public Engagement Executive Dean's Office records (NS.02.01.04). Other related collections include the Parsons School of Design administrative and other offices collection (pre-2008 accessions) (PC.03.01.01); David C. Levy records (PC.01.04.01); Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research collection (NS.02.02.01); and the Albert Landa records (NS.03.02.07).

Guide to the Allen Austill records
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
March 16, 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • April 13, 2018: New School Archives staff updated collection inventory to reflect opening of previously restricted file.
  • September 6, 2023: Victoria Fernandez reviewed restricted material of the collection. Records dated earlier than the restricted period outlined in the ASC's confidentiality policy were integrated into the folder "Parsons Administrative files, 1969-1980: Environmental Design Department, 1970-1972" (box 2, folder 21).