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Parsons School of Design Office of the President records

 Record Group
Identifier: PC-01-01-02


This collection consists of records created and received by Parsons School of Design Presidents Sterling A. Callisen (president 1959-1963) and Francis A. Ruzicka (president 1963-1969), and records of the Parsons Academic Dean's Office and Business Manager from the 1950s-1960s. Contains correspondence, financial records, meeting minutes, and curriculum proposals. Some files are restricted. Please email for details.


  • 1908 - 1970
  • Majority of material found within 1951 - 1970



14.2 Cubic Feet (11 boxes, 8 folders)

Scope and Contents

These records consist of administrative files from the Parsons School of Design Office of the President, primarily during the tenure of Sterling A. Callisen (president, 1959-1963) and Francis A. Ruzicka (president, 1963-1969), with scattered material from the years prior to 1959. Additionally, this record group contains files from the Academic Dean's office and the Business Manager's office during the same years.

The material in this record group was previously broken up into three separate collections: the Parsons School of Design Office of the President records, Sterling A. Callisen records, and Francis A. Ruzicka records. Series I, II, and V were part of the Parsons School of Design Office of the President records. Records from the presidencies of Callisen and Ruzicka are also present in the Subject files (Series V), but these files often include material from both presidents, whereas Series III and IV contain records entirely from Callisen and Ruzicka, respectively.

The bulk of the records consists of correspondence with Parsons students, alumni, faculty, trustees and with peer institutions, contractors, and higher education-focused organizations. In many cases, copies of the outgoing and incoming letters are included. Correspondence in the Academic Dean's records (Series I) is primarily with students and faculty regarding department policies, teaching assignments, grades, and disciplinary actions. Correspondence in the Subject files (Series V) is wide ranging and represents the breadth of responsibilites and work of the Parsons Office of the President.

The Business Manager records pertain mostly to the finances of the school. They contain audit reports, financial records related to specific events and programs, material about student loans and governmental education funding. This series also contains extensive material related to the Parsons Paris facility from the 1920s-1957, covering the years of its initial establishment and re-establishment after World War II. This material includes correspondence with faculty and administrators at the Paris school, and a copy of the original lease for the Parsons Paris building.

Sterling A. Callisen and Francis A. Ruzicka's presidencies are documented in Series III-V. These records include evaluative reports, statistics, committee procedings, surveys, and budgets, and demonstrate the formalization of administrative procedures at Parsons during the 1960s. Numerous reports on the potential for a degree-granting program at Parsons document both presidents' ambitions to expand the Parsons curriculum.

Of particular note is material related to the Board of Trustees, found in Series IV and V. This material includes meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence with faculty, and background information on individual trustees. Documentation of various committees at the school can also be found in these records. President Callisen established many of these committees in order to regularize policy and procedure at the school. Also of note are extensive records from the Alumni Association, which include meeting minutes, chapter information, alumni fundraising drive materials, and correspondence with alumni.

Aside from scattered correspondence and memos, these records do not include the files of Presidents Pierre Bedard or Van Day Truex; President Callisen's records are the earliest Parsons presidential records in the Archives.

Language of Materials

English; French.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Files containing student records are restricted for 75 years from the latest creation date in the file. Files with faculty or other personnel salary, performance reviews, hiring information are restricted for 50 years from creation date of item (or last creation date in file). Please contact for appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Prior to Parsons School of Design's affiliation with the New School for Social Research, the school was governed by a president and a powerful board of trustees. Frank Alvah Parsons served as president from 1908 to 1930 and was succeeded by William M. Odom in 1930 following Parsons' death. Odom served until his death in 1940, at which time Van Day Truex assumed the school's presidency. Both Odom and Truex were Parsons School of Design alumni. Truex resigned in 1952 and was succeeded by Pierre Bedard, who was not a Parsons alumnus and had previously been director of The French Institute in the United States.

Dr. Sterling Adolph Callisen served as the president of Parsons from 1959 until his resignation in 1963. Prior to becoming head of the school, Callisen served on the Board of Trustees and was Dean of Education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He received a doctorate in Art History from Harvard University in 1936. He taught art, archaeology, and history at Harvard University, the University of Rochester, and Wesleyan University, where he was a dean, before joining the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1949. Dr. Callisen was a World War I Navy veteran and served in the Office of Strategic Services, the predeccesor of the Central Intelligence Agency, during World War II.

When Callisen became president of Parsons, he inherited an insitution in financial straits, primarily as a result of decreased enrollment during the 1950s. He responded by tightening budgets, administrative procedures, and departmental programs. According to David C. Levy, who would become dean in 1970, among Callisen's highest priorities and biggest accomplishments was the reorganization of admissions procedures: "Callisen viewed the Admissions Office as the key to institutional growth and placed great emphasis on its effective and professional operation. A broad-based, far-reaching and highly effective recruitment program was developed in the early 1960s…” [1]

Callisen also sought to remedy inconsistencies in the teaching program across departments. He established the Faculty Council consisting of himself, the dean, and the chairs of each department. This group met at least once a week, and would continue to exist as a body after Callisen stepped down as president. Both Callisen and his successor, Francis A. Ruzicka, undertook efforts to establish a degree-granting program at Parsons.

In January 1963, Dr. Callisen announced his resignation from the Office of the President in order to accept a directorship at the Edward E. Ford Foundation. Dr. Callisen died in 1988. Francis ("Frank") A. Ruzicka was the last president of Parsons.

Ruzicka was born in Chicago in 1924 and studied engineering at the University of Michigan. He served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II and completed his bachelor's degree in 1946. After working as an engineer, he returned to school and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing and painting from the Art Institute of Chicago. Following a teaching assignment at the University of Wisconsin, he joined the faculty of Parsons in 1957. While teaching at Parsons, he earned an Masters of Fine Arts in painting (1963) and an Masters of Science in art education (1965) from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Ruzicka served as an assistant dean and an academic dean before becoming president of Parsons in 1963. He announced his resignation from Parsons in 1969.

Under Ruzicka's presidency research and preparation began for many of the changes that Parsons underwent in the early 1970s. Prior to his resignation, the school applied for and received authority from the Regents of the University of the State of New York to grant bachelor's degrees. However, the program was not implemented until after Parsons became affiliated with the New School for Social Research. Under Ruzicka, the Parsons administration also engaged in considerable preparatory activity to expand its curriculum into the liberal arts and to begin offering master's degree programs. Additionally, the Ruzicka adminstration recognized that the school's cramped, leased space on East 54th Street was hampering Parsons' ability to expand. To remedy the problem, Ruzicka undertook a campaign to move the school's facilities into a new "vertical campus," but this was never realized, and the school did not move downtown until after its affiliation with the New School.

After leaving Parsons, Ruzicka became dean at Ohio State University's College of the Arts and, in 1976, was elected chair of the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, Athens. He retired in 1993. Francis A. Ruzicka died in 2003.

After Parsons merged with The New School in 1970 the position of the president was eliminated and the role of dean (later, executive dean) took on greater significance. John Everett, president of The New School, appointed David Levy to the position in 1970.

[1] Levy, 82. ---


"Francis A. Ruzicka." Online Athens, Athens Banner-Herald, last modified May 9, 2003,

"Francis A. Ruzicka, Former Chair of UGA Art Department, Dies at 78." University of Georgia Public Affairs News Bureau, The University of Georgia, last modified May 7, 2003,

Levy, David C. "An Historical Study of Parsons School of Design and Its Merger/Affiliation with The New School for Social Research." PhD diss., New York University, 1979.


Arranged alphabetically by topic in five series : 1. Academic Dean records, 1951-1968 2. Business Manager records, 1921-1969 3. Sterling A. Callisen records, 1955-1963 4. Francis A. Ruzicka records, 1953-1970 5. Subject files, 1908-1970

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The material in the first, second, and fifth series was identified as originating from Parsons School of Design's Office of the President and separated from a large accession of records transferred from The New School President's Office in 2015.

The fourth series, the records of President Francis Ruzicka, were transferred to The New School Archives from the Office of the Dean, Parsons School of Design, sometime prior to 2008. The circumstances of the transfer of the third series, the records of President Sterling A. Callisen to The New School Archives, which occurred sometime prior to 2008, are unknown.

The Faculty Council files within the Callisen series were, prior to 2008, part of a Minutes and Reports record group that was later revised by New School Archives staff into two separate record groups, Parsons Records of Oversight (now Parsons governance collection [PC.01.01.01]) and the New School Records of Oversight collection (no longer extant). The Faculty Council records have been integrated into this collection because they were created under the auspices of the Parsons Office of the President.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds the Parsons School of Design governance collection (PC.01.01.01), which includes Board of Trustee minutes and reports; the Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records (PC.03.02.01); the records of David C. Levy (PC.01.04.01), who was director of admissions in the 1960s and became executive dean of Parsons School of Design after its merger with the New School; the Parsons School of Design administrative and other offices collection (PC.03.01.01), which includes records from the Development Office, Admissions, Alumni Relations, Public Relations, and more, primarily from the post-merger years. Also of interest may be the Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records (PC.03.02.01).

Processing Information

The initial processing of the Callisen and Ruzicka series in this record group was supported in part by a grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Guide to the Parsons School of Design Office of the President records
Anne Kumer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • June 12, 2019: Anna Robinson-Sweet brought three formerly separate record groups into this record group and updated descriptive content and container inventory.
  • December 4, 2020: Anna Robinson-Sweet integrated the folder of sample diplomas from accession 2015.NS.05 into Series V of the record group.
  • August 18, 2023: Victoria Fernandez reviewed restricted material of the collection and revised restriction periods to conform with ASC's confidentiality policy. Several documents from Series 1. Academic Dean records were integrated into the collection (folders: Design in Industry, 1955-1962; European Summer Session, 1951-1952; and Graphic Design Department, 1959-1967). Four folders of restricted records from Series 5. Subject files: Students: Statistics, 1960-1964 were consolidated into one folder and folder dates were updated (new box/folder location is nr_4.5).