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Collection Overview

Historical Note

Scope and Content Note


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Title:Office of the President (Ryder) records
Dates:n.d., 1955-2005
Call Number:A19

Historical Note

Kenneth Gilmore Ryder (KGR), the fourth president of NU from 1975-1989, began his career at Northeastern in 1949 as an instructor of history and government.  He was promoted to assistant professor in 1953 to associate professor in 1956. In the following year, KGR gave up his teaching responsibilities to assume a succession of administrative positions: Dean of Administration (1958-1966), Vice President of University Administration (1967-1970), and Executive Vice President (1971-1975). In 1975, KGR succeeded Asa Smallidge Knowles as president of Northeastern.

Under KGR's leadership, NU's academic programs were upgraded and expanded. NU established the nation's first College of Computer Science in 1982, and in 1980, the College of Education merged with Boston-Bouve College to become the Boston Bouve College of Human Development Professions. By 1989, over 19 academic centers and research institutes had been established; several honors and remedial programs had been implemented; and 16 satellite locations had been created. In addition, the first modern computer equipment was installed at the University.

During KGR's administration, research programs also increased. In 1978 the University Council on Research and Scholarship was established to foster development of research and scholarship activities. In 1981 the Office of Research Administration was reorganized to become the Office of Sponsored Research (it was renamed the Division of Research Management in 1989). By 1989, the funded research at NU had increased from $4.5 million in 1975 to $16.2 million. 

KGR also worked to improve the quality of teaching at NU. In 1978, he founded the Excellence in Teaching Awards, a merit program to recognize teachers, and in 1983, he established the Instructional Development Fund to encourage teachers to improve the quality of their teaching through experimentation with instructional content, innovative procedures, or technological resources. Under KGR's direction, faculty salaries and benefits were increased and merit allocations and salary equity adjustments were implemented.

During KGR's tenure, cooperative education acquired new dimensions. The attitude toward cooperative education shifted from a traditional emphasis on its financial advantages to its educational rewards. Co-op placements expanded in both in number and in variety; national and international assignments became more available for interested students. In addition student and faculty exchange programs were increased and enrollment of international students at NU rose. By 1988, 18.2% of the graduate students (except at School of Law) were international students.

Development activities escalated during KGR's tenure. Endowment funds increased from $30 million in 1975 to almost $87 million in 1985. Fund raising also increased by 220 percent. In 1980, NU launched the Century Fund campaign, a capital fund-raising project.  By the end of the first phase of the campaign in 1985, four new facilities – Cargill Hall, Kariotis Hall, Snell Engineering Center, and Solomon Track at Dedham -, and two renovated buildings - Cullinane Hall and Matthews Arena - were added to NU's physical plant.

KGR established the Office of Government Relations in 1979 to bring the concerns of NU faculty, employees and students to the United States Congress and the Massachusetts House of Representatives in a direct fashion on concerns relating to financial aid, cooperative education, and other legislative issues that would improve higher education in general and NU in particular.

Looking for ways to develop strong relations between NU and the local community, in 1976 he created the Office of Community Development (renamed the Office of Community Affairs in 1981) to work on various community projects. In 1975, NU participated in Phase II of the Boston public schools desegregation plan in which 21 Boston area colleges and universities each paired up with a specific Boston public school to assist in educational development. NU was paired with Madison Park High School in District 7.

NU also participated in the Southwest Corridor Project, an economic and environmental urban renewal project to improve Boston's transportation by developing the land near NU's property into residential, commercial, and light industrial enterprises. In 1986 the Ruggles Street MBTA Station was created.

After 40 years of service to NU, fourteen of which he had served as President, KGR submitted his resignation to NU's Board of Trustees. KGR became Chancellor when John A. Curry, a former NU administrator, was appointed as his successor in 1989.


A Decade of Progress: A Future of Promise, 1975-1985. Report, 1986.  (Box 64, Folder 521)

Calabro, Lori. "Kenneth Ryder." Bostonia (September 1981):78-79 (Box 73, Folder 606)

Frederick, Antoinette. Northeastern University, Coming of Age: The Ryder Years, 1975-1989. Boston: Northeastern University, 1995.   CALL NUMBER: LD4011.N22F732