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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Corporation, records of the Secretary

Identifier: AC-0131

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the years of 1859 to 2010. Materials include administrative records of the Office of the Chairman of the Corporation and Office of the Secretary, as well as Corporation membership records containing correspondence, photos, and biographical and membership information. Also included are Campaign Committee , Joint Advisory Committee, and Building Committee records.

The collection also comprises a number of fiscal records. This includes Ledger Number 1 (spanning from 1865 to 1879) and Cash Book Number 1 (spanning 1862 to 1872), as well as an account of receipts and expenditures kept by Institute Secretary Thomas Webb and, after his death in 1866, by Institute Secretary Samuel Kneeland, spanning 1865 to 1868 and 1871 to 1874. There are also reciepts and invoices from William Ware's trips to Europe for the MIT Department of Architecture during 1866 to 1881.

Other early materials include a notebook containing a description by Edward S. Tobey (MIT Finance Committee) of his conversation with William J. Walker and Walkers' subsequent gift of stocks to the Institute in 1863. The collection also contains an 1866 letterpress book of MIT Corporation secretary (Webb) and Building Committee records. This includes a copy of a letter to the Building Committee from Dana Preston and estimates of building costs in the hand of Mathias Denman Ross, a member of the Committee, and a letterpress copybook from 1862 to 1866, which consists of copies of letters from Thomas H. Webb, Secretary of the Institute. There is also faculty correspondence dating from 1880 to 1886 and a list of students attending the course of industrial science and charges paid dating from 1865 to 1867.


  • Creation: 1859 - 2010


Conditions Governing Access

This collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records.

Digital Access Note

Some parts of this collection are available online. Links to specific online digital items are found within their entry in this finding aid.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical Note

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was formally incorporated on April 10, 1861, when it was granted a charter to organize in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Acts of 1861, Chapter 183. William Barton Rogers and the other incorporators met on April 8, 1862, to accept the charter and provisions of the Act of Incorporation. John D. Runkle (later from 1870 to 1878, president of MIT) served as secretary pro-tem, while the “government” of MIT was being organized. A set of by-laws was voted on at the April 8, 1862, meeting, and at the second meeting of the Institute in April 22, 1862, an additional vote was taken to have the by-laws and other information printed.

President Rogers and other Institute officers were officially voted as the governing board in the first meeting of all “Members of the Institute” on May 6, 1862, but the position of secretary was not permanently filled until the third meeting of the Government was held on July 15, 1862. At that meeting with J. D. Philbrick acting as secretary pro-tem, the name of Thomas H. Webb was put in nomination for the position of Secretary of the Institute and was unanimously accepted. As secretary, Webb immediately took over responsibility for recording the minutes of the “Government” whose members were organizing the School of Industrial Science, as well as the meetings of the general membership (later specifically known as the Society of Arts). By the time Webb presided as secretary at the fourth meeting of the Government on September 23, 1862, he had issued 500 copies of a 12-page printed publication outlining the basic organization of the Institute including the by-laws. Thomas Webb served as Secretary of the Institute until his death in 1866.

On May 6, 1863, a Building Committee was established by a vote of the Government to secure estimates for a building to house the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and to monitor the construction. The building was called the Rogers Building after William Barton Rogers and occupied in the fall of 1866.

The by-laws outlined in detail the responsibilities of the Secretary, who was designated as an officer of the Institute:

"It shall be the duty of the Secretary to give notice of, and attend, all meetings of the Institute and of the Government; to keep a record of the business and orders of each meeting, and read the same at the next meeting; to conduct the correspondence of the Institute, when not otherwise ordered; to keep a list of the members of the Institute; to collect the assessments and other dues, and pay them over to the Treasurer; to notify officers and members of their election, and of their appointment on committees; to prepare, under the direction of the Government, an Annual Report of the transactions and condition of the Institute; and generally to devote his best efforts to forwarding the business and advancing the interests of the Institute."

In 1870 when the functions of the different memberships and components of the Institute were clarified and the by-laws were revised, the name of the governing body of MIT was changed from Government to Corporation and the secretary was no longer called the Secretary of the Institute but referred to as the Secretary of the Corporation.

The following standing committees were designated in the first by-laws of 1862: 1) Committee on Instruction, which was to have supervision of the School of Industrial Science 2) Committee on the Museum, charged with supervision of the Museum of Technology 3) Committee on Publication to have direction of the printing of proceedings and other publications of the Institute 4) Committee on Finance to have general supervision of financial affairs and to review expenditures for payment by the Treasurer.

The Committee on Instruction (1866-1871) and Committee on the School of Industrial Science (1871-1883) acted on many of the same issues as the Executive Committee which was later formed in 1883 as part of a review of the Institute’s governing structure.

On October 1, 1963, a little over a century after the Institute began, an “Office of the Secretary” was set up to better support the administrative functions of the Chair, President, and Secretary of the Corporation.

Currently the Office of the Secretary of the Corporation is responsible for providing support to MIT’s Corporation (governing board) and for the Corporation Visiting Committees that review the status of academic departments and other major activities at the Institute. The Secretary of the Corporation serves as the secretary to the Corporation Membership Committee, Visiting Committees, and the Executive Committee.

Staff serving as Secretary of the Corporation have also had concurrent executive Institute-wide responsibilities and therefore have held titles of Secretary of the Corporation and Vice President.

Current responsibilities of the Secretary are outlined in Section 12 of the Corporation by-laws:

12.1 The Secretary of the Corporation shall keep the records of meetings of the members of the Corporation and perform the duties conferred by these Bylaws or customarily devolving upon the clerk of a corporation and have such other powers and duties as the Executive Committee may determine or as law may require, from time to time. 12.2 The Secretary of the Corporation may from time to time be assigned administrative duties for the Corporation beyond the scope of the duties of a recording officer. In such case the Secretary shall discharge such administrative duties for the Corporation in accordance with the instructions of the Executive Committee. In the event that the Secretary performs functions for the Institute beyond those of Secretary of the Corporation under these Bylaws, the Secretary shall discharge such duties under the superintendence and administration of the President and shall report to the President. 12.3 From time to time, subject to the approval of the Executive Committee, the Secretary of the Corporation may appoint Assistant and Associate Secretaries to assist the Secretary in the performance of the duties and responsibilities specified by the Secretary. ___________ Thomas Webb served as Secretary of the Institute from 1862 until his death in 1866.

Terms of Secretary of the Corporation: John Wilson, 1960-1979; Vincent Fulmer, 1980-1984; Constantine B. Simonides, 1985-1993; Kathryn A. Willmore, 1994-2006; Kirk Kolenbrander, 2006--2015; R. Gregory Morgan, 2015- .

Officers of the Institute, 1862-1878


1862-1870 (on leave 1868-1870)
William Barton Rogers
1868-1870 (President Pro Tem)
John Daniel Runkle
John Daniel Runkle

Vice President

Jacob Bigelow
John Chase
John Amory Lowell
Marshall Pinckney Wilder
Nathaniel Thayer, Sr.
Morrill Wyman


Charles Henry Dalton
William Endicott, Jr.


Thomas Hopkins Webb
Samuel Kneeland

Historical Note

The Committee on Finance

Matthias Denman Ross, Chairman
Edward S. Tobey
Edward H. Eldredge (died April 26, 1865)
J. Wiley Edmands (appointed 1863)
James M. Beebe
Edward Atkinson (1862-63 only)
Edward S. Tobey
John Murray Forbes (appointed 1866)
William Endicott, Jr. (1865-66 only)
J. Wiley Edmands
J. Ingersoll Bowditch
James M. Beebe, Chairman
William Endicott, Jr., 1866-1872
Charles H. Dalton, 1862-1866


128 Cubic Feet (24 record cartons, 96 manuscript boxes, 2 flat containers)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.


Early Institute records and background publications related to the organization of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were transferred to the Insitute Archives after "A Survey of the Vital Records and Papers of M.I.T." was compiled by President Emeritus Julius A. Stratton with Loretta H. Mannix in 1975 and 1976. Records have been transferred regularly from the secretary of the Corporation since.

Related Materials

MC-0001William Barton Rogers papers; AC-0272 MIT Corporation, Executive Committee minutes; AC-0278 MIT Corporation meeting records; AC-0581 MIT, Office of the President, records of the Vice President for Institute Affairs and Secretary of the Corporation.


  • Mens and Manus

Processing Information note

Series 3, Membership Committee records was originally designated as AC-0102 Series 4, Membership records was originally designated as AC-0427

Processing Information

Two cassettes in Series 10, Box 7, of this collection were initially designated as a separate collecton, the MIT Corporation Colloquium cassettes (MC-0198). In April 2017, materials from the former MC-0198 were merked into the MIT Corporation, records of the Secretary (AC-0131).

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Guide to the Records of the Secretary of the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 November 22: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US