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The Power of Oberlin History


How do history and passionate students inspire Ken Grossi, College Archivist, to give back to Oberlin? Find out here: 

During my undergraduate studies at the University of Akron in the 1980s, I spent a semester working in the archives, which I did to fulfill a community service component of a scholarship. That single experience led me to enroll in the History and Archival Administration graduate program at Case Western Reserve University.

After graduation, I spent a year in a public school near Mansfield, Ohio. My BA was in secondary education so I wanted to give teaching a try. However, after a year, I knew it wasn’t right for me – archives and history were my true interest.

Prior to moving to Northeast Ohio, I was familiar with Oberlin and its archives. The focus of my master’s research paper was the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Researching at the Oberlin College Archives provided me with insight into the history of Oberlin and the college’s important role in higher education. When the Assistant Archivist position became available in 1996, I did not hesitate to apply.

As College Archivist, one thing clearly resonates with me – the job is not about me, it is about our history and those individuals who have contributed to it. Our mission is to document the history of Oberlin College, while supporting the work of the administration, faculty and staff, and our student body. Our history makes me realize how fortunate I am to work at Oberlin and to be responsible for the collections that document it.

During my time here, many people have supported the College Archives – faculty, staff, students, community members, alumni, researchers, and others. Individuals have been generous with monetary gifts and donations of materials and personal paper collections that have enhanced and enriched our holdings.

One of my favorite, recent gifts is the Hunter Dupree '42 personal papers collection. Hunter is a distinguished American historian and a pioneer of the history of science and technology. I visited Hunter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and worked with him and his family to get the collection ready for Oberlin. When you meet the donor, you learn so much more about the collection firsthand and make a deeper connection with the documents.

In recent years, the interest in the archives has increased on this campus especially for support of classroom instruction, faculty research, and student honors and capstone projects. It is great to see enthusiasm from our own students and faculty when they use the archives. I have enjoyed my 18-plus years at Oberlin, and I am constantly impressed by and excited to work with Oberlin students and faculty.

Holding a position that depends on donors to enhance the collection, I now know the importance of giving back. It is also my hope that I can inspire others to donate. Our gifts help sustain the work of this great institution and its history.


Photo courtesy Ken Grossi.