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Administrative Policy Records of the University of Florida Office of the President (Stephen C. O'Connell)

Identifier: Series P12

Scope and Content

The subject files include headings for the university's academic units, committees, and administrative departments. Also contained in this series are files documenting the university's relations with federal and state agencies, including the Florida Board of Regents, and academic associations, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The subject files also include a separate file for O'Connell's public speeches and press statements.

A considerable portion of the series is taken up with matters related to faculty-administration relations. In addition to files under the "Faculty Affairs" heading, there are lengthy case files related to the controversies surrounding tenure denial to two radical professors. The first case involved a psychologist in the College of Medicine, Marshall Jones, who was approved for tenure by his department and college. However, this decision was overruled by O'Connell's predecessor, J. Wayne Reitz. The case had yet to be resolved when O'Connell took office, and O'Connell declined to reconsider Reitz's decision. The university was subsequently censured by the American Association of University Professors. The entire Marshall case file, including documents from the Reitz years, are included here. The second case involved a decision by O'Connell to deny tenure to Kenneth Megill, a Marxist professor in the Philosophy Department. Megill was active in the faculty union and supported various student radical organizations. Both case files are incorporated under the heading "Controversies".

The presence of the "Controversies" heading is an indication of the campus mood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Documented under this heading are the student rebellions involving African-American students and anti-war protesters. The peace movement, however, is better documented under "Student Affairs". This heading also contains files related to student lifestyles, the extension of adult rights to 18-20 year olds, and the rapid transformation and expansion of the Office of Student Affairs.

Also of note are the records related to O'Connell's inauguration, the reorganization of the Alumni Association and the University of Florida Foundation, campus building plans, and a patent dispute with the inventor of Gatorade. Also included in the series are reading files for executive vice-presidents Harry Sisler and E. Travis York and Special Assistant to the President Rae O. Weimer.


  • Creation: 1967-1973



University Archives collections are available for research. Portions of the collections may be restricted due to the requirements of applicable state and federal laws, including but not limited to FERPA and HIPAA, and in accordance with best practices as defined by the Society of American Archivists.

Boxes 5, 80: Access to files containing sensitive information regarding students is restricted. Please contact the University Archivist for additional information.

Boxes 47, 81: Files relating to Faculty Tenure Appeals are closed.

Biographical/Historical Note

Stephen C. O'Connell was the sixth president of the University of Florida and the first Florida alumnus to lead the University. O'Connell was born in West Palm Beach on January 22, 1916, and attended public school there and at Titusville. He enrolled at Florida in 1934, served as sophomore class president in 1935-36, and as president of the student body in 1938-39. He was a member of Florida Blue Key (President, 1939), Alpha Tau Omega (President, 1938), and the Newman Club (President, 1937). As a middleweight on the boxing team (Captain, 1938) he went undefeated. He was enrolled in an interdisciplinary Business Administration and Law program and received his B.S.B.A. and LL.B. degrees in 1940.

O'Connell began his law career in Fort Lauderdale in 1940 but soon left to accept a civilian appointment as director of physical training for the Third Air Force at Tampa, Florida. He was called to active duty when the United States entered World War II. He finished the war with the rank of major and was executive officer of a bomber group in Okinawa.

O'Connell returned to Fort Lauderdale and his law practice in 1946. O'Connell was active in the Democratic Party in Broward County and served on several senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns. In 1955, he was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Leroy Collins and was elected to that post in 1956. He was elected chief justice of the court in July, 1967.

O'Connell's selection as President of the University was announced on September 1, 1967, and he took office in October. His inauguration was held October 7, 1968.

1968 was the year of student rebellion around the nation and the world. In an effort to control disruption and maintain a sense of community at UF, O'Connell initiated an Action Conference in May 1968, composed of students, faculty, and administrators, to discuss student concerns. An Advisory Council, similar in composition to the Conference, was later created to sustain the dialogue. Some progress was made, particularly in relation to the university's policy on controversial speakers, housing, and student counseling. However, neither O'Connell nor the University of Florida could escape the upheaval of the times.

As elsewhere, the Vietnam War ignited most of the disturbances at UF. Numerous demonstrations, both peaceful and militant, were held. Faculty-administration relations were also tested during this period. The youth counterculture brought more controversy. The most damaging conflicts at UF, however, were racial. The University of Florida integrated in 1958 without violence and with little protest. By fall of 1970, though, there were still only 343 Black students enrolled. African Americans experienced a sense of alienation in a campus culture shaped by generations of white students and faculty. A general feeling that too little was being done to encourage Black enrollment, despite protests to the contrary from university officials, further heightened tensions. A sit-in at the president's office by the Black Student Union in April, 1971 culminated in the arrest of sixty-six students. When O'Connell refused to grant amnesty to the demonstrators, approximately a third of the Black student population and several Black faculty members left the university. This dramatic exodus undermined the university's image as a progressive academic institution.

Although largely overshadowed by other events, improvements and enhancements to the university's academic program and physical plant were made. Total enrollment rose from 19,004 in 1967 to 23,570 in 1973. A 1970 evaluation of graduate programs by the American Council on Education gave national ranking to twenty-two departments compared to eleven in 1965. Perhaps O'Connell's greatest achievement was the reorganization of the Alumni Association and the creation of an Office of Development staffed by professional fund raisers. As a well-respected alumnus, he was infinitely qualified to oversee the association's transformation.

Several buildings were constructed during his tenure: a new law center, additions to the medical center, and a new museum. O'Connell's building campaign focused on the need for additional student activities facilities. On February 4, 1970, the student body voted down an increase in student activity fees to support construction of a sports and activities center. Eventually, the Board of Regents decided that the student activities reserve fund could be used to build student-related facilities. In 1975, O'Connell's successor, Robert Q. Marston, submitted plans for a sports arena and activities center. Construction was completed in 1980, and the Stephen C. O'Connell Student Activities Center was dedicated in 1981 in recognition of O'Connell's service to his alma mater. The "O'Dome" is the site of Gator basketball games as well as other sporting events and a venue for entertainment programs.

President O'Connell announced his retirement on June 28, 1973. Executive Vice President E. Travis York, Jr. served as interim president until August, 1974. O'Connell died on April 14, 2001.


35 Linear feet (81 boxes)

Language of Materials



Administrative records of Stephen C. O'Connell, sixth president of the University of Florida.


Divided into two parts: a chronologically arranged reading file and an alphabetically arranged subject file.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

A Guide to the Administrative Policy Records of the University of Florida Office of the President (Stephen C. O'Connell)
Finding aid created by Carl Van Ness
December 2006
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America