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Wayne State University Office of the President William Rea Keast Records

Identifier: WSR001883
Important subjects in the collection: AAUP, WSU Chapter Anti-Vietnam War activity on campus Black studies program Campus disorder and student unrest Campus disorder and student unrest, government response to Campus expansion Campus expansion, community opposition to Center for Urban Studies, establishment of Detroit, University relationship with Detroit General Hospital Detroit Medical Center Equal opportunity in University admissions and employment Extension programs, University Federal and state interference in university affairs Harper Hospital Housing, University Junior Year in Munich/Freiburg program Kent State University killings, reaction to Matthaei Physical Education Center Medical School, development of Outside speakers on campus, policy on Project 350 Selective service system and the draft, policy on Shapero Hall of Pharmacy Shiffman Medical Library South End, controversy over State funding for higher education Student conduct, policy on Student rights and responsibilities, policy on University governance, faculty/student participation in Upward Bound Urban universities Vietnam veterans, education of Wayne County Community College WSU Centennial West Central Organization

Important correspondents in the collection: Basilius, Harold A. Bohm, Henry V. Bright, J. Russell Brown, Noah Cambel, Ali B. Cushman, Edward L. Dillick, Sidney Gardner, Ernest Gross, Bertram M. Gullen, George E., Jr. Hannah, John A. Harbison, Winfred A. Hatcher, Harlan Hilberry, Clarence Hubbard, Robert E. Mason, Philip P. Menge, J. W. Peek, Lonnie Pelham, Alfred M. Purdy, G. Flint Scott, Gordon Stearns, Martin Stillwell, Hamilton Watson, John Whittaker, Alfred H.
Series Description: Series I, General Files, 1965-1971: Correspondence, reports, minutes and publications reflecting the administration of the University and its relationship with the city of Detroit during the turbulent sixties. Of particular interest are files related to student and faculty challenges to administrative authority over the Vietnam War, student publications, racial discrimination, University governance and campus expansion. The budgetary process, especially with regard to the state government's role, campus development, the establishment of the Center for Urban Studies and special programs to increase educational opportunity for disadvantaged Detroit youth are similarly well documented. Files are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically, primarily by unit within the University and secondarily by subject. Certain files, like those concerning budgetary matters, may contain material spanning several years and are so identified in the folder heading.

Series II, Memberships, 1965-1971: Correspondence, reports, minutes and publications related to President Keast's service in professional and civic organizations. Files are arranged alphabetically.

Series III, Articles and Speeches, 1965-1971: Published articles, addresses, policy statements and research notes used in preparing speeches. Files are arranged chronologically.


  • 1965 - 1971


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


58 Linear Feet (58 SB)


President Keast began as president on July 1, 1965. He successfully dealt with a very difficult social and urban period in the city and nation’s history. He expanded the Medical School, and the other professional schools during his term, as well as the graduate and research programs. He resigned in June 1971.


William Rea Keast was born in Malta, Illinois on November 1, 1914, the only child of Helen Dusher Keast and Perce Keast, an instrumental music teacher. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in English literature from the University of Chicago, where he taught, absent a stint in the Army during World War II, until 1951, when he moved to Cornell. There he honed his reputation as an authority on eighteenth century English literature, especially the writings of Samuel Johnson, and moved up through the administrative ranks from department chair to vice president for academic affairs. On July 1, 1965 he succeeded Clarence Hilberry as fifth president of Wayne State University.

Keast arrived in Detroit at a time of great expectations for both the city and the University. Presiding over the University during a period of tremendous ferment that saw the rise of the anti-Vietnam War and black power movements, he focused on nurturing what he viewed as a mutually beneficial relationship between the University, with its resources for solving the city's problems, and Detroit, a laboratory for University research on urban issues. Described as student-oriented and accessible, he managed to keep the campus relatively quiet in the wake of the Detroit riot and the killings at Kent State. He also worked to raise Wayne State's profile among urban universities, expanding the Medical School and the other professional schools as well as the University's graduate and research programs.

Keast resigned from the presidency in June of 1971 and after a short sojourn as chair of the Commission on Academic Tenure in Higher Education in Washington, D. C., he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, where he remained until his retirement in 1980. He died June 27, 1998.


Arranged in 3 series – Series 1 (Boxes 51-57), Series 2 (Boxes 51-57) and Series 3 (Boxes 57-58). Folders are arranged chronologically in series 1 and 3, and alphabetically in series 2.


The records of President William Rea Keast were placed in the University Archives in several shipments between 1968 and 1975.


A few photographs, audio tapes of some of his speeches, the Keast Tribute Dinner and the meetings of the Lynn Parsons tenure case investigation committee, and a film of the Keast inauguration have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collection.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in March 2006.
Guide to the Wayne State University Office of the President William Rea Keast Records
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA