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President Edwin D. Harrison Photograph Collection

President Edwin D. Harrison Photograph Collection

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Descriptive Summary

Title: President Edwin D. Harrison Photograph Collection
Identification: VAUA003
Date: 1946-1960
Size/Quantity: 0.4 linear feet (one document case)
Language: This collection is written in English.
Creator: Harrison, Edwin D., 1916-2001
Repository: Archives & Records Management, Library, Georgia Institute of Technology
Abstract:The photographs in this collection depict the Edison Foundation Conference on Cooperative Education, attended by President Harrison, and aerial views of the Southern Technical Institute and Naval Air Station.

Biographical/Historical Note

After Edwin Harrison was inaugurated as the sixth president of Georgia Tech in August 1957, his outgoing personality helped develop warm and trusting relationships with students, faculty, alumni, and the Atlanta community. His previous positions included Dean of Engineering at the University of Toledo and Assistant Dean at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Harrison graduated from the Naval Academy in 1939 and served in the Navy until 1945. He earned his master's degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1948 and his doctorate degree from Purdue University in 1952. Both were in the field of mechanical engineering.

Harrison became president after Colonel Blake Van Leer passed away in office in January 1956 and Paul Weber served an interim term for nearly seventeen months. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents had a long and difficult search for presidential candidates because of the social climate and racial tension of the South during the 1950s. Potential contenders for the position were not interested in helming the presidency of a university in Georgia because of discriminatory state laws and the inevitable integration crisis. There was also the inability of Georgia Tech to match the faculty and administrative salaries of peer institutions. Harrison proactively addressed both these issues during the first half of his presidency.

When Georgia Tech integrated peacefully in 1961, it was the first school in the Deep South to do so without a court order. Harrison and his staff wanted to retain control over the situation, lest student riots and other disorderly conduct should occur much as they did at the University of Georgia in Athens (UGA) and other southern schools. He also wanted to keep the federal courts from as well as preventing the closure of the school. At the time, state law prohibited the integration of any public school. This was Georgia's direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education. Harrison was successful in his intentions. When three of the thirteen applicants enrolled in the 1961 fall semester, the daily campus life went mostly undisturbed.

The other issue during the early years of Harrison's term was the inability of Georgia Tech to pay competitive salaries to the faculty, which negatively affected retention rates. A key solution to this problem was the creation of the Joint Tech-Georgia Foundation. This fund-raising organization supplemented salaries of faculty at both Georgia Tech and UGA and helped to attract top educators and researchers from around the nation.

During Harrison's presidency, Georgia Tech celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1963 with year-long events. Over 100 speakers were invited to the campus and several notable individuals spoke at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, including Pulitzer-Prize winner and Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill, General Lucius Clay, and Chief Justice Earl Warren. When the official convocation was held in October 1963, 275 representatives of universities from around the country came to observe the occasion with Tech.

One of the projects conducted in conjunction with the 75th anniversary was the Institute Self Study. This internal and external survey of the present and future of the school took three years to complete. It was undertaken to achieve the following goals: to chart expansion of land and people since the school was founded; to improve the quality of academic programs; to reorganize the campus administration; to gauge the relationship of Georgia Tech to the state economy; and to attract national attention by improving the Institute image.

Even with all these accomplishments, Harrison's lasting legacy to Georgia Tech is another matter that occurred during of his term in office. During the 1950s and 1960s, federal, state, and local support for urban renewal was readily available and Harrison took advantage of this situation. He contracted for two separate master plans and added 128 acres to the campus. One of these master plans led to the creation of a traffic loop called Tech Parkway, now known as Ferst Drive. Hemphill Avenue was closed through campus; it originally ran all the way to North Avenue and joined with Lucky Street. Grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation provided funds for the modern buildings, including the Neely Reactor Research Center. Other buildings constructed during this time included Skiles Classroom Building, the Library's Crosland Tower, Brittain Dining Hall, Rich Electronic Computing Center, five dormitories, and many more. Other buildings were in the planning stages during Harrison's term, as well.

When Harrison resigned in 1969 after eleven years in office, it came to many without warning. There had been a slow build-up of differences between him and the school's governing Board of Regents over long-term goals and administrative procedures. The official statement to the campus and to the public only offered the fact that he thought ten years was long enough to be president of one university. Also, with a vacancy in the Vice President of Academic Affairs, he felt the timing was right so that a new president could select his own V.P. In April 1969, students and the campus community celebrated "Wonderful Ed's Day," so proclaimed by the mayor of Atlanta. Harrison worked with J.P. Stevens and Company for seven years before retiring. He died in 2001.

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains silver gelatin prints. The photographs are in good condition with little fading.

Index Terms

Georgia Institute of Technology. Presidents.
Harrison, Edwin D., 1916-2001

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Please cite President Edwin D. Harrison Photograph Collection (VAUA003), Archives, Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology.


The Office of the President donated these photographs in 1985. Accession #1985.1106 (old number: 85-11-06).

Processing Information

Jody Lloyd Thompson processed these papers in 2003.

Revisions to Finding Aid

March 2006:
  • Finding aid converted from Encoded Archival Description Version 1.0 to Version 2002. April 2010: Finding aid imported into Archivists' Toolkit.

  • Restrictions

    Restrictions: Access


    Restrictions: Use

    All photograph copyright restrictions under the laws of the United States Copyright must be obeyed. All photographs in this collection are subject to approval before publication may be permitted. Permission to publish materials from this collection must be obtained from the Head of Archives and Special Collections.

    Separated Material

    This collection was separated from the President Edwin Harrison Records (MS003).

    Other Finding Aids

    A print copy of this finding aid is available in the Georgia Tech Archives reading room.

    Container List

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    Image List: Image List, 1946-1960


    1VAUA003-1: Harrison speaking at the Edison Foundation Conference on Cooperative Education in Dayton, Ohio, 1960
    1VAUA003-1a: Charles Cessna, Walker Cisler, James Stuart, Thomas Pullen, Jr., President Edwin Harrison, and Edward Lyons at the Edison Foundation Conference on Cooperative Education in Dayton, Ohio, 1960
    1VAUA003-2: Aerial view, Southern Technical Institute, 1958


    2VAUA003-3 (OVERSIZE): Aerial view, Naval Air Station for Georgia Tech, 1946