Guide to the Frederic W. Ness Papers, 1940-1995

Processed by Diana Bustamante; machine-readable finding aid created by James Lake
Sanoian Special Collections Library
California State University, Fresno
5200 North Barton Avenue M/S ML 34
Fresno, California 93740-8014
Phone: (559) 278-2595
Fax: (559) 278-6952
© 1998
California State University, Fresno. All rights reserved.

Guide to the Frederic W. Ness Papers, 1940-1995

Sanoian Special Collections Library

Henry Madden Library

Fresno, California

Contact Information:

  • Sanoian Special Collections Library
  • California State University, Fresno
  • 5200 North Barton Avenue M/S ML 34
  • Fresno, California 93740-8014
  • Phone: (559) 278-2595
  • Fax: (559) 278-6952
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
Diana Bustamante
Date Completed:
Encoded by:
James Lake
© 1998 California State University, Fresno. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Frederic W. Ness Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1940-1995
Creator: Ness, Frederic W., 1914-1998
Extent: 2 linear feet
Photographs: In box 2.
Repository: Henry Madden Library (California State University, Fresno).

Sanoian Special Collections Library.
Fresno, California
Language: English.

Administrative Information


The papers were donated by Frederic W. Ness in 1998.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has been transferred to California State University, Fresno.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Frederic W. Ness Papers, Sanoian Special Collections Library, California State University, Fresno.


Frederic W. Ness was an academic who devoted his career to the world of higher education. He attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the University of Cincinnati where he received his master's degree in English literature. He then went on to Yale University where he earned his Ph.D. and subsequently became a professor of English. His teaching career took a turn due to World War II. He enlisted in the Naval reserves and taught for four years at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Ness changed his focus from educator to administrator in 1946 when he became Assistant to the Vice Chancellor at New York University. He left to become Dean at Dickinson College. Ness held a variety of other administrative postions before he moved to California to become the fourth president of Fresno State College in 1964.
Ness's years in Fresno proved to be short but effective. He implemented changes in a college that needed reform. He began by addressing lack of decision making by faculty. "In essence, what I would say is that no college in today's society can reach true heights without intelligent faculty involvement" (Inaugural address, Box 2, Professional career, Presidency, Inauguration, 1965).
In 1969, Ness left Fresno to become president of the Association of American Colleges (AAC), a position he held until his retirement in 1992. Frederic Ness died in 1998 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Scope and Content

The Frederic W. Ness papers measure 2 linear feet and date from 1940 to 1995. The papers are arranged in two series: Professional and Personal.
The bulk of the Professional series (1940-1995) is comprised of Ness's articles and speeches. Ness arranged his articles, speeches and reports chronologically. They are bound together in various volumes and are listed in his bibliography as well as on the inside cover of each bound section. Some of the speeches are photocopies, others originals. The handwritten notes on them are Ness's.
While on a temporary leave of absence from Fresno State College in 1969, Ness researched and wrote reports on British universities. The reports are entitled Student-Faculty-Administrative Relationships at Selected British and Continental Universities and Student Unrest in Great Britain.
His presidency at Fresno State College was marked by two controversies, the Marvin X-case and that of Robert Mezey of the English department. The two cases address the issue of academic freedom and tenure. Mezey was as an Assistant Professor who was not retained for the 1968 academic year for "unlawful reasons" according to a petition to the chancellor. The file on Mezey includes a photocopied court document with a memo from Attorney General Evelle J. Younger. The file on Marvin X is much more extensive.
There are numerous photographs of Ness in this series. They include photographs of his time at Dickinson College and Fresno State College. There are also photograhs of a major art exhibit, Art USA, held at the Fresno State library in 1966 which Ness helpd to organize. The event attracted thousands of viewers.
The Personal series (1942-1948, 1962) contains Ness's naval records. In a 1942 letter he asked to be assigned to active sea duty during World War II. However he was detained at Fort Schuyler in New York by the chief executive director who was in need of instructors. The photographs of a young Frederic Ness in this series are photocopies.

Additional Information

Printed Works by Ness in the main stacks

  • The Use of Rhyme in Shakespeare's Plays (1941)
  • A Regional Faculty Orientation Program (1961)
  • Graduate Study in the Liberal Arts College (1962)
  • An Uncertain Glory (1971)

Printed Works by Ness in the University Archives

  • The Use of Rhyme in Shakespeare's Plays (1941)
  • A Guide to Graduate Study (1957)
  • An Uncertain Glory (1971)
  • Mostly Academic: An Eclectic Autobiography (n.d.)

Related Materials in the University Archives

  • President Ness's address to Board of Trustees presenting master plan, June 26, 1968 (1/4" reel to reel tape)
  • Marvin X--tv statements, October 1969 (1/4" reel to reel tape)



Box Box 1

Bibliography, 1991


Articles and speeches



























Box Box 2





1973 (2 folders)














Book reviews, 1993-1994 and undated


Booklets, 1958, 1961


Fresno State presidency


Inauguration, 1965


Faculty grievances


Marvin X, 1969


Mezey, Robert, 1974


Retirement, 1969


Critiques of The Use of Rhyme in Shakespeare's Plays, 1941


Newspaper clippings, 1940-1962, 1966, 1969


Post Fresno years, 1969, 1978-1979, 1991-1995 (2 folders)


Reports, 1969


Photographs, 1958, 1966, 1970, 1976, 1979 and undated



Box Box 2

Naval records, 1942-1947


Telegrams, 1942-1943, 1948, 1962


Photographs, 1943 and undated