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Earl F. Sykes Collection

Identifier: 038
This collection is divided into six series: Subject Files, Correspondence, Writings and Speeches, Course Materials, Buildings, and Board of Trustee Minutes, as well as a small section of restricted material.

Series I: Subject Files

This series contains administrative material from throughout Sykes’ time at West Chester, and reflects his involvement with local, state, regional, and national educational organizations, and his activity in the local community. Most of the material is from his time as president, but some predates that period. This series spans 1939 to 1971, with the bulk being in the 1960s. It is arranged alphabetically by topic.

This series contains two subseries: the General Subject Files and the Civil Rights Subject Files. The Civil Rights Subject Files gather together material relating to racial justice, academic freedom, and student rights. This has been done to highlight some of the most pressing issues of Sykes’ tenure as president.

Note: There is, in box 9, folder 12 in the General Subject Files subseries, an inscribed copy of Welt Geschichte: 1914-1945 [World History: 1914-1945] (1952) by Ernst Schütte, which Sykes acquired during his 1962 trip to Europe, during which he visited schools across Europe.

Series II: Correspondence

This series consists of Sykes’ correspondence from 1939 to 1971, with the bulk being in the 1960s. It consists of three subseries. The first subseries is professional correspondence between Sykes and colleagues, former students, and employees of local, regional, national, and government educational organizations. It is arranged chronologically and primarily contains incoming correspondence. The second subseries consists of personal correspondence between Sykes and his family and friends, and is also arranged chronologically. The third consists of correspondence relating to publications Sykes had read or was interested in reading.

Another box of professional correspondence (1962-1969) is located in Box 58 (after processing was complete, additional material was discovered.)

Series III: Writings and Speeches

Subseries I consists of speeches that Sykes delivered at specific events, on campus, and elsewhere, organized according to the event at which they were delivered. Dates range from 1948 to 1969. The topics cover West Chester State College and broader educational issues. It is organized alphabetically according to topic or the title of the work. This subseries also includes notes apparently related to the completed speeches.

Subseries II consists of drafts of speeches, which he delivered on campus and elsewhere, and drafts of various published works, some of which appeared in college publications and others which were published as scholarly literature. Topics are similar to those covered in Subseries I. There is material represented from 1941 to 1969, with the majority in the 1960s, though a significant amount of material is undated. It is organized alphabetically according to topic or the title of a work.

Subseries III contains a draft of his work Pioneer Schools and Early Education in Southeastern Pennsylvania, co-written with Thelma P. Brewer and completed in 1943. The draft includes original photographs of many old schoolhouses in southeastern Pennsylvania. Special Collections possesses a bound final copy of this work as well in the Normal Book Collection.

Subseries IV contains the manuscript of an unfinished book-length work on the philosophy of education. It is organized by chapter title in alphabetical order.

Series IV: Course Materials

Series IV contains material related to the classes Sykes taught at West Chester. The classes represented are Principles of Secondary Education, Mental Hygiene, Curriculum Planning, School and Community, Educational Measurements, Consumer Education, and Rural Schools, and each has its own subseries. The material consists of lecture notes, curricula, and other course materials, as well as correspondence, relevant secondary sources, and advertisements for related publications. The dates range from 1937 to 1959, covering his entire teaching career at West Chester.

Series V: Buildings

Series V contains material related to the many construction projects undertaken at West Chester during the 1960s, including correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, and plans. It is organized alphabetically according to topic or building name. The material ranges from 1959 to 1969, with a heavy concentration in the early 1960s.

Series VI: Board of Trustee Minutes

These minutes were separated from the rest of the collection during processing and therefore were not incorporated into Series I. They contain minutes, correspondence, and notes from the Board of Trustees from 1959 to 1969.

Restricted: The collection contains a small amount of restricted material, primarily consisting of student grades, as well as material pertaining to the mental health of a faculty member. It is viewable at the discretion of the Special Collections Librarian.


  • 1939 - 1971
  • Majority of material found within 1961 - 1969


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.


57 Boxes (52 medium clam shell boxes, 4 small clam shell boxes, 2 record boxes)

26 Linear Feet


Dr. Earl Francis Sykes (1902-1977) was a teacher and university administrator from Kansas who served as president of West Chester State College (now West Chester University of Pennsylvania) from 1961-1969. The collection contains administrative material and correspondence related to his duties at West Chester, speeches, course material, and drafts of various writing projects.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Earl Francis Sykes was born in Wellington, Kansas on November 8, 1902. In 1922 he married Verline Leatha Peck (31 July, 1899 – August 1979), a graduate of the School of Music at the University of Montana, and a teacher prior to her marriage. They had four children, Benjamin Hollister, Ronald Earl, Bernard Peck, and Leatha Roslynd Nath, three of whom became teachers. They had eight grandchildren.

After receiving his high school education from the public schools of Wellington, Kansas, he attended Southwestern College, Winfield, Kansas for two years, and then earned a BA in Social Studies (1926) and an MA in Education Administration (1931) from the University of Montana. He received a Doctor of Education degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College (1937), and did postgraduate research there as Assistant Director of the Research Staff, working on the National Policies Commission of the NEA.

His first teaching job was in a one-room school in Polson, Montana from 1923 to 1924, and he then taught at the high school in Kremlin, Montana in the 1926-1927 school year. From 1927 to 1932, he was Supervising Principle for the high school in Windham, Montana, and from 1932 to 1935 he was Superintendent of Schools in Big Sandy, Montana.

He taught at the University of Montana, St. Peters College in Jersey City, Hunter College in New York City, Columbia University, and Ohio University before he was hired to teach at West Chester State Teacher College in 1939.

Sykes held many administrative positions over the course of his years at West Chester – several positions simultaneous to being an active faculty member. Below is a listing of Sykes’s teaching and administrative positions at West Chester:

• He first worked at West Chester State Teachers College during the 1939 summer session.
• He was hired as a regular faculty member for the 1939-1940 school year, and became a member of the Department of Education, Head of the Rural Curriculum, Supervisor of Student Teaching, and Supervisor of the Rural Group.
• In 1942-1943, he was Acting Director of Personnel, and was appointed Director of Personnel in 1943-1944.
• In 1947-1948, he became the first Director of Student Teaching and Placement.
• In 1959-1960, he was appointed Director of the Graduate School, the school’s first year. At this point, he stopped teaching classes.
• In 1960-1961, he was the Dean of Academic Affairs.
• In September of 1961, he was appointed Acting President.
• In September of 1963, he was appointed President, a position he held until his retirement in June 1969.


This collection lacked original order and does not reflect any order created by Sykes.
Early F. Sykes Collection
Jesse Brody, Special Collections Technician; Ron McColl, Special Collections Technician
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the West Chester University Archives Repository