Collection inventory

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Alexander N. Charters Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

The adult education holdings are collectively known as the
Alexander N. Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.

Finding aid created by: Michele Combs
Date: 18 Jan 1995

Biographical History

Photograph of Alexander N. Charters Alexander N. Charters (1916-2018) was an internationally-recognized American expert in the field of adult and continuing education.

Dr. Charters was born on August 22, 1916 in Verdant Valley, Alberta, Canada. He earned a B.A. in history and English from the University of British Colombia (1938) and a PhD in adult education from the University of Chicago (1948). At the University of Chicago he studied under Cyril O. Houle. His interest in adult education was encouraged by his aunt and uncle, Jessie and W. W. (Werrett Wallace) Charters, both of whom were active in the field. During his service in the Canadian Navy, reading material provided by his aunt and uncle sparked his interest in adult education. When Dr. Charters decided that he wanted to attend graduate school, he discussed career possibilities with his Uncle Wallace. Dr. Charters began his career in the field of adult education in 1948 when he was appointed Assistant to the Dean of University College at Syracuse University, and over the next four decades he served Syracuse University in the following capacities:

During his tenure at Syracuse University, Dr. Charters actively encouraged his fellow professionals and organizations with which he was involved to donate their personal papers and organizational records to the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University. As a result, the library has more than a hundred manuscript collections on the subject, as well as thousands of adult education-related books, pamphlets, photographs, dissertations, audiovisual items, and journals. The collection is considered the largest English-language adult and continuing education archives in the world and is collectively known as the Alexander Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.

Professionally, Dr. Charters participated in and provided leadership to many national and international adult education organizations, and attended and provided leadership for numerous international conferences including the International Conference on Adult Education (Tanzania, 1976; Buenos Aires, 1985; Bangkok, 1990), International Congress of University Adult Education (Denmark,1965; Montreal, 1970; Ghana, 1976), and UNESCO's CONFINTEA (Sydney, 1964; Geneva, 1972; Tokyo, 1972; Paris, 1985). Organizations with which Dr. Charters was most involved include the following:

Dr. Charters served as a consultant to the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSA), Universidad Simon Rodriguez (Caracas, Venezuela), Kingsborough Community College (New York) and Zimbabwe Distance Education College. He authored numerous articles on adult education including many dealing particularly with comparative adult education. He was honored with, among others, the Bittner Award (NUEA), the Pioneer Award (AEA/USA), and the William Pearson Tolley Award for Distinguished Leadership in Adult Education (Syracuse University). Upon his retirement from Syracuse University in 1983 he was honored with the title Professor Emeritus. In 1996 he was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame.

Following his retirement in 1983 Dr. Charters maintained a leadership role in adult education organizations, including lectures, presentations, consultations, and other contributions. He continued his long-standing interest in the documentation of the history of adult education, working with Syracuse University Libraries to collect, preserve, and make accessible monographs, journals, and important personal and organizational papers.

Outside of his professional interests, Dr. Charters was involved in numerous community activities including the Council on Aging, the Metropolitan Syracuse Committee on Adult and Continuing Education, Urban League, and the Thursday Morning Roundtable. He was a long-standing member of Rotary and an active member of Park Central Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, New York.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The material contained in the Alexander N. Charters Papers relate both to his personal life and his relationship with various adult education organizations. The material reflects his professional involvement with adult education organizations and their committees, conferences, and meetings over more than forty years.

Personal correspondence-subject files contains correspondence with family and friends, as well as material relating to organizations with which Dr. Charters has a long-standing relationship, including Park Central Presbyterian Church and the Rotary Club of Syracuse.

Professional correspondence-subject files contains material relating to both organizations and individuals, interfiled alphabetically, and reflects Dr. Charters' longstanding interest in comparative adult education as well as the importance of the description, access, and free exchange of adult education documentation. Notable adult educators represented in this series include George Aker, Paul Belanger, Gretchen Bersch, Lalage Bown, Sam Brightman, Jessie Charters, Harlan Copeland, Marta Dosa, William Griffith, John Henschke, Cyril Houle, J. Roby Kidd, Joachim Knoll, Alan Knox, Bob Laubach, Joost Reischman, William Rivera, Colin Titmus.

Organizations with material of particular length and substance include the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE), Adult Education Association/United States of America (AEA-USA), Adult Education Action Council (AEAC), American Foundation for Continuing Education (AFCE), Association of University Evening Colleges (AUEC), Coalition of Adult Education Organizations (CAEO), Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE), Center for the Study of Liberal Education for Adults (CSLEA), Committee for the Study and Research in Comparative Adult Education (CSRCAE), Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), Fund for Adult Education (FAE), International Conference for Adult Education (ICAE), International Congress of University Adult Education (ICUAE), Laubach Literacy (LLI), Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), and National University Extension Association (NUEA).

Syracuse University contains material relating to Dr. Charters' long relationship with the University, as professor, department head, Dean, and Director. Charters was also instrumental in the founding of Syracuse Stage (originally called the University Regent Theater) as a collaborative city/university effort, and there is substantial material relating to his work there. Other substantive set of material in this series include SU School of Education, University College, and the Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.

Writings consist of material written, co-written, or compiled by Alexander N. Charters, as well as some items written by others. Charters' writings includes proposals, reports, monographs, books, periodicals, speeches, and memoranda. Writings by Charters are given first, followed by writings by other and finally writings by unknown authors. Jane Frost's bibliography, Historical and Research Materials Related to Adult and Continuing Education (1992), a copy of which is in the first box in this series, lists more than 100 items and assigns each an alphanumeric code. These codes, where applicable, are given in parentheses following the title. For completeness, all items in Frost's bibliography are listed in this inventory, including a few which are not actually present in the collection. Those items are so noted in the inventory. In some cases, the item is listed here for completeness but is physically part of a different collection; these are indicated as "See [name of collection]."

Memorabilia contains awards and certificates, photographs from both personal and professional occasions, slides, scrapbooks, printed ephemera, and genealogical material. Charters' close relationship with Syracuse Stage is reflected in the large number of programs he collected over the years.

Media contains a mix of audio and video recordings as well as some computer files (DVDs, floppy discs, etc.) Most pertain to adult education conferences, lectures, events, etc., though there are a few personal items as well (e.g., the "Charters_tour" DVD which contains several hundred family photographs). Included here is a recording of Charters' inauguration into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame.

The collection originally contained a number of publications from the UNESCO Institute for Education Documentation Centre and Library. These and many more are all accessible directly from the Centre's website at, so were discarded from the collection.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence-subject files are arranged alphabetically by name or topic. Individuals and organizations are interfiled. With the exception of UNESCO, organizations are filed under their full name, not their acronym.

Writings are subdivided into those by Charters and those by others; within each subseries, Charters' items are filed alphabetically by title while items by others are filed alphabetically by author. Items by unknown authors are filed at the end.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The library holds a considerable number of collections related to adult and continuing education, which collectively are known as the Alexander Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Because of Dr. Charters' long association with Syracuse University, the University Archives also contain much material. In particular, the researcher is directed to the following topics:

Subject Headings


Charters, Alexander N.
Charters, Jessie Blount Allen, 1880-
Charters, Margaret A., 1925-2019.
Charters, W. W. (Werrett Wallace), 1875-1952.
Houle, Cyril O. (Cyril Orvin), 1913-
Kidd, J. R. (James Robbins), 1915-1982.
Knoll, Joachim H.
Knowles, Malcolm S. (Malcolm Shepherd), 1913-1997.
Ohliger, John.
Sheats, Paul H., 1907-
Stillwell, Hamilton.

Corporate Bodies

Adult Education Association.
Andragoško društvo Slovenije.
Association for Continuing Higher Education (U.S.)
Center for the Study of Liberal Education for Adults.
Chautauqua Institution.
Coalition of Adult Education Organizations.
Commission of Professors of Adult Education.
Committee for the Study and Research in Comparative Adult Education.
Galaxy Conference on Adult Education (1969: Washington, D.C.)
International Conference on Adult Education.
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
National University Extension Association.
Syracuse University. -- Publications in continuing education.
Syracuse University. -- School of Education.
Universidad Nacional Experimental Simón Rodríguez.
Wingspread Conference on Adult Education (1976: Racine, Wis.)


Adult education -- Archival resources.
Adult education -- Bibliographies.
Adult education -- Congresses.
Adult education -- Cross-cultural studies.
Adult education -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Adult education -- History.
Adult education -- Research.
Adult education -- United States.
Adult education teachers -- Training of.
Adult education.
Community education.
Comparative education.
Continuing education -- Archival resources.
Continuing education -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Continuing education.
Education and state -- United States.
Educators -- United States.
Evening and continuation schools.
International education.
Universities and colleges -- Graduate work.
University extension -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Genealogies (histories)
Manuscripts for publication.
Minutes (administrative records)
Sound recordings.
Speeches (documents)
Video recordings (physical artifacts)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Alexander N Charters Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Alexander N. Charters, 1991-2015.

Table of Contents

Personal correspondence-subject files

Professional correspondence-subject files

Syracuse University