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William M. Cruickshank Papers

An inventory of his papers at the Syracuse University Archives

Sponsor: The processing of this collection was made possible through the generosity of Marion W. Meyer G'55.

Finding aid created by: Mary Skaden
Date: 2012


William Cruickshank

William Cruickshank (d. 1992) was the first director of the Division of Special Education at Syracuse University's School of Education. From 1946 to 1967, he served the University as a professor and Dean of the Summer Sessions while also piloting the initial stages of the Special Education program. Moreover, he was a pioneer in the field of interdisciplinary special education and had immeasurable influence on the way in which the study of disabilities and education evolved.

After receiving his degrees from the Michigan State Normal College (1938), the University of Chicago (1939) and the University of Michigan (1945), Cruickshank was well qualified as a professor of education and psychology. However, it was his interest, expertise, and ardent belief in special education as a discipline equal to that of medicine or law that recommended him for something more than teaching.

In 1946, he came to Syracuse University in order to establish a Department of Education for Exceptional Children in the School of Education. After World War II, the question of aiding those with special needs became a hotly debated issue. Many American soldiers returned home permanently disabled, but because disabilities were still widely considered a taboo topic, there were few means of aid or institutional support. However, the nation's institutions could not ignore the needs of war veterans, and disability awareness began to increase. In line with this growing awareness and acceptance, Syracuse University launched a variety of services and classes for individuals with disabilities as well as those teaching disabled students. Syracuse was the first university to offer the full range of degrees for teachers of special education, bachelors through doctorate. Cruickshank directed the Department, which was the forerunner to the School's Division of Special Education, and set the foundations for a strong tradition. He was a proponent of the idea that teachers should not neglect or isolate students because of the things that made them unique. Whether it was a student with physical or mental disabilities or a student who was intellectually gifted for their age, he felt that what set people apart should be recognized in a positive light. Under Cruickshank, the program set about changing the outlook on students with special needs for teachers and the general public, a mentality that steered the attention of the Division for many years.

By 1962, word of Cruickshank's reputation had spread. In addition to his work at the University, he had been a contributing editor to the Journal of Exceptional Children and president of the International Council for Exceptional Children, and he had won numerous awards for work on epilepsy and cerebral palsy. At this point, Cruickshank took a leave of absence from Syracuse after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship. He and his family traveled to Peru, and he spent the next six months establishing a school for students with cerebral palsy and other handicaps. Consequently, San Marco University awarded him an honorary degree for his work in Lima that year.

Cruickshank's research frequently looked at the relationships between disabilities and social adjustment, often based in a school setting. Although his main effort was on educating the teachers of students with special needs, he authored numerous works about specific disabilities, especially cerebral palsy, and the effect disabilities can have on individuals and the community. He also had a hand in advancing the field of research focused on learning disabilities, which were still largely undefined. At that point in time, special education and its branches were very much in formative states, but were quickly progressing thanks to the efforts of scholars like Cruickshank.

After several more years of tireless devotion to the School of Education's Division of Special Education, Cruickshank decided it was time to move on. He returned to the University of Michigan to establish and direct a similar institute. His contributions to the fields of special education and learning disabilities continued until his death but his legacy remains.

Scope and Content Note

The William M. Cruickshank Papers contain a variety of his academic publications, including a number of his scholarly articles from 1946 to 1958, his lecture from the J. Richard Street Lecture Series in 1952, and several books he authored on topics such as the education of exceptional students, the effects of cerebral palsy on individuals and the community, and services offered to blind children in New York state.


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The Archives holds a clipping file and a portrait file for William M. Cruickshank, as well as related articles in the "School of Education - Special Education" clipping file.

Selected Search Terms


Cruickshank, William M.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.
Syracuse University. -- Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation.


Cerebral palsy.
Exceptional children.
Special education -- Study and teaching
Special education educators
Special education teachers -- Training of.
College teachers.
Higher education.

Types of Material

Abstracts (summaries)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William M. Cruickshank Papers,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

The Archives holds no acquisition information regarding this collection.

Processing Information

Contents were sorted and moved to a new archival box.


The items are arranged in alphabetical order, with their contents ordered chronologically.

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