|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
At a Glance
This collection consists of the correspondence and subject files of Columbia University President Michael I. Sovern. It also contains his speeches as Columbia University Law School Dean (1970-1978), Columbia University Provost (1979) and Columbia University President (1980-1993). The speeches span from 1972 to 1993 and are arranged in chronological order. There are materials related to the City Charter Revision Commission.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
Material is unprocessed. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
All administrative records of the University are restricted for 25 years from the date of creation.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
A Columbia University graduate, former faculty member, dean and provost, Michael I. Sovern was Columbia's first Jewish president.
An effective fundraiser for the Law School, as president, Sovern was charged with the task of providing a more secure financial foundation for the University thereby restoring institutional confidence. As president, Sovern explored funding in areas no one had bothered to look before. One of these areas was the patents on intellectual property created by Columbia faculty. Sovern's Columbia was among the first universities to establish internal policies taking advantage of federal regulations allowing universities to patent discoveries made by faculty whose research was supported by federal grants. This, in conjunction with the sale of land under Rockefeller Center in 1985 and additional sources, allowed Sovern to quadruple the University's endowment.
In addition to fundraising, Sovern oversaw the admission of women to Columbia College for the first time in 1983 and successfully resolved the most explosive issue since the 1968 protests: South African divestment. The issue of South African divestment, which pitted the trustees against the students and the community, was carefully negotiated by Sovern who went "slow enough to provide time to bring along hesitant trustees but fast enough not to exhaust the patience of the senate or provide an excuse for student-led disruptions" (Stand Columbia, p. 545). In 1990, Sovern gained community approval for the development of property adjacent to the Health Sciences Campus, including Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated.
Sovern resigned from the presidency in 1993, returning to the Law School as a faculty member.