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President Ralph Earle records, bulk: 1925 - 1939

Identifier: UA02.06

Scope and Contents

Records from Ralph Earle's term as President of WPI, 1925-1939, are divided into two series:

Series I - Subject Files Working and correspondence files of Ralph Earle’s administration are arranged alphabetically and chronologically within each topic. Subjects include Alden Laboratory, Athletics, Sanford Riley Hall, Earle Bridge, Alumni Reunions, Trustee correspondence, Gompei Kuwanda honorary degree, Fuller Lectures, Yankee Ingenuity Scholarship, management of the Washburn Shops and a new Tech song.

Series II - Addresses Addresses and informal talks given while Earle was president of WPI are arranged chronologically. A copy of an address at the US Naval War College delivered in 1922 has been added as well as a resolution honoring “Captain Ralph Earle”. President Earle delivered an annual address to students at the beginning of each academic year. As a member of the Rotary, he often addressed local Rotary events. Common lecture topics included engineering education and the Navy.


  • Majority of material found within 1925 - 1939


Conditions Governing Access

Permission of archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Biographical / Historical

Ralph Earle was born May 3, 1874 in Worcester, MA. He was the son of Stephen C. Earle, the architect who designed many WPI buildings, including Boynton Hall, and most of Worcester's major buildings of the era. He was the only WPI president to have attended as a student, though an appointment to the Naval Academy ended his brief stay as an undergraduate. Earle served at sea on several ships, among them USS Massachusetts, Essex, and Hornet.

While on board USS Missouri, he won commendations from the President and Secretary of the Navy for his conduct at the time of a disastrous turret explosion. He commanded USS Dolphin during the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico, and later commanded the USS Connecticut.

Rear Admiral Earle later had duty at the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Proving Ground. An expert on guns and explosives, he was made Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance shortly before the United States entered World War I.

Upon his retirement as a rear admiral in 1925, Earle returned home to become the sixth president of WPI. His tenure began auspiciously with the planning and construction of the Institute's first dormitory, named for R. Sanford Riley, Class of 1896. In the first decade of his presidency, WPI's endowment increased by 45 percent--in spite of the effects of the Great Depression. With the return to better economic times, Earle's ambitious building program was given renewed life: Alden Memorial was begun, plans were made for Higgins Laboratories, and the link he'd long dreamed of to connect the east and west campuses was built. The stately structure, spanning West Street, was dedicated as Earle Bridge following his death.

President Earle suffered a stroke while giving a chapel talk at Boynton Hall on February 13, 1939 and died soon after.


11.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the WPI University Archives Repository

100 Institute Road
George C. Gordon Library
Worcester MA 01609 USA