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Frederick L. Hovde papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 51

Scope and Contents

The Frederick L. Hovde Papers (1908-1983; 63.5 Cubic ft.) document the life and career of engineer and educator Frederick Hovde. The vast majority of the papers document Hovde's business career, particularly his tenure as President of Purdue University (1946-1971), but also his work for the U.S. government and other agencies on nuclear and atomic energy, weapons research, national defense, and rocket ordnance research. A group of personal papers is included, documenting Hovde's academic career, family, and personal life. A significant collection of Hovde's mementoes and personal belongings, such as souvenirs from trips, medals and awards, academic regalia, and sports uniforms are included in the artifacts series. The correspondence includes letters between Hovde and other important individuals, such as Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon B. Johnson, Albert Einstein, J. Edgar Hoover, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Other significant correspondence includes letters regarding astronauts Virgil Grissom and Roger Chaffee, Purdue alumni killed during an Apollo space training mission. Hovde's correspondence with astronaut Eugene Cernan is also included.


  • 1908 - 1983
  • Majority of material found within 1946 - 1971
  • Other: Date acquired: 11/30/1982


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

The majority of the collection is open for research. Access to Box K is restricted by donor request.

Copyright and Use Information

Some material in this collection are in the public domain, while other material copyrights are held by Purdue University. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

Frederick Lawson Hovde (1908-1983), Rhodes Scholar, Oxford rugby star, chemical engineer, educator, chief of U.S. rocket ordnance research, and seventh president of Purdue University, was born February 7, 1908, in Erie, Pennsylvania to parents Martin and Julia Hovde. He spent his boyhood at Devils Lake in North Dakota. Hovde received his Bachelor of Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota in 1929. Elected to a Rhodes scholarship, he spent three years, 1929-1932, at Brasenose College, Oxford University, receiving first aB.A. degree and then aB.S. degree in the Final Honorsprogram in Chemistry. While at Oxford, he was a member of the varsity rugby football team and in 1931 he became the third American in history to win his Oxford “blue” in the annual Oxford-Cambridge rugby match.Hovde returned to the United States in 1932 to accept a position as Assistant Director of the newly established General College of the University of Minnesota. He married Priscilla Louise Boyd in 1933.The couple had three children:F. Boyde, Jane, and Linda. In 1936, Hovde accepted a position at the University of Rochester in New York, serving as Assistant to the President and Lecturer in Chemistry.In 1941, following the outbreak of World War II, Hovdewas called to government duty with the newly established National Defense Research Committee, which later became a part of the war-time Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). His first assignment was as head of the London Mission of the OSRD. While in England, he received his Master’s degree from Oxford University. In 1942,he assumed the position of Executive Assistant to Dr. James B.Conant, chairman of the National Defense Research Committee,in Washington, D.C.In 1943, Hovde was made Chief of Division 3, Rocket Ordnance Research, of the National Defense Research Committee. In recognition of his war services he received the President’s Medal for Merit and was awarded the King’s Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom by the British Government. In January 1946, he began his tenure as President of Purdue University. While at Purdue, he also served as chairman of the Committee on Guided Missiles of the Research and Development Board (1947-1949) and was chairman of the Building Research Advisory Board of the National Research Council (1950-1952). In September 1951, he was appointed to membership on the Board of Foreign Scholarships of the Department of State and served on that board until 1955, acting as board chairman from 1953 to 1955. He served as a member of the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy, Board of Visitors to the Air University, Air Training Command Advisory Board, Board of Consultants to the National War College, and Board of Visitors to the United States Air Force Academy. He served as a member of the Army Scientific Advisory Panel, Department of the Army (1952-1960), chairing the panel from 1956 to 1958.Hovde served as President of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (1953-1954), as vice chairman of the American Council on Education (1955-1956), and a member of the President’s Committee on Education Beyond High School (1956-1957). In March 1960, Hovde served on a special National Academy of Sciences committee which met at the Jacksonville, Florida Naval Air Station to review the ship-building and modernization needs of the U.S. Navy. He also served as chairman of the President-Elect’s Task Force Committee on Education in January 1961. From 1967-1970 he was a member of the National Advisory Health Manpower Council of the Public Health Service of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. From 1970 to 1973, he served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. From 1971 to 1973 he was also a member of the Reorganization Committee of the Indiana State Department of Public Instruction. In October 1971, he was honored with membership in the Indiana Academy. He served from 1972 to 1977 as a member of the Board of Governors of the Investment Company Institute. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of Inland Steel Company from 1959 to 1978 and as a director of General Electric from 1956 to 1979. He was also a trustee of the Sears-Roebuck Foundation from 1976-1979.Hovde was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1957. Hereceived the Exceptional Civilian Service Award from the Department of the Air Force in 1961, the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Department of the Navy in 1963, the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of the U.S. Army in 1963, and the Distinguished Public Service Medal from the Department of Defense in 1970. In 1967, Hovde received the Washington Award from the Western Society of Engineers and the Gold Medal Award from the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. In 1968, he was awarded the National Order of the Southern Cross by the Brazilian government and the Academic Award Medal by the government of Taiwan. In 1970, he was selected by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to receive its Theodore Roosevelt Award. Hovde was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Investors Mutual, Investors Stock, Investors Selective, Investors Variable Payment, IDS Progressive, and the IDS Bond Funds. Upon retirement from the presidency of Purdue University in 1971, he was named President Emeritus of Purdue. In the spring of 1975, in honor of his years of service as President of Purdue University, the Board of Trustees of the University renamed the Executive Building the Frederick L. Hovde Hall of Administration. In 1979, Hovde accepted membership on the Board of Governors of the Purdue Foundation, and he became a member of the President’s Council in 1980. Hovde received more than 20 honorary doctoral degrees in a variety of disciplines from colleges and university throughout the United States.


63.50 Cubic Feet (59 cubic foot boxes, 4 manuscript boxes, and 3 flat boxes)

Arrangement Note

1. Business Career, 1918-1983 (40 Cubic ft.) 2. Personal and Family Life, 1908-1983 (9 Cubic ft.) 3. Photographic Materials, 1925-1983 (2 Cubic ft.) 4. Audio-Visual Materials, ca. 1950s-1978 (0.5 Cubic ft.) 5. Artifacts, ca. 1922-1982 (9 Cubic ft.) 6. Oversized Materials, 1921-1982 (3 Cubic ft.)

Acquisition Information

Gift from the Hovde family on November 30, 1982.

Separated Materials

Oversized materials, photographs, and artifacts have been separated and grouped into individual series for preservation purposes as deemed appropriate by the archivist. Most photographs relating to Purdue events were removed and transferred to the Purdue Photo File, with photocopies of the original photos remaining in the Hovde Papers for reference purposes.

Processing Information

Original order of the files has been retained. For this reason, some personal correspondence has been left within the business correspondence series, accurately reflecting the order of Hovde's working files and the way he used them.

One letter from Walt Disney to Hovde was moved from the personal correspondence in restricted Box K to the Disney file in Box 1 on January 25, 2023.
Frederick L. Hovde papers
In Progress
Joanne Mendes
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition.

Revision Statements

  • 2017-02-17: Collection identifier updated from UA 2.07 to UA 51.
  • 2020-05-11: Collection description updated by Adelle Rogers.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States