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Donald N. Bigelow (AC 1939) Papers

Identifier: MA.00233

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, speeches, reports, articles, photographs, printed matter and audio-visual media documenting the personal life and professional career of Donald N. Bigelow (AC 1939), a top administrator in the U.S. Education Department of Education, as well as a writer, teacher and consultant on education policy, from 1961 to 1984. Bigelow's career in government coincided with a large buildup of the American education system and new initiatives aimed primarily at keeping the nation competitive in science, math and foreign languages. Series 5, Department of Education, comprises the bulk of the collection, and includes records of Bigelow's involvement in the many programs he oversaw as Director of the Division of Educational Personnel Training. These include numerous programs conceived as components or outgrowths of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA, 1958), Higher Education Act (1965), and Education Professions Development Act (EPDA, 1967), the last of which included Training of Teachers Trainers (TTT, 1968) and Project Open (1972). Other programs documented include the Consortium of Professional Associations for the Study of Special Teacher Improvement Programs (CONPASS, 1965), Undergraduate Preparation of Educational Personnel (UPEP, 1973), and Graduate and Professional Opportunities Program (G*POP, 1976), among others. Correspondents include Benjamin DeMott and Allan Nevins, both of whom a significant number of articles and speeches on education are also included.

Bigelow's personal life is also included in the papers, such as in Series 1: Personal Affairs and Series 6: Photographs. Bigelow included an assortment of Amherst College-related material, such as correspondence, documentation of graduation and reunion events, and ephemera. The collection also contains a variety of audio, film and video recordings, both personal and professional in nature, including education policy conferences and speeches, as well as film footage of a personal trip to Asia.


  • Creation: 1860-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1935-2004


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the papers for research use. Particularly fragile items are restricted for preservation purposes.

This collection is housed in off-site storage and requires advance notice before use. Please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Donald Nevius Bigelow was a key administrator in dozens of significant programs within the U.S. Department of Education in a government career of more than forty years. Bigelow was born in Danbury, Conn., on August 19, 1918. He was educated at Danbury High School, Amherst College (B.A., 1939; M.A., history, 1945), and Columbia University (Ph.D., history, 1950).

As an education administrator beginning in 1961, Bigelow's work focused on campaigns to improve the quality of grade school teachers, to train better guidance counselors, and to establish closer partnerships between universities and public schools. He oversaw many key education programs during a period of the Cold War known as the "Space Race," when the U.S. and Soviet Union were in competition for supremacy in space exploration, a competition which is generally acknowledged to have been initiated by the Soviets' launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 in 1957. Within a few years in the Education Department, Bigelow was leading programs to enhance science, mathematics and foreign language instruction and research, considered vital for the nation's defense.

Bigelow managed a heavily-funded government program for training teachers for careers in guidance counseling. He advocated for allocating the money not only for secondary schools but also for grade schools, a view that was controversial. He also advocated for requiring grade school teachers to have bachelor's degrees in subjects they planned to teach, not just a broad education degree, and for providing internships for student teachers before taking on classroom duties on their own. Before his retirement, Bigelow served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

Bigelow's wife of 44 years, Louise Fournel Bigelow, died in 2002. They had a son, Pierre. Bigelow died in Southampton, NY on June 8, 2007.

Donald N. Bigelow (AC 1939): A Chronology

Instructor in American history, Amherst College
Ph.D. in history, Columbia University, where he studied with Henry Steele Commager and Allan Nevins
Professor of humanities, Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY
Originator and moderator of "Seminar," a pioneer national television program broadcasting a college-level course on American civilization on ABC-TV (32 weeks)
Visiting professor of American civilization (Fulbright), Universities of Baroda and Lucknow (U.S. Educational Foundation), India
Associate Professor of history and American civilization, Brandeis University
Consultant, Ford Foundation, on general education for Indian Vice-Chancellors
Consultant, Carnegie Corporation, on Junior-year abroad study
Consultant, Office of Education, on non-Western language and area study
Consultant, American Council of Education, on graduate education
Joins the Office of Education in the old Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare
Specialist, non-Western studies (Title VI, NDEA)
Director, Division of Educational Personnel Training, BESE. In this year, a major reorganization of the Office of Education has taken place, and most of the training programs have been consolidated under this Division. It becomes responsible for administering the following different government programs:
  • NDEA - The National Defense Education Act (NDEA), signed into law on September 2, 1958. Includes the 1964 amendment known as Title XI. Partly a reaction to the uproar created by Sputnik. The NDEA provided funding to United States educational institutions at all levels. It authorized funding for four years, increasing funding annually. The act had two purposes: first, to provide for the training of specific defense-oriented personnel. This included providing Federal help to foreign language scholars, area studies centers, and engineering students. Second, NDEA provided financial assistance for thousands of students who would be part of the growing numbers enrolling at colleges and universities in the 1960s. Primarily this was done through the National Defense Student Loan program. Congress also provided funding to address the problem of drop-out students (this led to the creation of the National NDEA Institute for Advanced Study in Teaching Disadvantaged Youth), and also to address a shortage of teachers, especially in the areas of science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages. The NDEA, HEA and EPDA had in common an attempt to introduce the academic disciplines into the training of teachers. All of the legislation focused on promoting interconnectedness among institutions and groups, inclusion of social groups previously excluded from the education enterprise, and a realignment of levels of authority.
  • HEA - Higher Education Act, 1965. This act's purpose was "to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education." It increased federal money given to universities, created scholarships, gave low-interest loans for students, and established a National Teachers Corps. The "financial assistance for students" is covered in Title IV of the HEA.
  • EPDA - Education Professions Development Act, 1967. For the first time, a law authorized the awarding of funds directly to schools (instead of only supporting institutions of higher education in connection with teacher training). Bureaucrats could place more emphasis on training the poor, members of minority groups, and other Americans not previously part of the educational establishment. Under EPDA, a multitude of other programs were established, including: ExTFP/PTFP (Experience Teacher Fellowship Program and the Prospective Teacher Fellowship Program, 1966), the TTT Program (Training of Teachers Trainers, 1968), BEPD (Bureau of Educational Personnel Development, 1968), Leadership Training Institute (1969), Project Open (1972), and Southampton Summer Sequences (1974).
  • CONPASS, 1965 - Consortium of Professional Associations for the Study of Special Teacher Improvement Programs. Developed by the banding together of five professional associations following the first round of evaluations for the NDEA institutes (Association of American Geographers, American Historical Association, Department of Audio-Visual Instruction, International Reading Association, and Modern Language Association), CONPASS took on the responsibility of evaluating these institutes, and eventually began to develop new models for teacher training and ways of solving the issues in the institutes they were evaluating.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Leadership Program, 1993. Developed shortly after the passing of the Eisenhower Leadership Development Act. This program encompassed 28 smaller projects nationwide, several of which had previously been receiving funding through the Kellogg Foundation. The purpose of the program was to provide grants that establish prototypes that reach out to young Americans and promote the practical study and teaching of leadership through programs specially designed to foster the development of new generations of leaders in national and international affairs.
  • UPEP (Undergraduate Preparation of Educational Personnel) / Study Commission, 1973. UPEP was aimed at improving the undergraduate education of teachers. The idea was to change the recruiting and counseling processes of would-be teachers by improving their pre-service preparation. The study commission (SCUEET), headed by Paul Olson, conducted evaluations of UPEP programs and investigated new methods of in-service and pre-service training for teachers. The study commission also provided the network through which educators and program developers could work together and implement new practices across the country.
  • ERS (Educational Renewal Strategy), 1973. A new Office of Education strategy that addressed systemic problems in elementary and secondary education instead of specific programs. Its purpose was to demonstrate a process of educational change and decision making which creates a self-sustaining reform mechanism throughout the educational system and to significantly raise the performance of school children from low income families in urban and rural communities.
  • G*POP (Graduate and Professional Opportunities Program), 1976. The purpose of G*POP is to increase the total number of underrepresented students on campus by providing fellowship grants to those students who otherwise would not have undertaken graduate or professional study.
Director, Division of Program Administration, BEPD
Post-doctorate research fellow, George Washington University
The Liberal Arts and Teacher Education is published
Director, Northeast Division, NCIES
1973 spring
Lecturer, University of Virginia
Special Assistant, Deputy Commissioner, Bureau Post Secondary Education and Chief, Ethnic Heritage Studies Program
1975 spring
Adjunct professor, The American University, Washington, DC
Director, International Studies Branch, Division of International Education
Graduate Training Branch (Division of Training and Facilities): Chief, Graduate and Professional Opportunities Program for Minorities and Underrepresented; Public Service Fellowship Program; Domestic Mining Fellowship Program; Assistance for Training in the Legal Profession; Law School Clinical Experience Program
Senior administrator, National Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, Atlanta, Ga.
Louise Fournel Bigelow, wife, dies
2004 [approx.]
Bigelow, still mainly residing in Washington, D.C., retires
2007 Jun 7
Bigelow dies in Southampton, N.Y. at the home of friends.


50.85 Linear feet (47 records storage boxes, 5 archives boxes, 2 oversize archives boxes, 1 half archives box, 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, speeches, reports, articles, photographs, printed matter and audio-visual media documenting the personal life and professional career of Donald N. Bigelow (AC 1939), a top administrator in the U.S. Education Department of Education, as well as a writer, teacher and consultant on education policy, chiefly from 1961 to 1984. Professional papers include records of many Federal programs he oversaw as part of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA, 1958), Higher Education Act (1965), and Education Professions Development Act (EPDA, 1967). Correspondents include Benjamin DeMott and Allan Nevins.


This collection is organized into seven series:

  1. Series 1: Personal Affairs, 1889-2006 (bulk 1935-2006)
  2. Series 2: Correspondence, 1936-2008
  3. Series 3: Writings and Speeches, 1944-2003
  4. Series 4: Scholarly Journals, Essays and Publications, 1931-2004 (bulk 1945-2004)
  5. Series 5: U.S. Department of Education, 1947-2003
  6. Series 6: Photographs, circa 1860-1985
  7. Series 7: Audio and Video, 1935-2004 (bulk 1965-1979)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Donald N. Bigelow, 2005.

Related Materials

Alumni Biographical Files - Class of 1939 - Bigelow

Processing Information

Processed 2012 June-December by Christopher Allen (AC 2013), Student Assistant, under the supervision of Peter A. Nelson, Archivist.

Peter A. Nelson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299