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George Norlin papers

Identifier: COU:1179

Scope and Contents

The George Norlin papers include personal and professional papers, and his daughter's papers, Agnes Norlin. Section I. Family Materials, includes genealogical information, correspondence, personal poetry, materials regarding Norlin and his wife's death, and Mrs. Norlin's writings, and photographs. Section II. University Materials, includes two folders concerning information on the University of Colorado between 1882-1940. Section III. Academic Correspondence, includes George Norlin’s academic correspondence from 1920-1946. Section IV. Professional Papers, includes papers, essays, talks, and notes written between 1900-1941. Section V. Speeches and Addresses, includes more formal papers, speeches and addresses given between 1919-1941. Section VI. Printed Material, includes speeches, papers, and books written between 1909-1965. Section VII. Newspapers and Clippings, include typescripts, and articles from 1908-1983. Section VIII. Miscellaneous, include items pertaining to Norlin's professional life, and a scrapbook of Dutcher family correspondence. Section IX. Typescripts and Publications, includes books and typescripts for publication, by Norlin. Section X. Agnes Norlin: Personal, includes baby books, a diploma, honorary awards, and writings. Section XI. Agnes Norlin: Photos, includes photographs of CU and family photographs. Section XII. Agnes Norlin: Memoribilia, includes an address book, Arabic manuscript, an autograph book, correspondence, cruise information and memorial items. Section XIII. Oversize folders include scrapbooks, a retirement dedication, Nazi posters, formal portraits of Norlin, Diplomas and assorted newspapers.


  • Creation: 1889 - 1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1925 - 1940

Biographical Note

George Norlin's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gustave W. Norlin, were immigrants from Sweden. Mrs. Gustave W. Norlin's father served as the Secretary of State in Sweden until he died. Mr. Gustave W. Norlin was a high ranking officer in the Swedish Army, serving in a cavalry regiment. The Norlin family, Mr. And Mrs. G. W. Norlin and their eleven children, immigrated to the United States in 1869. The family was advised in New York to move to Kansas, because the government had opened new lands there by way of the Homestead Act. Yet, when they arrived in Concordia, Kansas they found only "Indians, tornadoes, and grasshoppers".

George Norlin was born in 1871, near Concordia, Kansas, a few years later Norlin and his family moved to Fish Creek, Wisconsin. In 1886, after attending public schools in Wisconsin, George Norlin entered Hastings College in Nebraska. After graduating Hastings with an A.B. degree and doing special work at Cornell University, Norlin was appointed instructor at Hastings University, where he remained until 1896. Also, in 1896, Norlin was awarded a Fellowship in Greek at the University of Chicago. The fellowship allowed Norlin to pursue his graduate studies and receive his Ph.D. in 1900.

In 1899, he was appointed Professor of Greek at the University of Colorado. Four years later, Norlin was given a leave of absence to travel and study abroad. While in France and Switzerland, George Norlin met Miss Minnie Covert Dutcher, from Cleveland, Ohio, whom he married on June 21, 1904. In 1905, Mr. and Mrs. Norlin had their only child, Agnes.

In 1917, Norlin was named acting president for Livingston Farrand, who had gone to France during World War I as head of the American Red Cross effort there. When Farrand informed the Board of Regents that he would not return, Norlin was appointed president of the University of Colorado by the Board of Regents in 1919. George Norlin remained president of the University until June 30, 1939. As president, Norlin was popular with the Board of Regents, the Faculty, and the Students. While Norlin was president he expanded the University’s enrollment, extended and improved the campus, and elevated its standards. During his presidency, the University of Colorado enlarged its enrollment from 1,570 students in 1919 to 4,437 in 1939. In this period, many new buildings were built, such as Arts and Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering Administration, Geology, the Women’s Club, the Stadium, and others, increasing the total value of the University by over four million dollars. This expansion was made possible by Norlin's ceaseless efforts to augment University income and through his attempts to take advantage of federal works programs during the Great Depression. The new buildings took the form of the Tuscan Vernacular style of architecture, developed for the University of Colorado by the firm of Day and Klauder, Philadelphia. The new style gave the University a “face lift,” initiating a look which would unify the University’s architecture decades into the future. Norlin enriched the curriculum by compensating for the growing enrolment, by adding staff, dividing the School of Business and the College of Music into separate programs, and sponsoring advancements in the Schools of Music, Nursing, Graduate School, Arts and Sciences, and the School of Law. Norlin was one of the most influential of the University's early presidents.

Nolin was an effective political activist. During the 1920s, George Norlin wrote essays and gave speeches which were critical of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. In 1924, he rebuffed the blandishments of the Ku Klux Klan governor of Colorado, who offered him legislative support in return for firing Jewish and Catholic faculty. Also in the 1920s, George Norlin and his wife joined the newly established Cosmopolitan Club, a student organization which welcomed international students and provided them a social and political forum. During his presidency, Norlin kept close ties with the black community in Boulder.

The University paid for its resistance to the Klan, as the pro-Klan majority in the State Legislature retaliated during budget appropriations. During the 1930s, President Norlin visited Germany several times during the rise of the Nazi Party to power. After a year in Germany as lecturer on American Civilization at Berlin University in 1933, Norlin spoke and wrote articles warning of the dangers of Nazism and anti-Semitism. Hitler, he told a journalist, was not someone with whom you could go fishing. Faculty members added their signatures to an "Open Letter from American Scholars to their Colleagues in Poland," sponsored by the International League of Academic Freedom, to protest anti-Semitism in Poland in 1937. During November, 1938, Norlin sponsored a faculty letter to the US State Department condemning Nazi anti-Semitic actions. In February of 1939, Norlin approved the Faculty Senate plan to address discrimination both on and off campus, the first of its kind at the University of Colorado.

George Norlin retired in 1939, and died soon after, 23 hours after his wife Minnie died, at 2 o’clock March 30, 1942. Minnie Dutcher Norlin died from a stroke. George Norlin died from a uremic condition. The University Library, designed by Klauder, was completed in 1940, and was named after Norlin in 1944. Regarding the two quotations that adorn the west entrance of the Library, one is drawn from Isocrates and Cicero, "Who knows only his own generation remains always a child," the other is his own statement, "Enter here the timeless fellowship of the human spirit."

His daughter, Agnes Norlin, was born April 15, 1905 in Boulder, Colorado. She was the only child of George and Minnie Norlin. Agnes graduated from the University of Colorado, then continued her education at the University of Washington. She died around 1988.

Various George Norlin publications: A Voice From Colorado’s Past for the Present: Selected Writings of George Norlin by Ralph E. Ellsworth, ed. Boulder, CO: Colorado Associated University Press, 1985.

Fascism and Citizenship by George Norlin, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1934.

Integrity in Education and Other Papers by George Norlin, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1926.

Isocrates by George Norlin, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1928.

The Quest for American Life by George Norlin, Boulder, Co: University of Colorado, 1945.

Things in the Saddle: Selected Essays and Addresses by George Norlin” Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1940.


10.5 linear feet (20 boxes)

Language of Materials



These papers concern the personal life and academic career of George Norlin (1871-1942). George Norlin was born in 1871, near Concordia, Kansas, a few years later Norlin and his family moved to Fish Creek, Wisconsin. He was appointed professor of Greek at the University of Colorado in 1900. In 1917, Norlin was named acting president for Livingston Farrand, who had gone to France during World War I. When Farrand informed the Board of Regents that he would not return, Norlin was appointed president of the University of Colorado in 1919. As president, Norlin took an active stance in improving the University's architectural appearance and academic standing. Norlin was also an effective political activist: augmenting the University's financial backing, working against racial discrimination and warning of the threats Naziism. George and Minnie Norlin died in 1942, three years after his retirement. Included are Norlin's professional correspondence and publications, as well as the family correspondence and personal papers of Norlin's daughter, Agnes.















Processed By BethAnn Berliner, October 1981 Edited By Cynthia Ploucher, October, 1999
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States