Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. John R. Thelin


The decades following the Civil War saw a tremendous growth in the number of colleges and universities, both public and private, due in large part to funds provided by federal legislation under the Morrill Act of 1862 and a surge in philanthropy on the part of wealthy industrialists. In the early colleges and universities, administrations were typically run by the president alone. With increased enrollment and the demand for expanded services, one man could no longer handle all the administrative functions, and thus was born the administrative professional in higher education. Due to the increased demand for record-keeping, one of the earliest of these positions was the registrar.

The object of this dissertation is to study the early evolution of administrators in higher education, with emphasis on the role of registrar, and then focus on how that position evolved at the University of Kentucky. Did the role progress at the University of Kentucky in the same manner as other colleges and universities? Did it develop into an actual profession? The primary focus of the study in relation to the University of Kentucky is on the historical period beginning with the time leading up to the first official registrar (1910) through the end of his tenure as registrar (1937).

Data for the study came from books about organization theory and higher education administration, institutional histories, and biographies; proceedings of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars; materials from the University Archives’ Special Collections, such as catalogues, annual reports, Board of Trustee minutes, Report of the Investigating Committee of 1917, and personal recollections of Ezra Gillis, the first officially recognized registrar.

The dissertation consists of an overview of organization theory in relation to higher education, a historical perspective of early administrators, the rise of the registrar and the attempts toward professionalization of the role, and the origin and evolution of the earliest registrars at the University of Kentucky.