Scope and Contents
The Floyd Seyward Lear Papers total 8.5 linear feet of material, arranged in 17 boxes and dated from 1881 to 1975. The papers of medieval historian Dr. Floyd Seyward Lear include correspondence, departmental and university reports and memoranda, teaching materials, research notes, and a variety of memorabilia, including photographs which document his long tenure at Rice University (1925-1975) as well as the history of the University itself. Much of the material was loose and unorganized when received; material already in folders was generally kept in its original order and folder titles retained as given.
Floyd Seyward Lear was a member of the faculty at the Rice Institute (later Rice University) in the Department of History from 1925 to 1975, the year of his death. He was born in Corfu, New York, on July 7, 1895, received an A.B. degree from the University of Rochester in 1917, and Master's and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University in 1920 and 1925, respectively. He first came to Texas in 1917 for military duty in the United States Army, serving from 1917 to 1919 in the Army Air Service at the new Ellington Field near Houston.
He married Elsie Laura Mann in 1920, and after completing his graduate work at Harvard returned to Houston in 1925 to join the faculty at the Rice Institute, then beginning its fourteenth academic year, as Instructor in history. He taught a wide range of courses at Rice over the next fifty years, including ancient and medieval literature and history (his particular areas of expertise), as well as courses in political theory and American history as the needs of a growing Department of History required. He was Assistant Professor from 1927 to 1945, Professor in 1945, Harris Masterson Jr. Professor of History in 1953 (the first to hold this chair), and Trustee Distinguished Professor from 1965. He served as chairman of the Department of History from 1933 to 1960, was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and from 1925 a charter member of the Medieval Academy of America.
As a teacher, Dr. Lear took a personal interest in his students, coming to regard many as friends while remaining closely involved in their intellectual development. He was instrumental in developing a graduate program in history at Rice and in encouraging students interested in pursuing academic careers, including young women for whom opportunities in this area were just beginning to grow. He witnessed the extensive physical expansion that took place at Rice following World War II, and was involved in recruitment of faculty and in changes to the curriculum brought about by post-war shifts in national priorities.
Dr. Lear's papers reflect the broad interests of a humanist, teacher, and scholar. When writing in 1965 to the family of another of Rice's early faculty members whose papers had recently been given to the University Archives, he expressed his thoughts concerning the value of such papers for preserving a university's collective memory, saying:
In a very short time there will be no one left in active service here who recalls or has direct knowledge of the old school. And the depth of ignorance about almost everything prior to the Second War would appear quite unbelievable to graduates of a generation ago. The amount of correspondence and other memorabilia associated with the original faculty is all too small in the archives and the likelihood of preserving this material decreases with every passing year.
Dr. Lear's own papers help to fill this need by providing a record of years critical in the development of Rice University.