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Ralph Wright Steen Papers

Identifier: A-0130

Scope and Contents

Ralph W. Steen was a historian and former President of Stephen F. Austin State University. His collection includes correspondence, papers pertaining to Steen's work on the formula for state appropriations for higher education, a videocassette recording of the dedication of the Ralph W. Steen Library (1976), and a classroom lecture by Steen (1979).


  • Creation: 1976-1981


Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Biographical or Historical Information

Ralph Wright Steen, son of Preston Cunningham Steen and Maude Fleming Steen, was born on December 26, 1905 in Clyde, Texas. His father owned a hardware store and Steen at first planned to continue in the family business. But after graduating from Clyde High School in 1924, Steen attended McMurray College, where he became interested in history. He received a Master of Arts degree at University of Texas at Austin in 1929, and a Ph.D. there in 1934. Meanwhile, he had started his teaching career at McMurray College from 1929 to 1930. From 1930 to 1932 he was a part-time instructor at University of Texas at Austin; from 1932 to 1934 he taught at Reagan County High School at Big Lake; and from 1934 to 1935 he was a professor of history at Hillsboro Junior College. In 1935 he joined the faculty at Texas A and M University, where he remained for 23 years, serving as Head of the Department of History and Government during his final four years there. Steen became the third president of Stephen F. Austin State University in 1958 and stayed there until his retirement in 1976. During his tenure as president, Stephen F. Austin grew from a college of 1,992 students to a university of more than 11,000 students.

A noted historian, Steen authored a number of books on Texas and American history and government, many of which were adopted as textbooks for use in the public schools including Texas History (for High School) (1936); Texas: A Story of Progress (1937, 1942); History of Texas (1939); Twentieth Century Texas (1942); The Texas Story (1948, 1960), Texas Government (1952); Our Texas (1954); The Texas News (1955); Government By the People (1959, 1964); The United States: A History (1959); and Texas: Our Heritage (1962).

Steen also published about 75 articles in major journals and was a popular public speaker. He served as president of the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities, the Texas State Historical Association, and the East Texas Historical Association. Steen was the recipient of numerous awards including the Texas Association of State Senior College and University Business Officers' award for service to higher education in Texas in 1972, the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen Award for 1974, and the Nacogdoches Rotary Club Vocational Service Award in 1976. He was also named Mr. East Texas of 1976 by the Tyler County Dogwood Festival Committee. Steen married Gladys Edmonds on August 20, 1929 and they were parents of one son, Joe Ralph Steen. On January 24, 1980, Steen suffered a severe cardiac arrest while crossing the campus, and collapsed in front of the Rusk Building. He died in Memorial Hospital in Nacogdoches on January 30, 1980.

Steen's last book publication, The Texas Formula System, appeared in 1979. Steen was hired by the Coordinating Board, Texas College and University System in 1978 to direct a study on formula-generated state appropriations for higher education. During the year of the study Steen traveled throughout Texas and corresponded with university and college presidents, vice-presidents, deans and other officials within Texas and from other states. Most of the papers in this collection include correspondence and statistics gathered for the original formula study and follow-ups to the study. In addition there is a videocassette recording of the dedication of the Ralph W. Steen Library in 1976 and a lecture, "The Ferguson Years in Texas," which was presented before an education class by Steen.

("STEEN, RALPH WRIGHT." The Handbook of Texas Online. [Accessed Fri Jun 25 13:57:44 US/Central 2004 ]; "Steen, Ralph W." Vertical Files: Biography. East Texas Research Center. RAlph W. Steen Library. Stephen F. Austin State University).


0.50 Cubic Feet


This collection is described in 10 folders and housed in a clamshell box. It is organized at the folder level.

Related Materials

President, Office of the (Steen), UA-001

East Texas Historical Association, B-0021

Guide to the Ralph Wright Steen Papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the East Texas Research Center Repository