Clarence L. Ver Steeg: 1922 - 2007

Historians in the News

Clarence L. Ver Steeg of Evanston, a distinguished historian who played a key role in the development and expansion of Northwestern University in the 1960s, died July 2 at the age of 84 in the Presbyterian Homes, Evanston.

A funeral service and burial were held today (July 5) in Mr. Ver Steeg’s hometown of Orange City, Iowa.

Mr. Ver Steeg was a noted scholar who headed the University’s Faculty Planning Committee on the 1960s that developed strategic plans for academic and research focus for the increasingly ambitious institution. These plans, now largely implemented, envisioned increased emphasis on graduate education and research. Mr. Ver Steeg also led committees that planned the construction of the University’s lakefill campus and the expansion of its main library. The Ver Steeg Lounge on the third floor of the library is named in his honor.

He joined Northwestern as an instructor of history in 1950, teaching the department’s survey course in American history. Mr. Ver Steeg attained the rank of full professor in 1959, the same year he was a visiting professor at Harvard University where he was the First Senior Member of the Center for the Study of Liberty in America. In 1966, he lectured on American history at the Summer Institute of Stanford University held at Alpbach, Austria.

Mr. Ver Steeg was named dean of the Graduate School in 1975. In his 11 years as dean, the school made many improvements, including the expansion of research and the development of the life sciences. In 1986, Mr. Ver Steeg resumed his teaching responsibilities and continued to teach courses in American history until his retirement in 1992.

Northwestern recognized Mr. Ver Steeg’s contributions to the University by establishing the Clarence L. Ver Steeg Professorship in the Arts and Sciences. In 2006, Mr. Ver Steeg and his wife funded an endowment at Northwestern for the Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellow award, the University’s first endowed recognition for excellence in research by a Northwestern faculty member.

A prolific author, Mr. Ver Steeg published 11 monographs and textbooks, dozens of scholarly articles, and more than 100 book reviews. He received the Albert J. Beveridge Prize of the American Historical Association in 1952 for his book, “Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier” (University of Pennsylvania Press).

A native of Orange City, Iowa, Mr. Ver Steeg attended Northwestern Junior College, now Northwestern College, in Orange City. He joined the U. S. Army Air Forces in 1942 and saw combat as a navigator in a B-24 squadron, participating in missions over Hong Kong, New Guinea and the Philippines. He accumulated more than 400 hours of combat flight experience and was awarded the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters and five battle stars.

Mr. Ver Steeg received a bachelor’s degree in absentia from Morningside College in 1943 and received a master’s degree in political science in 1946 and a doctorate in history in 1950 from Columbia University in New York City. While pursuing his graduate degrees, Mr. Ver Steeg served as a lecturer and instructor in Columbia’s history department.

In addition to his wife of more than 63 years, Mr. Ver Steeg is survived by a son, John Ver Steeg, and daughter-in-law, Jane (Pierson) Ver Steeg, of Washington, D.C.; and a sister, Nelvina Ver Steeg Thomas of Orange City.

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