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William Coleman Nevils, S.J. Papers

Identifier: GTA-GAMMS012

Scope and Contents

The William Coleman Nevils, S.J. Papers include correspondence, manuscripts of his writings, and related items. Much dates from his tenure as Georgetown University President, although there is also material relating to his post-GU presidency activities, including his work with relief for Jesuits in Poland 1939-1942.

The correspondence from the time of his Presidency does not pertain to the day-to-day running of the University. For that, researchers should look to the subject based, Old Archives files in the Georgetown University Archives, i.e., for material relating to the construction of Copley and White-Graevnor Halls, researchers should access the Old Archives: Buildings Files. University Archives staff can advise on how best to access content in the GU archives collection.

Material relating to Nevils' journey to and from Japan and participation in the 15th International Red Cross Conference there in 1934 is present and includes a scrapbook, correspondence and travel writings.

Other writings represented in the papers include typescripts and galleys of "Miniatures of Georgetown" published in 1934, drafts of an unpublished work,"Jesuits in the New World", and articles for the National Geographic.


  • 1899 - 1955
  • Majority of material found within 1928 - 1955

Biographical note

William Coleman Nevils was born in Philadelphia on May 29, 1878. He received a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia and entered the Jesuit seminary in Frederick, Maryland, in 1896. After attending Woodstock College in Woodstock, Maryland, he taught at Boston College High School, Loyola High School in New York City, St. Andrews-on-the-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York, Holy Cross in Worchester, Massachusetts, and then joined the Georgetown faculty as a lecturer in sociology. In 1918, he was named as Dean of Georgetown’s College of Arts and Sciences and as the University's Chancellor/ Vice President in 1919. He aslo served as Regent of the School of Foreign Service and as chair of the Georgetown Endowment Association.

From 1924 to 1928, he was Dean at the Shadowbrook House of Jesuit Studies in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. On August 8, 1928, he was again appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown; on August 26, it was announced that he would instead succeed Charles W. Lyons, S.J., as Georgetown President.

While President, he oversaw a significant expansion of Georgetown’s physical plant. Despite the constraints of the Great Depression, three major buildings, the Medical-Dental Building, Copley Hall and White-Gravenor Hall were completed during his tenure. His presidency was also known for high profile receptions and events, such as Founders’ Day, which often involved foreign dignitaries. In July, 1934, he was named as one of the American delegates to the fifteenth International Red Cross Conference in Tokyo, Japan.

In July 1935, he left Georgetown and returned to New York where he served as pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola Church and rector of Loyola and Regis High Schools. In 1940, Father Nevils moved to Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland to work on a book, “Jesuits in the New World”, which was a chronicle of Jesuit activities in the U.S. This work was never published. During his time at Georgetown Prep, he also lectured at Woodstock College. He then briefly acted as Georgetown University’s Archivist and Library Director.

From 1942 to 1947, Nevils served as the first President of the University of Scranton. After leaving Scranton, he returned to New York City as head of Campion House and in 1953 was appointed as spiritual director of the Jesuit Community at St. Ignatius Loyola Church. He died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York, on October 12, 1955 and is buried in the Jesuit Community Cemetery on Georgetown University’s campus.

His published writings include “Miniatures of Georgetown” (1935), “Saving Sense” (1947) which he edited and wrote an introduction for, and “Moulder of Men: John H. O'Rourke” (1953).


9 Linear Feet (13 boxes)

Language of Materials


William Coleman Nevils, S..J . Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • May 26, 2023: The original finding aid was revised by the University Archivist after the papers were transferred from the Manuscripts unit on July 14, 2022 and re-arranged.

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Archives Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057