4 minute read

Roald F. Campbell (1905–1988)

Born in Ogden, Utah, Roald Fay Campbell was reared on a farm near Aberdeen, Idaho, and first attended Idaho Technical Institute (now Idaho State University) in Pocatello. He took several years off from college to serve as a Mormon missionary in Texas and to teach school, then resumed his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University.

After graduating from Brigham Young at age twenty-four, Campbell returned to southern Idaho as superintendent of schools in the rural town of Moore and then took a similar post in larger Preston. After four years there, during which he spent his summers earning a master's degree at Brigham Young University, his native curiosity and ambitious instincts prompted him to seek a doctorate and pursue a scholarly career. Campbell was accepted into the doctoral program at Stanford University's School of Education. Over the next six years, he continued to serve as superintendent of schools in Preston while pursuing his studies each summer.

He took a leave of absence from his job during the 1939 to 1940 academic year and began his dissertation study, an inquiry into the relationship between school board members' socioeconomic status and their voting records on educational issues. Stanford awarded Campbell his doctorate in the autumn of 1942. At the same time, he left the Preston school superintendency, and launched his long and successful professorial career.

He accepted a three-faceted appointment at the University of Utah as assistant professor and chair of the Department of Elementary Education, and director of the Wm. M. Stewart School–a laboratory school associated with the teacher education program at the university. Over the next decade, Campbell advanced through the ranks of associate professor and professor, while continuing to dis-patch his dual administrative duties. He became a specialist in the emerging scholarly field of educational administration and found his research increasingly gratifying. Wishing to work single-mindedly as a scholar, and to spread his wings beyond the Great Basin, he moved to The Ohio State University as professor of educational administration in 1952. Over the next five years his research and writing about educational leadership was recognized nationally and internationally.

Campbell moved to the University of Chicago in 1957, where he served variously over a thirteen-year period as William C. Reavis Professor of Educational Administration, director of the Midwest Administration Center, chair of the Department of Education, and dean of the Graduate School of Education. These years were clearly the apogee of his career. Under his leadership, the University of Chicago achieved international renown as one of several premier institutions for scholarship in education and school administration. During his Chicago years, Campbell became a charter member of the National Academy of Education and of the board of directors of the University Council for Educational Administration. He served as founding editor of the Educational Administration Quarterly, president of the American Educational Research Association (1969–1970), and received may honors and awards. He wrote or coauthored more than a dozen books, many of which were landmarks in his field.

Living in an era that seemed to reduce everything to its parts and every scholar to a specialist, Roald Campbell stood as an exception. His was a lifelong quest to understand, bring together, and refine knowledge that could improve education. He read widely in many fields, studied other cultures, questioned every proposition about education and leadership, and ultimately struck every idea against the touchstone of reality: Could it work to further improve what we know and how we act as educators? His passion to form and integrate ideas was matched by his desire to influence events and institutions. Teacher and mentor to dozens of distinguished scholars and educational leaders throughout North America and the world, Campbell was a professor's professor–admired as much for his humane instincts and reasoned personal qualities as for his enduring professional achievements. To paraphrase Matthew Arnold, he lived life steadily and he lived it whole.

Beginning a remarkable retracing of his life's journey, Campbell returned to Ohio State in 1970 as the first Novice G. Fawcett Professor of Educational Administration. There he launched a massive national study of state policymaking for public education. He also opened a new domain of scholarship for himself and his field–the history of thought and practice in educational leadership. This theme shaped his intellectual activity during the 1970s. He started by assaying the existing state of scholarship and graduate education in educational administration, coauthoring a comprehensive study of professors in his field. From this base, with a group of younger colleagues, he began to explore the historical roots and philosophical underpinnings of educational administration.

In 1974 Campbell retired from the Fawcett Professorship and moved with his wife back to Salt Lake City to be closer to their children and grandchildren. But retirement was not in the cards. The University of Utah named him a distinguished adjunct professor, the first appointment of its kind. Over the next fourteen years he taught a variety of courses in the Department of Educational Leadership, and continued to research and publish at a prolific rate. He devoted enormous time and energy in fostering the growth of younger colleagues. In 1988, while visiting his sister in Aberdeen, Idaho, Campbell died suddenly of heart failure. He was 82. His customary autumn graduate seminar was scheduled to convene a few days later, and he left the course syllabus as well as a complete book manuscript stacked neatly on his University of Utah desk. Roald Fay Campbell was arguably the twentieth century's most influential and respected figure in the scholarly field of educational leadership.


CAMPBELL, ROALD F.; CUNNINGHAM, LUVERN L.; and MCPHEE, RODERICK F. 1980. The Organization and Control of American Schools (1960), 4th edition. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

CAMPBELL, ROALD F.; FLEMING, THOMAS L.; NEWELL, L. JACKSON; and BENNION, JOHN. 1987. A History of Thought and Practice in Educational Administration. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

CAMPBELL, ROALD F., and MAZZONI, TIM L., JR. 1976. State Policy Making for Public Schools. Berkeley: McCutchan.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comEducation Encyclopedia: AACSB International - Program to Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987)