Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Slaby, Steve M.
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Steve M. Slaby Papers
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
1903-1990 (mostly 1950-1980)
6 boxes and 2 items
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-6


Steve M. Slaby, professor of engineering at Princeton, 1953-1991, served as the second (and final) chair of the Graphics and Engineering Drawing Department, 1962-1968. Slaby was also one of the University's few political activists, opposing U.S. involvement in Vietnam and University investment in South Africa, and promoting student and faculty liberties.

Collection Description & Creator Information


Consists primarily of memoranda and correspondence of Slaby and departmental records (such as annual reports, committee minutes, and conference materials) and course materials (such as lecture notes, examinations, problem sets, and student papers) of Princeton University's Graphics and Engineering Drawing Department. Also included are materials which document Slaby's involvement in political issues of the 1960s and 1970s. The political literature covers groups and movement such as the Princeton Faculty Council on Vietnam, a faculty resolution on divestment in South Africa, the Princeton University Hunger Action Network, and the Vietnam Reconciliation Forum.

Collection Creator Biography:

Slaby was born in Detroit in 1922. He received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the Lawrence Institute of Technology in 1943, then served for a year as a aviation cadet in the U.S. Air Force. Slaby taught engineering graphics at Sampson College in New York until 1948, when he returned to graduate school. In 1950 he received his master's degree in economics from Wayne University.

Slaby was interested in political issues as well, and following a year as assistant professor of graphics at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, he spent the 1951-1952 academic year at Oslo University on a Fulbright Grant studying Norwegian labor relations. He later returned to Norway, 1960-1961, on a Science Faculty Fellowship awarded by the National Science Foundation. He authored several articles on Norwegian labor issues.

Slaby's career at Princeton began in 1953, when he was hired as an assistant professor. He taught in the Graphics and Engineering Drawing Department, which had been chaired by Frank Heacock since its inception in 1922, teaching such courses as Spatial Analysis and Descriptive Geometry. (The Graphics and Engineering Drawing Department, originally the Graphics Department, was located within the old School of Science but became part of the Engineering School at its founding in 1921.) In 1958, Slaby was promoted to associate professor then replaced Heacock as chair two years later. He authored a textbook entitled Descriptive Geometry, and a manual on slide-rule usage. He also co-authored articles arguing that engineering graphics could be used as a grade predictor for subsequent engineering courses.

As chair of the graphics department, Slaby organized seminars on computer graphics and other technologies. He was involved in the Committee on the Freshman Year, and supported minority achievement in engineering. But his efforts to keep the department current proved futile; after the advent of the computer which forever displaced the slide-rule, Slaby's department was disbanded in 1968. Slaby continued to teach within the department of civil engineering until 1991, offering courses like "Technology and Society Seminars" and "Engineering Geometry and Graphics for Computer-aided Design."

Slaby's wish to connect community and University betterment with engineering excellence is apparent throughout the collection. He served as a consultant to the Princeton Borough Engineer, and initiated summer programs to introduce local high school and middle school students to the field of engineering. He held memberships in the American Association of University Professors, Sigma Xi, the Princeton Engineering Association, and the Institute of International Education. As chair of the American Society for Engineering Education, Slaby encouraged major student involvement in the professional association.

Slaby was concerned with the University's responsibility to the world, the community, and to its own students and professors. To this end, he supported University divestment in South Africa, advised a student-led seminar on "town-gown" relations, defended the rights of students who heckled Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel during his speech at the University in 1970, and delivered a lecture on the importance of tenure. In 1965, the 20th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, Slaby organized the local UN chapter's panel discussion on "The Future of the United Nations," for which he was nominated "Princeton's Man of the Week" by The Town Topics. In 1990, he wrote to Jean Prevost, Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, that the "deterioration of the infrastructure of the United States should be a crucial item in the agenda of our department," and offered to help promote an interdisciplinary program as a remedy. (Slaby's seminars entitled "Engineering and Society" which studied social problems and produced focused reports are located within the Mudd Library's P Collection.)

He married Elsa Larsen in 1944 and together they had two children.

Collection History

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Laura E. Burt in 1994. Finding aid written by Laura E. Burt in 1994.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use with the exception of the Box 5 Folder 14.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Credit this material:

Steve M. Slaby Papers; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345