Robert A. McGaw Papers

Identifier: MSS.0275

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

The Robert A. McGaw Papers are comprised of four series; Vanderbilt University, Designs, Writings and WWII. The papers follow closely McGaw’s career and are important to anyone interested in the history of the university. Of special note is the Design Series where McGaw assisted in re-designing the symbols of the university in the 1970s.


  • multiple

Language of Materials



Robert Armistead McGaw served on the Vanderbilt University administration staff for 31 years from 1948 to 1979. He started his career at Vanderbilt as assistant to Chancellor Harvie Branscomb in charge of publications, the first person to fill such a role at the University. In 1964 he was appointed Secretary of the University by Alexander Heard, and held that position until his retirement in 1979.

McGaw was born in Nashville, TN March 25, 1914 to Samuel M. and Bonnie Howard McGaw. A product of Nashville public schools, he graduated from Hume Fogg High School in 1931. Accepted into Vanderbilt University, he only attended for 1 year before he went to work at the Nashville Banner in the sport department under Vanderbilt Alumnus Fred Russell. In 1936 he went work at Methodist Publishing House where he served as magazine editor, advertising manager, and director of personnel and public relations. He stayed at Methodist Publishing House till his move Vanderbilt, with the exception of the leave of absence he took to serve in the United States Marine Corps as a celestial navigator in the Pacific Arena of WWII.

In addition to his job as Secretary of the University, McGaw was also the executive secretary of Alumni relations, director of information and publications, and chief editor and designer of Vanderbilt publications. As a designer McGaw was responsible for creating the Vanderbilt shield, stationary, and diploma. Two significant works he wrote and published for Vanderbilt were Vanderbilt: A Brief History (1973) and The Vanderbilt Campus: A Pictorial History (1978).

Outside of Vanderbilt, McGaw was an active member in Nashville society. He was a charter member of the Metro Historical Commission, a member of the Tennessee Historical Society and the Old Oak Literary Club, for which he wrote many essays and served as secretary for 40 years. He was also a lifelong member of West End Methodist Church. McGaw had one son, John Early McGaw, with his wife Elizabeth Early McGaw. He died of cancer on June 30, 2003 at the age of 89.


9.17 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Finding Aid for the Robert A. McGaw Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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