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Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 4-9-843

Scope and Contents

Collection includes records documenting the creation of the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room in Room 531 of Capen Hall at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York and the Memorial Exhibit in the University Archives, and nearly 900 pieces of memorabilia. Note: Location guide for the memorabilia is in Box/Folder 47.1.


  • 1900-2010


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room collection, 1900-2010 is open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Clifford C. Furnas (1900-1969), chemical engineer, metallurgist, aviator researcher, and Olympic athlete, was the University's ninth chief executive, holding the position of Chancellor from 1954 until 1962 when the University merged with the State University of New York and his title changed to President. Furnas undertook an extensive program of expansion and enrichment to meet the growing educational needs of Western New York. He was the guiding force in the merger of the private UB with the State University of New York in 1962. He served as President through 1966.

Dr. Furnas was a nationally recognized scientist, educator, administrator, and author. He studied chemical engineering at Purdue University from 1918 to 1922 and taught Engineering at Yale in the 1930s. He directed the Airplane Division of Curtiss-Wright in Buffalo, New York from 1942 to 1945 and the Cornell Aeronautical laboratory from 1946 to 1954. From 1955 to 1957, Dr. Furnas served as Assistant Secretary of Defense a the Pentagon, under the Eisenhower administration.

His personal and professional achievements included his participation in the 1920 Olympic Games, authoring an award-winning book, and working on the project to develop the United States first space satellite, Explorer I.

Dr. Furnas once said, "All of my life I have been involved alternately in research and university education. They go together and they are both necessary for human progress..."

Early Childhood and Family

Dr. Furnas was born in 1900 in Sheridan, Indiana, as the son of Clara S. and T. Chalmers Furnas. His family came from England in 1763. His father was a horticulturalist and nurseryman, who wrote poetry as a hobby. Clifford married Sparkle Moore, also a Purdue graduate in April 1935. They had one child, Beatrice Louise. Mrs. Furnas was a very active woman and was given many awards for her roles in the University and the community.

Purdue Athlete and 1920 Olympic Games

In 1918, Furnas entered Purdue University in Indiana, majoring in engineering. Throughout his college years, Furnas has been successful in Track and Field and won many medals in intercollegiate conferences held at mid-western universities. Furnas represented the United States in the 1920 Olympic Games that were held din Antwerp, Belgium and was among the finalists to run the 5000 meter. After the 1920 Olympic Games, he participated in the French Championship of Track and Field at Lille, France, and won 1st place in the one mile run. He also won 1st place in the two-mile run in the meet between the American team and the British team held in London. Besides being a good athlete, Clifford was an excellent student and was elected president of his class.


Dr. Furnas was a very energetic and enthusiastic man who had a wide range of interests in life, from sports, outdoor life, and the natural world to music and literature. Dr. Furnas and his family especially loved to climb mountains and spend time outdoors.

Research and Teaching (1922-1942)

In 1922, Clifford graduated from Purdue with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and was awarded the Big Ten Conference medal fo the best scholarship and athletic combined prowess. After receiving his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1926, Dr. Furnas became a research engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Minneapolis, conducting research on metallurgical processes and the operation of blast furnaces. IN 1931, he joined the faculty of Yale University as an associate professor of chemical engineering. While teaching there, he began giving scientific lectures and writing scientific articles and books, include America's Tomorrow (1932), Man, Bread and Destiny (1937), and The Storehouse of Civilization (1939). His book The Next Hundred Years (1936), became a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection. In 1941, with the outbreak of World Ward II, Dr. Furnas was appointed Chief Technical Aide to the National Defense Research Committee in Washing D.C., on a part-time basis.

Leadership in Aeronautical Field (1942-1953)

In 1942, Dr. Furnas was named Director of the Curtiss-Wright Research Laboratory in Buffalo, New York. During World War II, the company greatly contributed to the war effort by producing advanced engines for fighter airplanes. In 1946, Dr. Furnas became the first director of the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, formerly the Airplane Division of Curtis-Wright, and guided it through the first decade of its establishment. As a leading aeronautical research center in the U.S., the laboratory conducted imaginative research and development in such areas as wind tunnels, aircraft structures, and supersonic guided missiles.

Leadership in Education (1954-1962)

In 1954, Dr. Furnas was appointed Chancellor of the University of Buffalo. Shortly after becoming Chancellor, he was named by President Eisenhower to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development in the Pentagon. He held this position from December 1955 to February 1957.

The 1950s and 1960s was a time of rapid growth for the University of Buffalo. In terms of the physical expansion of the size of the university, twenty-two new buildings were added during Chancellor Furnas' tenure. In 1958 the U.B. Bulls, football team, left a record of 8 wins and 1 loss, becoming the winner of the Lambert Cup. After much consideration, the University of Buffalo decided to become a part of the State University of New York system in 1962.

Vision for the Future (1962-1969)

After his retirement as the University's first President in 1966, Dr. Furnas continued to serve the University both as President-Emeritus and as President of the Board of the Western New York Nuclear Research Center.

While he was in the Pentagon, Dr. Furnas was associated with Project Vanguard, which developed the United States first space satellite, Explorer I. For his role in that development he was awarded a special "Pioneer of the Space Age" medal. Seeking new knowledge though his life, Dr. Furnas' vision for the future was part of the driving force of twentieth-century technological development.

Taken from the exhibit for the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room in the University Libraries' Special Collections Room 427. Information obtained from the following books by Sparkle Furnas:

Lifetime Accomplishments of Clifford Cook Furnas, 1985
Memorial Biographical Record of Clifford Cook Furnas, 1975
Principal Addresses of C.C. Furnas, 1970.

Chronology of the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room

After Clifford C. Furnas' death, his wife, Sparkle Moore Furnas, began raising money for the establishment and maintenance of a room in memory of her husband.
Mrs. Furnas convinced President Robert Ketter to create a room in the new Capen Hall for a Furnas Memorial Room.
Personal library of Mr. and Mrs. Furnas was formally accepted by SUNY for the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Collection Room.
Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room opened in room 531 Capen Hall.
Sparkle Furnas moved to Colorado.
Sparkle Furnas died. Memorial service held in Buffalo with a reception in the Furnas Room. Some items of memorabilia returned to family members.
Most of the contents of the Furnas Memorial Room removed from Capen 531 and transferred to the University Libraries. The Furnas papers were moved to the University Archives and processed. Books by Clifford and Sparkle Furnas were retained in the University Archives, with other material offered to unit libraries. The balance of the memorabilia came to the University Archives. The Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room name continues to be associated with 531 Capen Hall. Some memorabilia remains on permanent exhibit in wall cases outside of 531 Capen Hall.
University Archives inventoried approximately 900 historical artifacts, 200 linear feet of archival documents and photographs, documenting Dr. Furnas' life and career from 1920s to 1969. Selected items formed the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Exhibit in room 427 of the University Libraries Special Collections.
The Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Exhibit in 427 Capen was taken down and restored with the artifacts collection.
The Furnas Room memorabilia were reprocessed with records documenting the history of memorial room and exhibit. A digital collection of selected photographs and memorabilia was made available online.


40.82 Linear Feet (Formerly 69 linear feet; 4 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 14 cartons, 14 oversize boxes, 1 oversize envelope. )


Collection includes memorabilia from and records documenting the creation of the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room in Room 531 of Capen Hall at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York and the Memorial Exhibit in the University Archives.


This collection is arranged in three series: I. Records, II. Memorabilia, and III. Digital collection.

Physical Location

Manuscript and oversize materials (Boxes 25-49) are stored in the University Archives. Boxes 1-24 are stored offsite.[Note some boxes removed in March 2012 when some items were returned to family. See container list.]

Other Finding Aids

Detailed inventory list available in Box/Folders 47.1 and 48.5.

Acquisition Information

Collection was acquired by the University Archives in 1998 when the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room in 531 Capen Hall was dismantled.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Alternate Forms

Some photographs from this collection are available in digital format.

Related Resources

4/9/805, Clifford C. Furnas papers, 1900-1986 (bulk 1917-1969)
4/9/1091, Sparkle M. Furnas papers, 1901-1996
MS 190, T. Chalmers Furnas papers, 1894-1974 (bulk 1894-1946)
MS 215, Clifton J. Furness papers, 1903-1974 (bulk 1903-1955)

Separated Materials

All photographs and photograph albums were removed and filed with the Clifford C. Furnas papers, 4/9/805.

Items 1999.06.02.05 and 1999.06.02.05 were removed and filed with the Clifford C. Furnas papers, 4/9/805.

Processing Information

Processed by Karen Spencer, September 2010.
Items returned to family by John Edens, March 2012.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle White, December 2014.


Finding Aid for the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room collection
Finding aid prepared by Karen Spencer.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)