Skip to main content

A. Rufus Tonelson Papers

Collection ID: RG 19-1B1

Scope and Contents

The majority of this collection consists of material representing teaching aids and materials collected by Dr. A Rufus Tonelson during his four decades of teaching at Old Dominion University. While some of the material reflects his initial teaching experience at the Norfolk Division of William and Mary, most of the papers in this collection are from the later phases of his teaching experience in the School of Education.


  • circa 1922-1975, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 06/25/1976



2.40 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to researchers without restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Dr. A. Rufus Tonelson was born in New York City on November 17, 1911, After his family moved to Norfolk, he attended that city's public schools through graduation from Maury High School in 1929. After completing his undergraduate work in 1933 and after two years in the Army during World War II, he married Sara Gladys Hamburg and they had two children - Louis, who was born on May 1, 1947 and Stephen Willis, who was born on April 3, 1950. Dr. Tonelson began his college education as one of the first students of the newly formed Norfolk Division of William and Mary in 1930. During his three years as a Norfolk Division student, he was quite active in school athletics, particularly as a varsity baseball and basketball player, and literary activities, especially as a reporter for the campus paper-The High Hat. In addition, he also taught various lab science courses during his senior year when he was employed as a student lab instructor. After three years of attending classes at both the Norfolk and Williamsburg campuses, he received a Bachelor of Science Degree from William and Mary in 1933. Shortly after his graduation, Dr. Tonelson continued to teach biology and lab sciences at the Norfolk campus as he had done in his senior year. Then, in 1936, he left the Norfolk Division to teach general science at Ruffner Junior High School. After three years at Ruffner, he transferred to Maury High School where he taught biology, history, and government in addition to coaching varsity basketball. After serving in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945, Dr. Tonelson returned to Norfolk where he was employed as the Director of Veterans training for that city. A few years later, he left that position and re-entered a teaching career, which was eventually to involve him in a very difficult challenge. After teaching for a short while at a local elementary school, he was in 1950, appointed Assistant Principal and Varsity Basketball Coach at Maury High School. For a number of years, he also served as the Principal of the Maury High Night School. During this period, and mostly because of his graduate work in education, Dr. Tonelson was named a visiting Associate Professor of education at the Williamsburg campus of William and Mary. In 1953, Dr. Tonelson received a Masters in education from that same school. His Master's thesis was entitled "A Study of a High School Guidance Program." In 1957, Dr. Tonelson was appointed principal of Maury High School. Even though he held that position for almost a decade, his most significant contribution came during massive resistance when Maury, along with a number of other schools, was closed by opponents of integration. Viewing such closings as an unfortunate neglect of the needs and potentials of students, Dr. Tonelson worked diligently to have the schools re- open as quickly as possible. During his career as Principal of Maury High School, Dr. Tonelson continued his Academic study. In 1963, he received a doctorate in Administration and Supervision from Michigan State University upon completion of his dissertation entitled "A Study of the Principalship in Larger High Schools in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools." In 1966, Dr. Tonelson joined the faculty of Old Dominion College first as a Lecturer and then, in the same year, as a full Professor and Chairman of the Secondary Education Department, In September 1969, he was named Dean of the Darden School of Education of Old Dominion University. After two years in that capacity, he was, in 1971, named by President Bugg as the Assistant to the President for School and Community Relations. Then, in 1973, he was named to serve as the Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for Old Dominion University. Subsequently, after a long and meritorious career, Dr. Tonelson retired on July 1, 1976.

Note written by Doug Wright

Language of Materials



Papers primarily relate to his teaching experience at Old Dominion College and University.

Arrangement Note

This collection is organized into four series: Series I: Personal Papers; Series II: Lectures and Tests; Series III: Publications; and Series IV: Memorabilia.

Source of Acquisition

Dr. A. Rufus Tonelson

Method of Acquisition


Processing Information

The collection was processed and finding aid created by Dough Wright in 2001.

A Guide to the A. Rufus Tonelson Papers
Doug Wright
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU University Archives Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US