Skip to main content

Michael J. Stolee Papers

Collection ID: MG 102

Scope and Contents

The collection contains material related to Michael J. Stolee's work as a court and school system-appointed advisor in school desegregation cases in 68 school districts in the United States. The most documented case in the collection is the legal battle centering on Benton Harbor, Michigan, and efforts to integrate its school systems. The collection also includes biographical material on Stolee, historical material on school desegregation and material about the establishment and operation of the Florida Desegregation Center at the University of Miami. Materials in the collection include newspaper clippings, lecture transparencies, court orders and depositions, work schedules, school desegregation plans, Congressional records, term papers, photographs, handwritten notes, brochures, bound notebooks, and speeches, among others.


  • circa 1964-2009, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 10/09/2008



9.90 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

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. Michael J. Stolee was a Norwegian Lutheran native of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in Minnesota, born on August 22, 1930. He attended the city's public schools - Jenny Lind Elementary School and Henry Junior-Senior High School. Later, he enrolled at St. Olaf College where he earned his bachelor's degree with teaching majors in history and speech. Stolee first taught history and speech in rural Minnesota public schools before enrolling in graduate study at the University of Minnesota in late 1952. There he completed his master's degree and his doctorate in Educational Administration with an emphasis on school leadership in the legal context. Stolee completed his Ph.D. in 1963. Following his administrative experience in Minnesota schools, Stolee served as a faculty member at the University of Miami, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, teaching the legal aspects of school administration. At the latter, he served as Dean of the School of Education for nine years. In addition to his regular faculty appointments, Dr. Stolee was a visiting professor at Appalachian State University and was an external examiner for the faculties of education at the University of Guyana and the University of the West Indies. At the University of Miami, he was co-director of an institute on desegregation for school board members and superintendents in Florida and South Georgia. This was the first institute funded under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dr. Stolee's education and personal experience prepared him to address the issues created by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. Stolee cited his experience with black students at the University of Minnesota during graduate school as one of the first that indicated to him the future need for addressing racial cooperation in the education world. His first experience with overt racial segregation came during his spring break in 1963 when he and his wife stopped at a Dairy Queen near Ocala, Florida. The sign in the window said "White Only." They thought it had to do with the availability of only vanilla ice cream. In 1965, Dr. Stolee and a colleague, Dr. Robert Wey of the University Of Miami School Of Education, suggested that a consultation center be established at Miami for the purpose of helping to put the law into practice regarding Brown v. Board. The Florida School Desegregation Consulting Center at the University of Miami was subsequently born and ran from July 1, 1965 until 1981. The center served as an advisory entity to school systems across the nation. While acting as Director of the Center and later after he had been promoted as Dean of Education at Miami, Dr. Stolee participated in the desegregation proceedings of many school systems across the United States. The city of Norfolk, Virginia is one of over 350 school jurisdictions where Dr. Stolee advised on school desegregation methods and busing plans. Dr. Stolee had an impact on the Hampton Roads area as an expert witness on the 1971 Norfolk Public Schools busing desegregation plan. Stolee testified on several occasions between May 7, 1969 and April 1971. During his initial court depositions, he stated that Norfolk Public Schools should discontinue its 'freedom of choice' policy of pupil assignment that allowed schools to remain segregated. Dr. Stolee presented findings indicating that there would be no educational decline for black or white students, should they be bussed together to larger, integrated schools. After his earlier testimony, Stolee presented a plan to U.S. District Judge Walter Hoffman in May of 1969 proposing to do away with the 'freedom of choice' system for Norfolk students and increasing desegregation by busing. Stolee's proposed feeder system for Norfolk assigned schools to groups (two white schools, one black school) so that elementary schools had a well-integrated student population. There was a prolonged court battle to get Norfolk Public Schools to adopt the Stolee plan, but by April of 1971, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling was in place ordering the schools to use Dr. Stolee's plan in the creation of a desegregated school system. Following his career at Miami, Stolee returned to his native Wisconsin and joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, while continuing his school system desegregation planning as a consultant. Between 1981 and 1995, Stolee and several educational scholar colleagues were involved in developing busing and schooling plans to smoothly integrate Benton Harbor Area Schools with nearby Coloma Community Schools and Eau Claire Public Schools in southwestern Michigan. The Benton Harbor situation began with a 1981 court ruling that ordered the community to work with neighboring school districts to integrate schools and provide busing solutions for the Benton Harbor, Coloma, and Eau Claire areas. Dr. Michael J. Stolee was appointed Special Master as part of a case remedy by Judge Douglass W. Hillman, of the U. S. District Courts of Michigan. Stolee's job in this role was to serve as an advisor and liaison between the Court and the Benton Harbor communities involved in the case and its remedial processes. Dr. Michael J. Stolee passed away in March 29, 2007 at the age of 76.

Note written by Mel Frizzell

Language of Materials



The collection contains material related to Stolee’s work as an expert witness in 68 school desegregation cases in the US including Norfolk. Stolle helped to design Norfolk 1971 school busing plan.The material includes the court proceedings, testimony, newspaper clippings, photographs, invoices and correspondence as well as his narrative of some of the cases.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into four series: Series I: Historical and Biographical Information; Series II: Miami School Desegregation Center; Series III: School Desegregation Cases; and Series IV: Other Media.

Source of Acquisition

Marilyn Stolee

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A2008-24

Related Materials

Norfolk Public Schools Desegregation Collection (MG 92).

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Mel Frizzell, Special Collections Assistant, from 2009 to 2010.

A Guide to the Michael J. Stolee Papers
Mel Frizzell
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 Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US