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Dwight Eisenhower at Columbia University

Columbia University President: Dwight Eisenhower

Below is a list of famous non-living U.S. university or college presidents followed by a brief biography for each.

  1. Dwight Eisenhower (president of Columbia University from 1948 – 1953).  Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. He was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Commander of NATO while still serving as president at Columbia University.
  2. Woodrow Wilson (president of Princeton University from 1902 – 1910).    Thomas Woodrow Wilson served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Wilson earned a Ph.D in political science, working as a professor and scholar at various institutions before being chosen as President of Princeton University, where he worked from 1902 to 1910. In 1910 he was elected the 34th Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1911 to 1913. As President, Wilson was a leading force in the Progressive Movement, bolstered by his Democratic Party’s winning control of both the White House and Congress in 1912.

    Princeton University President: Woodrow Wilson

    Princeton University President: Woodrow Wilson (1902)

  3. Joshua Chamberlain (president of Bowdoin College from 1871 – 1883).    Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain was an American college professor from the State of Maine, who volunteered during the American Civil War to join the Union Army. Although having no earlier education in military strategies, he became a highly respected and decorated Union officer, reaching the rank of brigadier general (and brevet major general). For his gallantry at Gettysburg, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. After the war, he served four one-year terms of office as the 32nd Governor of Maine. He served on the faculty, and as president, of his alma mater, Bowdoin College.   [see blog post “Joshua Chamberlain – When the Soul Overmasters Sense“]
  4. Robert E. Lee (president of Washington & Lee University from 1865 – 1870; superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy from 1852 – 1855).   Robert E. Lee  was an American soldier known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.  Lee was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and combat engineer in the United States Army for 32 years.  Lee transformed Washington College into a leading Southern college expanding its offerings significantly and added programs in commerce, journalism, and integrated the Lexington Law School. Lee was well liked by the students, which enabled him to announce an “honor system” like West Point’s, explaining “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student be a gentleman.”
  5. William Tecumseh Sherman (first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU) from 1860 – 1861).  Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the “scorched earth” policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States.  [see blog post  “Yankee President, Southern University: William Tecumseh Sherman at Louisiana State University (LSU)“].
  6. James Garfield (president of Hiram College from 1857 – 1860).  Garfield was the 20th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1881 until his assassination later that year. Garfield had served nine terms in the House of Representatives, and had been elected to the Senate before his candidacy for the White House.
  7. Millard Fillmore (chancellor of the University of Buffalo from 1846- 1874).   Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States (1850–1853), the last Whig president, and the last president not to be affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties.  As Zachary Taylor’s vice president, he assumed the presidency after Taylor’s death. Fillmore was a lawyer from western New York state, and an early member of the Whig Party. He served in the state legislature (1829–1831), as a U.S. Representative (1833–1835, 1837–1843), and as New York State Comptroller (1848–1849).  Fillmore founded the University at Buffalo and was the university’s first chancellor.
  8. Thomas Jefferson (rector of the University of Virginia from 1819 – 1826).   Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809).    In 1819, the 76-year-old Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He initiated and organized the legislative campaign for its charter and with the assistance of Edmund Bacon, procured and purchased the location. Jefferson was the principal designer of the buildings. Their innovative design was an expression of his aspirations for both state-sponsored education and an agrarian democracy in the new Republic. He also planned the University’s curriculum and served as the first rector. Upon its opening in 1825, it was the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. With no campus chapel included in the original plans, the university was notable for being centered about a library rather than a church, reinforcing the principle of separation of church and state.
  9. James Madison (rector of the University of Virginia from 1826 – 1836).   Madison was an American statesman, political theorist, and the fourth President of the United States (1809–17). He is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and as the key champion and author of the Bill of Rights.

It is interesting to note that only one individual on this list earned a Ph.D. – Woodrow Wilson earned a Ph.D. in 1886 from Johns Hopkins University.

Who is missing from this list?    Please leave a comment if you are aware of additional “famous, non-living” U.S. university presidents.    Thank you!

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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k2-_a5f2dc38-8463-431a-9f33-a0dc59db67fa.v1.jpg-66018fc2406f3216cfcf368a64aa376585858c5b-optim-450x450I have long been fascinated by famous individuals who served as university president.  The Academic Anchor has highlighted a few of these famous university presidents: Dwight Eisenhower (Columbia University), Joshua Chamberlain (Bowdoin College) and Clark Kerr (University of California).    Recently I discovered the most unusual university presidency.  It turns out that General William Tecumseh Sherman, Union Army General during the Civil War, was the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU).   

LSU was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy.  ….    In 1853, the Louisiana General Assembly established the  Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy near Pineville, Louisiana. The institution opened January 2, 1860, with Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman as superintendent. A year later, Sherman resigned his position after Louisiana became the sixth state to secede from the Union, on January 26, 1861. The school was forced to close on June 30, 1861, with the start of the American Civil War.

Apparently many of Sherman’s professors resigned to join the Confederate Army while Sherman, as you know, became known for his “March to the Sea” where his scorched earth policies were devastating to the South and the Confederacy.  As stated by David Shribman in his article ‘Sherman’s March Through the South Still Resonates at LSU’ (2007):

It is one of those curious wrinkles of history that the man who, at the beginning of one of the most frightful decades in American history, was a pioneer at one of the signature institutions of the modern South, was also, before the decade had reached its midpoint, the signature villain of the region. Life is not predictable, which is why it is so fascinating.

The legacy of Sherman is still reflected in the culture Army ROTC program at LSU.   According to the LSU ROTC web site:

Yes, from the day it opened its doors in 1860, Louisiana State University has been influenced by its military tradition. In return, for more than a century, LSU has produced a continuing line of military men and women who have greatly influenced United States military history. This long relationship can be seen in countless symbols, including two Civil War cannons, which were used at Fort Sumter and later presented to the University by General William Tecumseh Sherman. It is represented in the Oak Grove and the 175-foot Memorial Tower honoring LSU students and other Louisianians killed in World War I. It is reflected in the War Memorial flag pole and reviewing stand and wall of honor listing the names of those who died serving our country in World War II and all subsequent wars. The heritage also lives in the tradition of LSU’s Tiger mascot, a remembrance of Wheat’s Tigers (a Louisiana unit that distinguished itself during the Civil War). LSU’s character is steeped in military tradition.

Yes, Dr. Percy Trappe believes that the truth is stranger than fiction!

[note: for a list of famous university presidents, including William Tecumseh Sherman, see the blog post “List of Famous University Presidents (United States)“.]

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Einstein_1921_by_F_Schmutzer_-_restorationOccasionally the Academic Anchor explores the relationship between virtue and the academic life.  (See: “Open Door Policy in Academia“, “Five Tests of the Teacher – William DeWitt Hyde“, “Joshua Chamberlain – When the Soul Overmasters Sense“, “The ‘Simple Gifts’ of Academia“, “Virtue and Elocution“,  “Business: a Virtuous Profession“).  Today I have returned from Thanksgiving break to ‘finish-up’ the fall semester.   Frenzy seems to prevail as final projects and review for final exams rule the day.   I ran across the following reflection from Albert Einstein.   Here he reflects on the ideals that gave him the courage to move forward.   I share this with faculty and students alike:
“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.”
Source: A. Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, based on Mein Weltbild, edited by Carl Seelig, New York: Bonzana Books, 1954 (pp. 8-11).
In gratitude, let us humbly reflect upon all the gifts (family, friends, health) that permeate our lives.  Out of the abundance, may we offer our resources to help others.
– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Navy-LogoThere’s nothing like humor when it comes to university presidents.   One humorous story comes from the U.S. Naval Academy where the equivalent of the college president is the Superintendent who is is always an admiral in the Navy.  John Feinstein, sports columnist for the Washington Post, recounted a great story.

This story is set in 2002 when Vice Admiral John R. Ryan served as the academy’s superintendent.  It seems at the time that the Navy football team had not won a single football game the previous season and was looking for a new football coach.

An up and coming coach, Paul Johnson, interviewed for the head football at Navy.    Johnson, known for his innovative and highly effective triple option flexbone offense, was never short on self-confidence.  During Johnson’s interview for the head football coach position, negotiations between Johnson and Admiral Ryan had begun to stall.

“What it’s going to take, Coach?” Ryan asked when negotiations stalled. “What do I have to pay you to get you to coach my football team.”

Johnson gave Ryan a number and the Admiral was stunned.

“Young man,” he said. “I’m a three-star admiral in the United States Navy and I don’t make anywhere close to that kind of money.”

Johnson replied:

“Well, Admiral, I guess you got into the wrong business.”

Admiral Ryan paid Johnson the money, and Johnson went on to become one of Navy’s greatest football coaches.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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TeachersPhilosophyWilliam DeWitt Hyde (1858 – 1917), the 7th president of Bowdoin College, was a prolific author and a remarkable university leader.    His writing and public speaking were “distinguished by fluency, ease, and roundness of statement”.   Hyde wrote at least fifteen different books that built on his knowledge in ethics, morality and the education of young people.    I particularly enjoy two of Hyde’s books that relate to higher education:   The College Man and the College Woman (1906) and The Teacher’s Philosophy in and out of School (1910).

In The Teacher’s Philosophy in and out of SchoolHyde builds the case for the teacher’s ‘in school’ philosophy by first illustrating the development of the young man from primary school to the university.   He concludes with the Five Tests of the Teacher.   They are reproduced below:

First : Is my interest in my work so contagious that my pupils catch from me an eager interest in what we are doing together?   Then I have the primary teacher’s quality, essential to success there and everywhere.

Second : Is my work thorough and resourceful, rather than superficial and conventional, so that the brightness of my industry and the warmth of my encouragement kindles in my pupils a responsive zeal to do their best, cost what it may?   Then I have the grammar school teacher’s essential quality, without which no one can teach anywhere aright.

Third : Do I get at the individuality of my students, so that each one is different to me from every other, and I am something no other person is to each of them? Then I have the high school teacher’s special gift ; and shall be a power for good all through my students’ lives.

Fourth : Do I treat them, and train them to treat each other, never as mere things, or means to ends ; but always as persons, with rights, aims, interests, aspirations, which I heartily respect and sympathetically share ? Then I have the college quality ; and am sure to be popular and successful everywhere.

Fifth : Am I so reverent toward fact, so obedient to law, that through me fact and law speak and act with an authority which my students instinctively recognize and implicitly obey? Then the mantle of the university, and a double portion of the professional spirit has fallen upon me and wherever I teach, the problem of discipline for the most part will solve itself through the mutual recognition by both students and teacher of a Power greater than either and higher than all.

As I make my teaching preparations for the upcoming academic year, I will reflect on William DeWitt Hyde’s five tests and will be a better teacher for it.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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ChamberlainThe summer gives me time to reflect on purpose, leadership and legacy.    Today I ran across a quote from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Union Civil War general, Medal of Honor winner, and later President of Bowdoin College.  The quote comes from an  address to the 16th Maine Volunteers in Gardiner, Maine 1898.  

There is a way of losing that is finding. When soul overmasters sense; when the noble and divine self overcomes the lower self; when duty and honor and love,—immortal things,—bid the mortal perish! It is only when a man supremely gives that he supremely finds.

Joshua Chamberlain’s life should be an inspiration to university professors everywhere.   A man of humble origins,  Chamberlain returned to his alma mater, Bowdoin College, and began a career in education as a professor of rhetoric.  He eventually went on to teach every subject in the curriculum with the exception of science and mathematics. In 1861 he was appointed Professor of Modern Languages.  In the Civil War, Chamberlain achieved fame at the Battle of Gettysburg, where his valiant defense of a hill named Little Round Top became legendary and resulted in him being awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.  After serving as Governor of Maine, he returned to Bowdoin College.  In 1871, he was appointed president of Bowdoin and remained in that position until 1883.

Chamberlain’s quote is one for the ages.   I reflect on my life’s mission – the development of the human potential in others and inspiring others to do the same.  It seems so obvious  – we find our destiny through the immortal.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

[note: for a list of famous university presidents, including Joshua Chamberlain, see the blog post “List of Famous University Presidents (United States)“.]

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1901-600x324Dean Harlow Person served in the deanship of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Administration and Finance from 1906 to 1919 (Khurana, R., From Higher Aims to Hired Hands, Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 152).    Person was also influential in the establishment of the AACSB.

Person was clear in articulating a mission for his school.   Following are several quotes from Person about the Tuck School’s mission and vision.

Our judgment is that our primary obligation is to the student, and the first and largest draft which the instructor should make on his store of time and energy should be on behalf of the individual student.  We attempt to develop in our instructing staff the feeling that instruction is not something formal but is a personal responsibility for the personal success of every individual student.  That, we conceive, as also our largest public service.

Person argued:

The essential public service that the school could provide was to teach students to ‘develop the power to apply principles to the solutions of business problems …. which will some day be of service to us all.’

In regard to the teaching of ethics, Person stated

We do not attempt any formal instruction in business ethics.  We believe that formality and artificiality of a formal course in business ethics would defeat its very purpose.  But in every course it is the aim of every instructor, I know, to inspire in his students a conception of the nobility of the profession of the business man and of his responsibility to his fellow-man and to society.

Finally, in order to assist young men in the pursuit of a career

Every possible method is employed to enable students to meet business men -(guest) lecturers – personally, and the lectures of such men are followed by a simple luncheon intended to enable second-year men to meet lecturers informally.

The ideals espoused by Person are as relevant today as ever.   Have many of the “top” business faculty strayed from this ideal?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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