McKendree Presidents

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Presidential Leadership Gallery

The following is a list of McKendree’s presidents and the years they served:


Photo of Daniel Dobbins

Daniel C. Dobbins

The seventh alumnus to serve as president of McKendree, Dan has continually served his alma mater over the years as a former Alumni Association Board President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He has been recognized with the Peter Akers Award and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

He met his wife, Mickey ’81, while a student at McKendree.


Photo of James Dennis

James M. Dennis

For 26 years, longer than any other sitting president in McKendree’s history, “Dr. D” kept on giving. From pizza with the president to ice cream in the quad, his focus was on the student experience.

Under his leadership, McKendree College rose from a small liberal arts college to a nationally accredited University in 2007. The Marion K. Piper Academic Center, The Hett, New Residence Hall, Fitness Center, McKendree West, the Entryway Monument, Inspiration Statue and the Bearcat Statue are just a handful of Dr. Dennis’ contributions to McKendree’s landscape.


Photo of Gerrit J. Tenbrink

Gerrit J. TenBrink

In 1985, McKendree introduced its Honors Program, designed to formally recognize our outstanding students and their academic achievements. Under Dr. TenBrink’s leadership, the Tanaka partnership started and the first annual W. Norman Grandy award was presented to a faculty member by the McKendree Alumni Association. The McKendree Suites and MPCC were also built.



Photo of Adolph Unruh

Adolph Unruh (AP)






Photo of Julian H. Murphy

Julian H. Murphy

At McKendree, he started the criminal justice, religious studies, management and marketing degree programs. 

Walton Hall became coed and Clark Hall renovation was completed during his tenure.



Photo of Eric N. Rackham

Eric N. Rackham

Under his tenure, the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools announced on April 8, 1970 that McKendree College had qualified for accreditation.

In 1969, the Holman Library construction was completed and volunteers of students, faculty, staff, and friends of the college carried 20,000 books from the old Benson Wood Library to Holman Library. A new Fitness Center was also built and the Scott Air Force and the Radcliff, Kentucky Centers opened.


Photo of Edwin E. Voigt

Edwin E. Voigt

Prior to becoming president at McKendree, he was a pilot in WWI, president of Simpson College and the first bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.

During his tenure, campus expansion included Voigt Science, Deneen Center, Barnett Hall, Baker Hall, Walton Hall and Ames Dining Hall. Enrollment increased by almost 50% under his leadership.

He was the oldest president inaugurated at 72.


Photo of Max P. Allen

Max P. Allen

As president, he was instrumental in the Bothwell Chapel renovation. He also saw an increase in residential students that overcrowded student housing. He raised over $100,000 in a Circuit Riders Campaign that resulted in additional building upgrades, including the restoration of Eisenmayer Auditorium.



Photo of William N. Grandy

William Norman Grandy (AP)





Photo of Webb Garrison

Webb B. Garrison

Prior to arriving at McKendree, he was director of press and publishing for the Methodist Church and an accomplished author. His presidency focused on major changes to the Board of Trustee structure, increased ties to the Methodist Church, tightened academic requirements, eliminated extension programs, and created a long-range plan that included a $2.5 million building fund - the Bearcat Gymnasium was the first building completed.



Photo of Russell Grow

Harry "Russell" Grow

He was the first non-clergy president. He started the McKendree evening school in response to the educational needs of the Air Force. He doubled the endowment, made improvements to the physical campus - Old Main was renovated, and the Library remodeled - and focused on expanding and strenthening the College in its attempts to achieve full accreditation.


Photo of Carl C. Bracy

Carl C. Bracy '1913

An alumnus of McKendree, Dr. Bracy returned nine years later to serve as the 24th President. While a student, he was viewed as a leader on campus, serving as yearbook editor, president of the YMCA and Student Government Association. As president, he spearheaded a major fundraising campaign, increased enrollment under the GI Bill®, and grew the faculty and curriculum.

He reinstated the keeper of the bear and remodeled Stevenson House.


Photo of Clark R. Yost

Clark R. Yost '1913

After graduating from McKendree, he served as a Methodist minister. He became president of McKendree following the Great Depression and during WWII. He held the University together during a period of decreased enrollment and funding shortages. He established the Peter Akers Award, the most prestigious honor the McKendree Alumni Association bestows on an alumnus.

Under his presidency, the Homecoming Queen became a tradition.


Photo of Cameron Harmon

Cameron Harmon '1903

Many of his contributions, such as the time-honored tradition of McKendree Homecoming, can still be experienced on campus today. As a student, Cameron was the captain of the McKendree football team and when he returned to campus in 1923 to serve at president, a football game was played to mark his inauguration.

Purchased a $50 bear cub for school mascot.


Photo of George McCammon

George E. McCammon '1894

Stevenson House became the home of the president in 1919 and he received an automobile for use as president.

The McKendree Review (seventh college newspaper) and the Student Government Association were both organized under his tenure.

The George E. McCammon Memorial Distinguished Speaker Series was established by his son as an endowed gift in his honor.


Photo of Edwin P. Baker

Edwin P. Baker (AP)
1917-1919, 1923





Photo of Huber William Hurt

Huber William Hurt

Under his presidency the science hall was enlarged and added to making it a three story building.

He made and published a survey for McKendree which was one of the most elaborate and thorough pieces of work in the field of statistics to be found anywhere.



Photo of James Dolley

James C. Dolley (AP)





Photo of John H. HarmonJohn F. Harmon

He served on Board of Trustees and received Doctor of Divinity from McKendree in 1900.

Under his tenure, Clark, Carnegie, and Pearsons Hall were built. After McKendree, he was president of Kansas Wesleyan University.



Photo of McKendree Hypes Chamberlain

McKendree Hypes Chamberlin '1859, '1862

He was born on the college grounds, where his father Rev. David Chamberlin was head of the College’s boarding department.

He graduated from Harvard Law School and in 1872 was selected as a presidential elector for Illinois, but was removed from the electoral ticket in lieu of becoming the congressional candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. As president, he spearhead the construction of Eisenmayer auditorium in 1903 and undertook a major fundraising campaign.


Photo of Morris Lincoln Barr

Morris Lincoln Barr

He was the youngest president inaugurated at 28.

After two years as professor of Greek and German, he became President under unusual circumstances. He didn’t ask for the position but through the influence of his student friends the position was offered to him.


Photo of Thomas H. Herdman

Thomas H. Herdman (AP)



Photo of A.G. Jepson (AP)

Albert "A.G." Jepson (AP)



Photo of Isaiah Villars

Isaiah Villars

He was unanimously elected President of McKendree and then was notified of the appointment, never having been to McKendree.

He was a Corporal in an Illinois Regiment of Volunteers during the Civil War, after which he joined the Illinois Conference in 1865. He was an ardent advocate of prohibition and a worker for the Anti-Saloon League. He also wrote several books.


(Photo not available) Edward A. Whitwam

Served as President and the chair of the Science department at the same time.

Mrs. O. A. Whitwam, his wife, was made ‘the preceptress’ to assist in whatever department needed her most.

After McKendree, he held several positions, most notably as president of North Nebraska Normal College at Madison for eight years and district superintendents of the Children’s Home Society of Illinois and Missouri.


Photo of William Fletcher Swahlen

William Fletcher Swahlen

He had musical and literary training and occasionally played the organ and led the choir at church services.

After three years, he declined re-election as president and went on to become a Professor of Greek in DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. After McKendree, he went back to ministry before becoming president of Kansas Wesleyan University and then a faculty member at DePauw University.


Photo of Daniel W. Phillips

Daniel W. Phillips '1862, '1865

He was the first alumni to become president of the college.

He was responsible for the organization of the music, business and elocution departments.

Before serving as president, he served as pastor in several churches in the Southern Illinois Conference and was a member of the Conference’s Joint Board.  He was also the president of the Illinois Agricultural College.


Photo of Ross Clark Houghton

Ross Clark Houghton

He was a member of the Society of American Authors and wrote several books, including “At the Threshold” and “Women of the Orient.” He served Methodist churches in several cities in New York State, St. Louis, Mo., Indianapolis, Ind., and Portland, Ore.

He had a plan for relieving the financial stress of the college during a period of low enrollment, but it was unsuccessful.


Photo of John W. Locke

John W. Locke

After four years, in which McKendree College reached the highest point of attendance it had attained up to that time, he became presiding elder of the Lebanon District.

He came from a long line of ministers and was the president of Brookville College in Indiana before arriving at McKendree. He had been unanimously elected and was notified by telegraph, he agreed immediately. His salary was put at $1,500 a year, and professors at $900 regardless of college income.


Photo of Robert Allyn

Robert Allyn

Before Robert Allyn’s presidency, McKendree College was primarily an all-male campus with no indoor exercise space.

The McKendree College Athleteon Association, a student organization, spearheaded the construction of a small one-story gymnasium using donated funds and student labor. In 1868, the Athleteon was completed (and is now Wildy Hall).

Prior to becoming president, he was elected to the Rhode Island Legislature and served on the state commission of education. After McKendree, he became the founding president of Southern Illinois State Normal School in Carbondale (now SIUC).


Photo of Nelson Cobleigh

Nelson E. Cobleigh

His most memorable accomplishment at McKendree was obtaining the Bothwell Chapel bell for $60 at the Illinois State Fair. Bothwell Chapel was completed during his presidency.

Before becoming president he was the chair of Ancient Languages. He went on to become the editor of the Zion Herald, Methodist Advocate and president of Tennessee Wesleyan College.


(Photo not available) Werter R. Davis (AP)


(Photo not available) Anson W. Cummings

His salary was only $600 a year, $100 more than other professors.
He was the author of “Early Schools of Methodism” and the faculty advisor to the student newspaper, “The Lebanon Journal.” A resolution passed in 1852, permitting two boys’ literary societies to be formed on campus, Philo and Plato.

After McKendree, he became president of Holston Conference Female College  in North Carolina and then chairman of the faculty at the University of South Carolina from 1875-1877, which essentially made him the President since the University did not formally have one until 1880 and the chair of the faculty performed the duties of the office.


Photo of Erastus Wentworth

Erastus Wentworth

A Methodist minister in Vermont, he was chosen president of McKendree without previous consultation and accepted because his consumptive wife needed to leave Vermont due to the cold weather. Upon arriving at McKendree, the institution was still dealing with financial woes so professors were placed on allowances paid by the churches and President Wentworth was paid $300 a year. However, the College also seized the opportunity to partner with the local churches during this time to raise

money to build “Old Main.” The building, which still exists today, was completed in 1850. After he served as President, he was appointed as the missionary to China from 1854-1862.


(Photo not available) James C. Finley

He started his career as a doctor in Cincinnati, Ohio and Jacksonville, Ill., before abandoning his practice and becoming a minister in the Methodist Church. The Methodist Church in Lebanon has a memorial window in his honor, which shows that he held the degrees of A.M. and M.D. During his presidency, money was a major issue. He reduced fees 25 percent to retain and attract students and accepted a reduced salary of $400 a year.


Photo of John Wesley Merrill

John Wesley Merrill

Named after the founder of Methodism, he grew up the son of a Methodist circuit rider on the east coast. 

His brother, Professor Annis Merrill, was delayed moving his family from New England to Lebanon to teach, so he filled in and taught his classes. A week after arriving on campus, he came down with the bilious fever and was bedridden for five weeks. While sick, he was brought water from the McKendree well. He had fond memories of the well water and in 1896 he was shipped several gallons of the well water from the president at the time. He responded by writing a poem, entitled “The College Well,” which was set to music and copies were furnished to the McKendree music department. Once he recovered, he continued to teach his brother’s classes until the Trustees elected him as a professor and President three months later on Jan. 2, 1838.


(Photo not available) John R. Dew

It was under his leadership that McKendree first began to assume the character of a college rather than a preparatory school. At the time McKendree had one main school building and three or four log cabins attached where students were boarded. A Methodist circuit rider and an original member of McKendree’s first board of managers, Dew returned to the ministry after his presidency.


Photo of Peter Akers

Peter Akers
1833-1836, 1845-1846, 1852-1857

Reverend Peter Akers is recognized as McKendree’s first official president who, at the time, claimed an annual salary of just $500 per year.  McKendree was officially chartered as the first College in Illinois and President Akers received its first degree, an honorary doctor of divinity, in 1839.



Photo of Edward Ames

Edward Raymond Ames





(AP) Acting President