Presidential History of Grinnell College

  Event Date Event Title Event Description
Grinnell College President George F. Magoun 07/19/1865 President George F. Magoun The Rev. George F. Magoun is inaugurated as the College's first president. Magoun serves 19 years and "rules the College with autocratic dispatch." Magoun teaches until 1890. "Never would the College have a more magisterial presence in the presidential chair," wrote Joseph F. Wall '41 in his book, "Grinnell College in the 19th Century." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Discourse"
President George Augustus Gates 06/21/1887 President George Augustus Gates George Gates becomes the College's second president. During Gates' administration, Grinnell becomes a pioneer in the preaching of the Social Gospel. At his inauguration, Gates is a "slender young man [who] looked even younger than his 36 years-more like a junior instructor or even a mature college senior," wrote Joseph F. Wall '41 in "Grinnell College in the 19th Century." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President Dan F. Bradley 06/11/1902 President Dan F. Bradley Dan F. Bradley, a Congregational minister from Michigan, becomes the College's third president. He resigns in 1905. In his book "Grinnell College," John Nollen wrote that Bradley "was an excellent preacher, though without the exuberance of Gates or the fiery eloquence of Herron. … The fine trees on the Grinnell campus, many of them planted by his hands, bear witness to his love of natural beauty." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President John Hanson Thomas Main 06/12/1906 President John Hanson Thomas Main John Hanson Thomas Main is inaugurated in June as the College's fourth president. He is the first president without a ministerial background. He came to Grinnell in 1892 as a professor of Greek. His presidency lasts for 25 years, ending at his death in April 1931. Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
  04/01/1931 President Main Dies in Office President John Main dies in office. At his memorial service, Professor Harry W. Norris says, "President Main personifies to me the driving force of ideals. … Such men are never daunted by disaster, never frightened by fear. … They may perish in the attempted fulfillment of their plans, but at least they hand the torch to light the way through the dead wood of tradition."
President John S. Nollen 02/11/1932 President John S. Nollen John S. Nollen becomes the College's fifth president. He first came to Grinnell in 1893 as professor of modern languages. In 1920, he became dean of the faculty. John Main says of his friend Nollen, "He is a man of large sympathies and appreciates thoroughly the claims of all the subjects embraced in the college curriculum. … He is sane, easily approached, sympathetic, and quick to appreciate in difficult situations the exact thing to do." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President Samuel N. Stevens 10/25/1940 President Samuel N. Stevens President Samuel N. Stevens presides at the College through World War II, which brings hundreds of young officers and servicemen to campus for training. His 14-year tenure also includes the Korean War. Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President Howard Bowen Appointment Announced 11/13/1955 President Howard Bowen Appointment Announced President Howard Bowen, a Keynesian economist, comes to Grinnell from a position as dean at the School of Commerce at the University of Illinois, where the Chicago Tribune called him a "continual storm center" of controversy. The S&B, noting this remark, replies, "It seems that whatever the Tribune says against Bowen convinces both students and faculty that Bowen will prove to be one of the best presidents that Grinnell has had." Inauguration Address: "The Free Mind"
President Glenn Leggett 04/17/1966 President Glenn Leggett Glenn Leggett is president at Grinnell from 1965-75, which neatly bookends the heyday of campus activism and revolt. During his presidency, the College lives through nude protests against Playboy magazine, the shift to coed dormitories, the change to an open curriculum, and the protests against the Vietnam War that led to a premature end to the school year in 1970. Inauguration Address: "The Importance of Being Earnest"
President A. Richard Turner 04/12/1975 President A. Richard Turner According to the S&B, when Turner is inaugurated in April 1975, he creates the first "Skip Day" by granting students a day off in honor of his new presidency. The tradition of Skip Day is no longer associated with presidential inaugurations. Inauguration Address: "In This Place, In This Hour"
President George Drake '56 05/04/1980 President George Drake '56 President George Drake '56 becomes the first Grinnell alumnus to serve as the College's president. The Rhodes scholar and champion miler holds the presidency for 11 years. After stepping down from the office, he serves in the Peace Corps before returning to the Grinnell history faculty. Inauguration Address: "The Future in the Past"
President Pamela Ferguson 10/12/1991 President Pamela Ferguson Assumes Office President Pamela Ferguson becomes Grinnell's 11th, and first female, president. In 1997, at the end of the Ferguson administration, the admission office receives more applications than ever before, the endowment is up, and the Grinnell Campaign has nearly reached its $75 million goal. Inauguration Address: "A Modest Approach to the 21st Century"
President Russell K. Osgood 10/10/1998 President Russell K. Osgood Osgood assumes the presidency in 1998 and leads the College through a comprehensive campus planning process in 1999. The results guide the ongoing renewal, improvement, and expansion of the campus, consistent with the mission, vision, and goals of the College. Inauguration Address: "Challenge and History"
President Raynard S. Kington 08/01/2010 President Raynard S. Kington, M.D. President Raynard S. Kington will become Grinnell's 13th president on Aug. 1, 2010.

Special thanks to Catherine Rod in the Grinnell College Archives for her contributions to this project.

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Spring 2010.

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