This exhibit contains brief biographies of university presidents from 1865 to present, with accompanying portraits.
During this time, the university has had multiple names: Christian College, Oregon State Normal School, Oregon College of Education, Western Oregon State College and is currently known as Western Oregon University.
When the institution was named Monmouth University (1856-1865), the chairman of the Board of Trustees held the title of president. The position of president was separated from the Board of Trustees when Monmouth University merged with nearby Bethel College to create Christian College in 1865. The University is on its seventh name in its 160-year history; during six of these periods, it had an independent president.
|1856 - 1865||Monmouth University|
|1865 - 1882||Christian College (merged with Bethel College 1852-1865)|
|1882 – 1909||Oregon State Normal School (OSNS)|
|1911 - 1939||Oregon Normal School (ONS)|
|1939 - 1981||Oregon College of Education (OCE)|
|1981 - 1997||Western Oregon State College (WOSC)|
|1997 - present||Western Oregon University (WOU)|
Levi L. Rowland (1865-1869)
Born in Nashville, Tennessee on September 17, 1831, Levi L. Rowland was the first President of Monmouth University (1856-1865).
In 1844, at the age of thirteen, Rowland crossed the plains to Oregon with his father, Judge Jeremiah Rowland, and settled on a government donation claim. He later traveled to the gold fields of California where he acquired enough gold to purchase a herd of cattle and finance a four-year education at Alexander Campbell’s Bethany College, in what is now West Virginia.
He became a professor at Bethel College and taught Greek, Hebrew, Moral and Intellectual Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Logic. During his time there, Rowland created the first State Teachers Institute in 1862, which Rowland would later consider the greatest achievement of his career. Bethel College closed after less than ten years of operation and merged with Monmouth University, renamed Christian College, in 1865. Along with being President of Christian College, Rowland was Professor of classics, belles – lettres (“literature that is an end in itself and not merely informative; specifically: light, entertaining, and often sophisticated literature,” Merriam-Webster), and ethics.
After leaving his presidency, Rowland went on to pursue a medical degree at Willamette University and where he later taught and became an Emeritus Professor in the medical department. He was State Superintendent of Public instruction from 1874 to 1891, and Superintendent of the Oregon State Insane Asylum from 1891 to 1895, where he oversaw the treatment and housing of 700 – 800 patients. He retired in 1895 and died of dropsy (now more commonly known as edema) in Salem, Oregon on January 19, 1908. He is buried at City View Cemetery in Salem, Oregon.
Thomas Franklin Campbell (1869)
Born May 22, 1822 in Rankin County, Mississippi, and raised on a Louisiana plantation, Thomas Franklin (known as T.F.) Campbell received his education in higher learning at Bethany College in what is now West Virginia. He practiced law in 1858-59 in Leavenworth, Kansas. In his move West, he maintained a boys’ home, practiced law, and preached in Helena, Montana. Campbell served in the Mexican War before being appointed Territorial Superintendent of Schools by the Governor of Montana in 1863.
In 1869, Campbell was appointed President of Christian College (now known as Western Oregon University). When Campbell arrived in Monmouth, the school was just one small building. In the book Since 1856…Historical Views of the College at Monmouth, Stebbins describes a conversation between Campbell and the trustees where Campbell asked the trustees, “Where is the college?” He was told, “You are to build it.” When he inquired about the funding, he was told, “You are to raise it.” He did both. During his tenure as president, a three-story brick structure was built, setting the pattern for all successive buildings on campus. The brick for the building was prepared on the grounds by the young men of the school. It was later named Campbell Hall in his honor. The building’s design was inspired by the aesthetics of Bethany College in West Virginia.
In addition to being college president, T.F. Campbell was also a professor of moral philosophy, moral science, and Biblical literature. He had hoped that Christian College would become Oregon’s State University. The school was in close competition for the designation, with Monmouth losing by only one vote, and the State University was established in Corvallis. He made one foray into politics with an unsuccessful bid for State Governor in 1874.
Campbell installed a steam operated printing press in a small wooden building at the back of campus and began publication of the Christian Messenger, a church and family paper designed to bring Christian College closer to its supporters and to aid in the growth of the church and its influence. The operation of the Christian Messenger enabled young men and women to learn newspaper work. Due to confusion with another paper of the same name, it was soon renamed the Pacific Christian Messenger. Among those who learned the newspaper trade at the Christian Messenger was Charles Doughty, the founder of the Polk County Observer; in circulation to this day and now known as the Polk County Itemizer-Observer.
After the death of his first wife, Campbell later married Mary Stump in 1885. They traveled and preached around the United States after leaving Monmouth, continuing to fund-raise for the college. T.F. Campbell died on January 17, 1893 and is buried at Fircrest Cemetery in Monmouth, Oregon.
David Truman Stanley (1882-1889)
Born in Terra Haute, Indiana on February 21, 1848, David Truman Stanley attended Kirksville Normal School in Kirksville, Missouri. He began teaching in his hometown in 1866. He was ordained into the ministry prior to 1870; while working as the principle of Princeton High School in Missouri. Stanley stayed at Princeton High School as President when it became a college in 1872. The following year Stanley moved to Corvallis, OR where he worked as the editor of the publication, Christian Messenger. In 1878, Stanley became professor of mathematics at Christian College. In 1880, a railroad was being built from Portland to Corvallis, via Monmouth. Stanley resigned from Christian College to work as a civil engineer for the Northern Pacific Railroad to help in locating a route through the Cascade Mountains and also worked as a construction engineer with the Oregon Pacific Railroad, building a line from Corvallis to Newport, OR.
In 1882, when the railroad projects were complete, he returned to Corvallis, purchased the printing plant of the Christian Messenger, and resumed as editor. That same year, Staley became president of Christian College and lobbied the Oregon state government to designate the campus in Monmouth as a normal school. The governor signed legislation, also in 1882, renaming Christian College to Oregon State Normal School (OSNS). Stanley oversaw the initial construction of Campbell Hall’s South Wing and Bell Tower, but both were completed after he moved on from his presidency. (Incidentally, both of these additions were destroyed in the 1962 Columbus Day Storm.) Once again, like the initial building construction, the South Wing and Bell Tower were funded with private donations, without state appropriations.
His presidency was a difficult one, ending in 1889 due to bitter fights with the legislature and those who opposed the location of the OSNS. He returned to publishing after retirement, editing and publishing his newspaper, The Harbinger. He bought and sold a New York book publishing company before attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to earn his law degree in 1897. He later earned a medical degree from Barnes University in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent the next several years working in the medical field. He died in July of 1917 in Russellville, Arkansas.
Prince Lucien Campbell (1889-1902)
Born October 6, 1861 in Newmarket, Missouri, Prince Lucien Campbell moved to Monmouth in 1869 when his father, Thomas Franklin Campbell, was hired as President of Christian College. Campbell grew up in Monmouth and graduated from Christian College in 1879. He worked as a teaching assistant in his father’s classroom for three years following his graduation, before continuing his education at Harvard.
Campbell worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star for one year and continued to contribute articles during his last year at Harvard. His writings exhibited broad taste and interests in art, music, prizefights, and especially, theatre. After earning his degree at Harvard in 1889 and returning to Christian College, renamed Oregon State Normal School in 1882, Campbell taught ancient and modern languages (English and Latin), as well as psychology, History of Education, physics, and chemistry. Following in his father’s footsteps, Campbell became President of Oregon Normal School that same year.
P.L. Campbell was known for putting the student body and community first, gaining him the respect of those who worked with him. A clause in the Oregon State Constitution of 1859 forbade the appropriation of state funds for the support of church-owned property. He sought to transfer the land holdings outside the church so the school could qualify for state funds. The legislature took approximately two years to accept the plan and vote in funds for school operations. The state also appointed a board of regents to replace the Monmouth church board of trustees.
Due to the demand for a safe, community-wide water supply, (shallow wells in the town had led to some falling into ill health), Campbell organized resources from local farmers, businessmen, the general community, and sought interested Portland investors to upgrade the thirty-five year old infrastructure to serve the increasing number of students and faculty. Campbell obligated himself financially by borrowing heavily from the bank in order to provide the betterments which the school needed—especially when the state withheld the appropriated support funds. Later, when the Portland partners grew wary of their investments in the Monmouth bank and sought to dispose of their shares, Prince Lucien Campbell, to avoid great injury to the school and the town, personally purchased the shares. The president thus assumed a financial burden from which he was not released for nearly twenty years. Such was P.L. Campbell’s commitment to the life of the college. He oversaw the final construction of the Bell Tower, the South Wing, as well as the North Wing, which contained the school's library. The building would later be named Campbell Hall in honor of Thomas Franklin and Prince Lucien Campbell, for their diligent solicitation of public donations for construction.
After his thirteen-year tenure as President of Oregon Normal School (renamed in 1911), Prince Lucien Campbell left Monmouth to serve as the president of the University of Oregon; a position he held for twenty-three years. He died August 14, 1925 of influenza, and is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Eugene, Oregon.
Edwin DeVore Ressler (1902-1909)
Edwin DeVore Ressler was born November 2, 1869 in Westerville, Ohio, and was educated at Otterbein and Ohio State Universities. He was superintendent of several schools in Ohio before taking the job of Superintendent of Schools in Eugene, Oregon. While in Eugene, Ressler organized the first high school in the Eugene public school system and taught at the University of Oregon for a year, before joining the faculty of Oregon State Normal School (OSNS) in 1901.
In 1902, the first year of Ressler's presidency at OSNS, a fire broke out on the roof of Campbell Hall, but a bucket brigade of students and citizens put the fire out before it spread too far. In 1907, the state legislature ended funding for normal schools in Oregon. Ressler worked without payment during the last two years of his tenure in order to keep the school running. The school closed in 1909 and Ressler left Monmouth to become Dean of the Oregon Agriculture College (now Oregon State University) in Corvallis. At the same time, Ressler also served as Executive Secretary of the Oregon State Teachers Association. Ressler died October 18, 1926 in Seattle, Washington, where he is also buried.
John Henry Ackerman (1911-1921)
John Ackerman was born in Warren, Ohio on November 7, 1855, raised in Toronto, Iowa, and educated at the State Normal School of Wisconsin. He was a supporter of tax measures designed to improve the conditions of rural schools, which saw substantial improvement during his tenure.
Prior to his time at Oregon Normal School (ONS), Ackerman was Principal of the Holiday School in Portland, Oregon and later, the Harrison School. In 1896, Ackerman was promoted to Superintendent of Multnomah County Schools and became Superintendent of Oregon Schools in 1899. When the legislature reopened the normal school in Monmouth in 1911, which had closed in 1909 due to a lack of state funding, he served as President of the newly reopened Oregon Normal School.
As President, Ackerman oversaw construction of many new buildings on campus, including the school's first dormitory (later named Todd Hall) and the gymnasium (later known as Maple Hall). He helped to organize the Normal School accreditation registry, in which the State Education Boards of individual states recognized the accreditation of others. He fought for the passage of the mileage bill in 1920 to establish adequate and stable funding for ONS. He died July 10, 1921 at his home in Monmouth, Oregon, and his funeral was attended by prominent members of the Oregon community, including Governor Olcott. He is buried at City View Cemetery in Salem, Oregon.
In 2010, a new residence hall was named in his honor which incorporated housing areas and classrooms, and was one of the first LEED Platinum buildings, with numerous energy saving installations.
Joseph Samuel Landers (1921-1932)
Joseph Landers was born in Burensburg, Illinois on January 3, 1863 and was educated at Northern Indiana Normal School, Valparaiso University, and University of Colorado. He served as principal and superintendent of schools in Illinois from 1887 to 1896. In Oregon he served as principal at The Dalles High School in 1896, and superintendent of Pendleton school system from 1906 to 1918. Landers headed the Psychology department at University of New Mexico from 1918 to 1921 before returning to Oregon as the president of Oregon Normal School (ONS). During his time at ONS, Landers formed close relationships with the students and faculty and was well respected by both groups. He remained at ONS as an emeritus professor until his retirement in 1947. Landers published several books on psychology and instruction. He died August 28, 1947 at his home in Monmouth, Oregon. In 1970, a new dormitory, Landers Hall, was named in his honor.
Julius Alonzo Churchill (1932-1939)
Julius Alonzo Churchill was born in Lima, Ohio in October, 1862 and received his college education at Ohio Northern University. He was Superintendent of Schools in Baker City, Oregon from 1891 to 1913 and was appointed Superintendent of Schools in Oregon in 1913. He earned his Master's degree in 1921 and was appointed as the first President of the newly opened State Normal School in Ashland in 1926. Churchill’s interest in theatre brought Shakespeare plays to Baker City when he worked there. His influence also contributed to Shakespeare plays finding their way to Ashland—which helped lay the groundwork for what would become Ashland’s, now-famous, annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
One of Churchill's first moves as President of Oregon Normal School was rehabilitating the physical plant on campus. He also oversaw the construction of a new administration building (now the Lieuallen Building) and major renovations to the former administration building (now Campbell Hall). Churchill finished projects under budget and was able to return money to the Board which had given the grants, a practice unheard of in state projects--especially during the depression era. He helped push through legislation in 1939 which changed the names of the normal schools to colleges of education in Monmouth (Oregon College of Education), Ashland (Southern Oregon College of Education), and La Grande (Eastern Oregon College of Education). Churchill made strides to ease the financial burden on students, including expanding the book-exchange and offering a new book rental program, as well as promoting the adoption of new texts. Julius Alonzo Churchill died in Salem, Oregon on February 8, 1945.
Churchill School in Baker City, Oregon, a one story brick elementary school with six rooms and a basement, was built and named after J. A. Churchill. The school operated from 1923 to 2002 and is one of two schools named after a president of the college. Though the school closed in 2002, the building has been preserved and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Charles Abner Howard (1939-1947)
Born in Kansas in February of 1881 and educated at Baker University, Charles Howard served as Superintendent of Coos County Schools, Marshfield-Coos Bay Schools, and eventually, Principal of Eugene High School. He was elected to the State Teachers Association in 1922 and was selected as director of the National Education Association in 1925. He was President of Eastern Oregon College of Education from 1927 to 1939. During his tenure as President of Oregon College of Education (OCE), Howard prided himself on the well being of the students and the school. Howard died at his home in Salem, Oregon in 1972.
Henry Martin Gunn (1947-1950)
Henry Martin Gunn was born July 7, 1898 in Lexington, Kentucky and was educated at Oregon Normal School, the University of Oregon, and Stanford University. He served in the Navy in World War One and continued as a sailor on merchant ships following the war. His first teaching job was in Umatilla, Oregon; he was eventually promoted to Assistant Principal. He later moved to Portland, Oregon, where he was Principal of Lincoln High School from 1933 to 1940. He became Superintendent of Portland Schools from 1940-1944 and Superintendent of Eugene School District from 1944-1947.
During Gunn's tenure as college President, the Oregon College of Education experienced a dramatic increase in student enrollment and several construction projects on campus, including: new library construction began (now known as Academic Programs and Support Center), and renovations to the Campus Elementary School building (now known as Information Technology Center) including the North Wing addition and upgrades in plumbing. In 1961, Gunn was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of School Administrators. Along with his extensive work in both public schools and higher education, Gunn also served as president of the Portland City Club, prime minister of Portland’s Rosarians, board member of the Portland Civic Theatre, and board member for Lewis and Clark College. After leaving service at OCE, he accepted a position as Superintendent of Palo Alto School District in California. Palo Alto’s third high school, Henry M. Gunn High School, was named after Gunn. The school opened in 1964 and is still in existence today. Henry Martin Gunn died in his California home in December, 1988.
Roben John Maaske (1950-1955)
Roben John Maaske was born in Bertrand, Nebraska in October of 1903 and attended University of Nebraska, University of Oregon, and University of Minnesota. His first teaching job was in a one-room schoolhouse in Urbana, Nebraska in 1922. Maaske was president of the Department of the American Association for the Advancement of Social and Political Science from 1942 to 1945 and professor of school administration at the University of North Carolina prior to his presidency at Eastern Oregon College of Education.
Maaske's tenure at Oregon College of Education (OCE) was a time of change and growth for the school. Physical changes to the campus during his presidency include completing the construction of the new library (now Academic Programs Service Center), construction of the Wolverton Swimming Pool in Old PE, started construction of the first men's dorm (now known as Maaske Hall), and acquired land for future school expansion. A dedicated and tireless worker, Maaske expected the same from those around him. He authored more than 130 booklets, brochures, and articles during his lifetime. Maaske was a member of many professional and non-professional groups, and was an active member in the Presbyterian Church. In 1953, he was sent to Turkey at the request of the Turkish Ministry of Education. Roben John Maaske died suddenly of a heart attack at his desk in his OCE office on February 19, 1955.
Roy Elwayne Lieuallen (1955-1961)
Roy Elwayne Lieuallen was born in Weston, Oregon in August of 1916 and attended Pacific University, University of Oregon, and Stanford University. He was a science teacher and basketball coach in Pilot Rock, Oregon from 1940 to 1942. After serving 38 months in the Navy, including two years in the South Pacific during World War II, he was released with the rank of Lieutenant, US Naval Reserve, and was awarded a bronze star for his combat performance as a navigation officer.
Lieuallen was active in the Methodist Church, Phi Delta Kappa fraternity, and multiple higher education organizations on both the state and federal level. He served as administrator in charge during Roben J. Maaske’s tenure when President Maaske travelled to Turkey to meet with the Turkish Ministry of Education. Lieuallen held the position of registrar and coordinator of instruction at Oregon College of Education from 1946 until the death of President Roben John Maaske in February of 1955. He then acted as administrator in charge until he was officially inaugurated as the college’s fourteenth president on February 5, 1956.
For over half a decade, President Lieuallen saw the expansion of campus boundaries through the purchase of land in lots and acreages from Monmouth Avenue to Stadium Drive north of Church Street, and other small lots in other directions. He oversaw steady growth of the campus to keep up with increasing enrollment. After his tenure as college President, he held the position of Chancellor of the State System of Higher Education. As chancellor, Lieuallen steered the state university system through an era of calm and tempest; a time when campuses expanded rapidly to absorb the incoming tide of baby boomers, and faced the upset of student anti-war protests. Lieuallen was praised widely for meeting the challenges with equanimity. He was Chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education for twenty years; filling the post longer than anyone previously had. The administration building on campus is named after him. Roy Elwayne Lieuallen died in a Portland-area residential care home due to an age-related illness on April 20, 2005.
Ellis Arnold Stebbins (1961-1962)
Ellis Arnold Stebbins was born March 14, 1900 in Ellsworth, Iowa and attended Pacific University. Stebbins occupied many different positions over his forty-year tenure on Oregon College of Education (OCE) campus, including Assistant to the President, Dean of Administration, Business Manager, and Interim President. He was known for his expertise about the college history and was respected by all.
Stebbins began his long career at the college by filling what was initially intended to be a temporary position as secretary and assistant to President Joseph Samuel Landers. When he began at the college, it was still a two-year Normal School. During his tenure at on campus he saw the student population shrink to only 117 due to the Great Depression and World War II, then its resurgence during the post-war era and saw the institution become a four-year college.
Most controversially, Stebbins allowed the General Secretary of the U.S. Communist Party, Gus Hall, to speak on campus in 1962, which sparked protests and outrage. He received hate mail for months, including letters addressed to "Comrade Stebbins." Stebbins believed Hall’s right to free speech was crucial for showing the importance of academic freedom and intellectual discourse. He issued a manifesto defending those principles on February 6, 1962. For his stand on the Gus Hall controversy, Stebbins was nominated for the Meiklejohn Award, given each year by the American Association of University Professors to the “person in higher education who contributes most significantly to academic freedom.”
Stebbins was a central figure at the college from 1928 until 1968 when he retired as Dean of Administration. His forty-year tenure saw him serve the institution, through the terms of office of seven college presidents. After his long professional service to the institution, Stebbins helped to facilitate the one hundred-year time capsule unveiling in 1971. Stebbins was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the Oregon State Employees Association, and "Man of the Year" by the City of Monmouth. He served on the Monmouth City Council. During his retirement, Stebbins wrote a book called The OCE Story, which described the history of the college from the mid-19th century beginnings to the late 1960s. The book was later expanded by Professor Gary Huxford and renamed Since 1856… Historical Views of the College at Monmouth. Ellis Stebbins is credited for establishing the university archives. Ellis Stebbins died in Salem, Oregon on June 1, 1992.
Leonard William Rice (1962-1977)
Leonard William Rice was born in Garland, Utah on December 9, 1913. He attended Brigham Young University and the University of Washington. Between earning his Master's degree and his Doctorate, Rice served in WWII. He was assigned as a cryptographer to General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters in the South Pacific during the war. As a cryptographer, Rice was responsible for encoding and decoding the final surrender terms between Japan and the United States that ended hostilities in the Pacific.
Rice has been, thus far, the longest serving president with a 15 year tenure. He oversaw construction of many new campus buildings as well as a large increase in enrollment. Within months of Rice's arrival, the Columbus Day Storm destroyed the South Wing of Campbell Hall and Bell Tower, eliminating almost half of the school's classroom space as well as the only auditorium on campus. The construction of the Humanities and Social Science building, replacing the South Wing of Campbell Hall, was the first of many physical improvements to campus under Rice's leadership. The Health Center (1963), Education Building (1966), Natural Sciences Building (1970), New Physical Education (1971) and Valsetz Dining Hall (1971), a remodel of the Student Center (now known as the Werner University Center) (1972), and the construction of a new auditorium facility (1976), named Rice Auditorium in his honor are highlight the growth of the campus during his fifteen-year presidency.
Rice supported an expansion of the institution’s reputation from being a teaching college to being a liberal arts college, without losing the charm or history of the former. He stated that “This institution is in varying degrees a college of education, a state college, a community college, and a liberal arts college. To ignore any one of these roles in an era when the thrust in higher education seems surely to be increasingly upon more post-high-school educational opportunities for more people and more kinds of people appears to me to weaken the promise of increased importance which this institution might enjoy in the future.”
Rice was one of many college presidents who sent a telegram to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, in 1970, calling for channels of communication to be opened between campuses and the federal government. This was motivated by the death of four students at Kent State University by National Guardsmen during a student-led protest against the Vietnam War. During a student protest at OCE, which was a reaction to the Kent State tragedy, Dr. Rice met with the approximately 200 protesters on campus and spoke with them for over an hour, often agreeing with their sentiments. Leonard William Rice died in Salem, Oregon in August of 1986.
Gerald Leinwand (1977-1982)
Gerald Leinwand was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1921 and attended New York University and Columbia University. Prior to coming to Oregon to serve as college President, Leinwand was Dean of Education at Baruch College in New York City. He authored more than 40 books, including The Pageant of World History, a textbook in use throughout the United States, in publication for 35 years. He oversaw the name of the institution from Oregon College of Education to Western Oregon State College (WOSC) in 1981, to promote it as more than simply an education college. Along with preserving the college as a teaching school, Leinwand also sought to create more programs which promoted other careers, such as social work, law enforcement, criminal justice, public administration, and healthcare. The constant fight for funding and enrollment was tiring for him. In 1982, after five years of being President, Leinwand retired from WOSC and returned to New York City. He died in New York on January 30, 2015. He is buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Ridgewood, NY.
James Beaird (1982-1983)
James H. Beaird was born in Broadwater, Nebraska in 1932. He served as interim president from September 1, 1982 to January 31, 1983. He began his career at the college in 1962 when he was hired as a faculty member. In 1977, Beaird was promoted to College Provost by President Roy Leinwand. He served as Provost until 1982, when he became Interim President until 1983. Beaird oversaw the merging of the teaching programs at Western Oregon State College and Oregon State University. The merger lasted five years, which was much longer than Beaird's five-month tenure as interim President, and was seen as a success under the circumstances of lowering budgets and state government-driven reforms. He was replaced as president the following year and returned to the classroom as a psychology professor.
Richard S. Meyers (1983-1993)
Richard S. Meyers was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended DePaul University and University of Southern California. Meyers spent three years in Tokyo as a Civil Service employee of the Air Force before his work in education and higher learning. Prior to becoming President at Western Oregon State College (WOSC), Meyers had worked for the California Community Colleges and was involved with designing a junior college program in California. He left a position at Pasadena City College to become President of WOSC.
Meyers, upon arriving as the new president, faced the Oregon State Legislature considering the possibility of converting the college into a prison. Three days after being hired as president, Meyers found himself in front of the Oregon State Legislature, arguing to keep the college open. In 1986, he finished negotiating a deal to create the Oregon Public Safety Academy on campus. The Oregon Public Safety Academy is the home of the training facility for both state troopers and local police officers in Oregon and has since moved to new facilities in Salem. President Meyers secured the lease for the Oregon Military Academy, the first armed services training center on a four-year degree-granting university campus in the country. The revenue generated from the academies allowed the university to build MacArthur Field. The new state of the art field, track, and grandstands replaced Memorial Stadium, which had burned to the ground in dramatic fashion in 1978.
Under Meyers’ leadership, degrees in business and computer science were added within his first year as WOSC president. Meyers initiated and signed a sister college agreement with Shih Chien College in Taipei, Taiwan in 1983, which encouraged and facilitated faculty and student exchange, traveling to Taiwan to confirm and promote the exchange agreement. In 1986, Meyers went on an education mission to China with other members of the Oregon State System of Higher Education, visiting several cities and universities. He took special interest in finding potential sister agreements to establish more exchange programs. Meyers attended other overseas educational missions to Ukraine, South Korea, and Australia.
Under Meyers’ influence, the college decentralized its administration to include students, parents, faculty, and administrators in decision-making processes. During Meyers’ tenure as president, the college established a School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Meyers was named 1993 Man of the Year in the Itemizer-Observer. By the end of Meyers’ tenure, twelve new degree programs had been established at the college. After turning down a number of job offers to be President at other colleges, including offers from colleges in Arizona and Rhode Island, President Meyers accepted the President position at Webster University, a private institution in St. Louis, Missouri. He later left Webster University in 2008 for a President position at Fielding Graduate University until his retirement in 2013.
Bill Cowart (1994-1995)
Born in Texas, in August of 1932, Bill Cowart attended Texas A&I (now Texas A&M University–Kingsville) as well as the University of Texas. Between earning his master’s degree and going for his doctorate, Cowart taught public school for two years. Prior to his time at Western, Cowart had been president of Laredo State University in Texas (now Texas A&M International University) for 15 years.
Cowart came to Monmouth in 1984 after a nationwide search to find a new Provost for Western Oregon State College (WOSC). As Provost, Cowart led a project to develop standards for teachers who would work in schools transformed by Oregon’s school reform act. He also was involved in a project which defined teacher effectiveness based on what students learned. Though he, like Richard Meyers, was unable to permanently close Monmouth Avenue, Cowart did successfully lobby for the installment of speed bumps to reduce the speed of vehicle traffic through campus. During his time in Monmouth, Dr. Cowart's passion for music grew, and he joined the Luckiamute River String Band in 1987 where he played the bass. He retired from his position as Provost in 1994, and agreed to be Interim President of the university until a permanent replacement was found in 1995.
Betty J. Youngblood (1995-2002)
Youngblood had twenty-six years of working in higher education prior to becoming President of Western Oregon State College (WOSC). Prior to coming to Western, she had been chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Youngblood was the first female President at WOSC and the second female President in the Oregon State System of Higher Education.
While at Western, Dr. Youngblood focused on setting budget priorities on marketing the institution at a time when resources were scarce and needs were many. The results were increased enrollment and the beginning of new academic programs which better suited the needs of students. She also guided the change in the school’s name to Western Oregon University (WOU).
During Youngblood’s tenure, degree programs in theater, dance, and music were implemented. Youngblood raised money for various building improvements and additions. One of her greatest accomplishments was the realization of a new 76,000 square-foot library, dedicated as Hamersly Library in September 2000, in which a conference room bears her name. In 2002, President Youngblood accepted the position of President at Lake Superior State University in Michigan. Dr. Youngblood has since continued to play an active role in higher education in the United States. She has authored several publications and has been involved with a variety of activities involving the United States and Indian governments. She was active with groups such as the YMCA, American Cancer Society, and the Salvation Army in her community.
Philip W. Conn (2002-2005)
Philip W. Conn was born in Decatur, Alabama on January 4, 1942 and attended Berea College, the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague, University of Tennessee, and University of Southern California. During his career, Conn was Field Representative for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) in Washington, D.C., Vice President of Research and Development at Morehead State University, Vice President for University Advancement at Central Missouri State University, President of Dickinson State University, and Chancellor at the University of Tennessee—all before becoming President of Western Oregon University in 2002.
President Conn focused on expanding student services and activities, extending the university’s outreach toward serving the region’s increasingly diverse population. He also championed the establishment of a Staff Senate and initiated a university-wide strategic planning process for WOU. Under his tenure, Western boasted the largest enrollment in its history up to that time, with more than 5,000 students during the 2002-03 school year. He retired in 2005.
John P. Minahan (2005-2011)
Dr. John P. Minahan was initially appointed interim president of Western Oregon University (WOU) in August of 2005, before being appointed to the permanent position on December 1, 2006. He had been University Provost from 1986 to 1998. Enrollment blossomed during Minahan’s term. Many students during his presidential tenure were the first generation in their family to attend college. Minahan was instrumental in building WOU’s academic stature as well as its financial stability. He developed strong ties between WOU and China, as well as recruiting students from around the globe, increasing the number of international students in attendance at WOU. John P. Minahan was referred to as the soul of WOU. He retired in 2011.
Mark Weiss (2011-2015)
Mark Weiss was born in Bergen-Belsen in 1949. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology/animal science and a master’s degree in business administration, both at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Weiss had never worked in higher education prior to coming to work at Western in 2005 as the new executive vice president of finance administration. He was appointed Interim President of Western when John Minahan retired in 2011, and was asked to stay on as full-time President in 2012-15. During his tenure, he saw four new buildings erected: the Health and Wellness Center, Ackerman Hall, DeVolder Family Science Center, and the groundbreaking for the Richard Woodcock College of Education building. He increased the amount of student financial aid, academic advising and tutoring centers, and health services—particularly counseling.
Previous to joining WOU, Weiss served nine years as a senior manager and certified public accountant with the independent public accounting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick in New York City, and seventeen years with the international electronics firm Siemens in positions including Senior Vice President, administration and finance, and corporate director of Siemens Power Corporation. Weiss was actively involved in community activities in Washington State before moving to Oregon, including serving on hospital, symphony, economic development, educational, and other charitable boards of directors.
During Weiss’s tenure as president, the university saw much progress and accolades given to it. This included the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs award to the Teaching Research Institute of $10.5 million grant to operate the National Center on Deaf-Blindness. Weiss is a first generation American. His parents were the sole Holocaust survivors of their respective families and knew no English when they migrated to the United States. Their story as immigrants and survivors impacted Mark Weiss greatly—which inspired Weiss to put emphasis on helping first generation U.S. citizens and to serve students who speak English as a second language.
Rex Fuller (2015-2021)
The 23rd President of Western Oregon University, Rex Fuller, attended California State University – Chico and University of Utah. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Utah and completed the Institute for Education Management program at Harvard. Before taking his position as Western Oregon University, he served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Eastern Washington University. Prior to that, he was Executive Dean and Dean of Business and Public Administration at the same university. From 2000 to 2006, he served as Dean of the Hasan School of Business at Colorado State University. Before that, he was in administration at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
Fuller was the first president to preside over the institution under independent governance under its own board of directors with the disbanding of the Oregon State System of Higher Education (in existence from 1929 to 2015). While a supporter of technological tools for higher learning, including online courses, Fuller expressed his view that a college experience is more than merely an accumulation of credits and has stated that college “has to be more than that if it’s going to personally transform you. Online programs ignore all the other connections in a college experience… At Western, education is transformative and personal. Our role is bright and vibrant going forward.”
Jay Kenton (2021-2022)
Dr Jay Kenton was appointed as the interim president of WOU in July of 2021 and served in that role until the end of Spring term, 2022.
Kenton is an experienced higher education leader in Oregon who has supported several public universities during his career. Among Kenton’s multiple senior administrative posts at Oregon’s public universities, he worked for eight years as vice chancellor for finance and administration and chief financial officer for the Oregon University System and 16 years at Portland State University, where his last position was vice chancellor for finance and administration and chief financial officer. He briefly served as WOU’s interim vice president for finance and administration and interim president at both Oregon Institute of Technology and Eastern Oregon University.
Kenton earned his doctorate in Public Administration from Portland State University, and both a master’s in Education with an emphasis in higher education administration and a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Oregon State University.
Jesse Peters (2022-current)
Dr. Jesse Peters has the distinction of being Western’s 25th president. As a first-generation college student, he believes in the ability of higher education to bring about meaningful change in the world. For Dr. Peters, creating a positive and collaborative environment where faculty and staff work together is critical to an active and productive campus community. Dr. Peters joins Western from Fort Lewis College where he served as the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Interim Provost for one year. He oversaw the development of new programs in Environmental Science, Health Science, Nutrition, Computer Engineering, Borders and Languages, and Musical Theatre. He was instrumental in the reorganization of the school into divisions to increase interdisciplinarity and encourage innovation and collaboration. In 2017, he was awarded a $500,000 Mellon Foundation Grant to promote inclusive pedagogies and strengthen DEI initiatives. Currently, he serves on the National Collegiate Honors Council Honors Semesters Committee as well as the Diversity Committee, and he frequently co-facilitates national faculty institutes on experiential learning. Dr. Peters earned his associates degree at Oxford College of Emory University and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emory University with a bachelors in English. He was awarded his masters in English and his doctorate in English focusing on Native American Literature from the University of New Mexico.