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~ Presidents ~

Richard H. Jesse

Richard H. Jesse

Courtesy of University Archives


Richard Jesse came to the University in 1891. He served as President from 1891-1908. At the age of 38 he was (along with President A. Ross Hill) the youngest President the University has ever had. During his tenure, Jesse oversaw an unprecedented expansion of the University. This expansion is even more remarkable due to the problems he faced with the burning of Academic Hall in 1892. After the fire, the University had no classrooms, but Jesse was undeterred. The next morning public buildings and private residences of the city of Columbia were used as classrooms.

In 1895 Jesse implemented his plan for improving the University. 1895 was a key year, for it was the last time that the legislature of the state would seek to close or move the University. By overcoming this obstacle, Jesse was able to focus his attention on changing the educational mission of the University. He raised admission standards and hiring practices became very competitive, with Jesse actively seeking faculty members that had Ph.Ds. His program was wildly successful and many of the early schools of the University began to grow. By his retirement Jesse had led the expansion of the University to five times the number of buildings and five times the student enrollment.

Jesse was not only a good administrator, but also beloved by the student population. Jesse's health problems began to take their toll in 1905 and acting on the advice of his doctor, he made plans to spend a year in Europe. This was the era of horse drawn carriages, and on the day of his departure, a multitude of students came to his residence. Although his carriage was already prepared for his trip to the station, these students unharnessed the horses and pulled his carriage to the station themselves. He was forced to retire in 1908 due to health problems.

John Ankeney painted Richard Jesse's portrait and Alpha Phi Sigma donated it to the University in 1910. It is currently on display on the seventh floor of Lewis Hall in the University Archives.

Walter Williams

Walter Williams is a man who is known throughout the world. He is best known for his creation of the first School of Journalism in 1908. He served as the Dean of the School until 1930. During this time, he was able to cultivate relationships with Journalism programs around the world including those in China and Europe. He was named President of the University in 1930 and served until 1934, when he retired for health reasons.

Williams's life story is an interesting one. He was born and raised in Boonville, Missouri. From his earliest childhood, he wanted to be a printer of newspapers. Until the age of 12, he refused to write any of his homework, preferring to print everything. He attended school until the age of 13, because that was the highest grade that the school offered. He never attended high school or college. After finishing his education, he gained employment at a local newspaper as a printer. At 18 he was the editor.

Williams's love of Journalism was unquenchable. He always carried a blunt pair of scissors in his breast pocket in case he discovered a particularly good article that he wanted to clip. On the day of his wedding, he was still carrying these scissors. During the ceremony, when the minister asked for him to present the ring, he pulled out the scissors instead. This incident caused Williams to always carry the scissors in his left breast pocket and to avoid all future confusion, no other items were ever put in this pocket.

Walter Williams died in 1935 and that same year the new Journalism building was named in his honor. His national fame was recognized in 1943 when the US Merchant Vessel Liberty Ship was named the Walter Williams. His portrait is located on the seventh floor of Lewis Hall in the University Archives.

Walter Williams

Courtesy of University Archives


Frederick Middlebush

Frederick Middlebush

Courtesy of University Archives


Frederick Middlebush joined the University in 1922 as an Associate Professor of Political Science. In just three years he was named Dean of the School of Business and Public Administration. He became President of the University in 1935. During his tenure, he helped oversee the expansion of the University, including seven new dormitories and the completion of Memorial Union. His tenure as President ended in 1954, the longest tenure in the University's history. Although he was no longer President, he remained with the University as Professor Emeritus of Political Science until 1960, when he retired.

During his time as President, Middlebush enjoyed a simple activity that helped him relax. While he resided in the President's House, Mr. and Mrs. Middlebush kept a ping-pong table in the attic. After particularly long and stressful days, the Middlebushes liked to retire to the attic for some sporting competition.

Charles F. Galt painted the portrait of Middlebush and the Portrait Committee of the Board of Curators presented it to the University in 1954. It is currently located in the University Archives. Middlebush's memory was honored with the renaming of the Business and Public Administration Building as Middlebush Hall in 1971.

Elmer Ellis

Elmer Ellis joined the faculty of the University in 1930 as an Assistant Professor of History. He served as an assistant until 1940 when he was named Professor of History. In 1945, Ellis became the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He served as the Dean for ten years, until he was appointed acting President of the University in 1955. Originally, he would only accept the position of President as a temporary appointment until another person could be found. Gradually his mind changed, and after seven months, he formally accepted the Presidency of the University. For a man who originally did not want the job, Ellis's tenure had a profound effect upon the University. He is given much credit for the most rapid expansion in size, enrollment, academic scope, and national prestige in the University's history.

Elmer Ellis was from North Dakota where he starred in both basketball and baseball in high school. Nationally he is known for his biography of the creator of the Political Satire Cartoon "Mr. Dooley." The University honored his contributions when it renamed its library in 1971, Elmer Ellis Library. Ellis protested naming a building after a man who was still alive.

There are two Elmer Ellis portraits located in Ellis library. This painting is prominently on display just inside of the Lowry Mall Entrance. Former St. Louis Cardinal's baseball player Curt Flood painted this portrait and the Alumni Association donated it to the University in 1971.

Elmer Ellis

Courtesy of Ellis Library


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Copyright © Curators of the University of Missouri 1997 & 2000
Published by: University Archives muarchives.missouri.edu/
Originally Prepared by Blain Cerney: November 2001
Revised: 22 January 2007
URL: http://muarchives.missouri.edu/portrait3.html

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