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Nineteen presidents have served Knox College since 1837.
1. Hiram H. Kellogg, 1841-1845
Hiram Kellogg came to Knox from the Domestic Seminary at Clinton, New York, which he had founded. Arriving in Galesburg, Kellogg discovered there was little to be president of -- the college had only two buildings, neither of them on the site of the campus, and one was destroyed by fire in 1843; the first class would not graduate until 1846. To occupy his time Kellogg built a hotel -- where Abraham Lincoln would later spend the night prior to his debate at Knox with Stephen Douglas. Kellogg traveled to London in an attempt to raise funds at a meeting of the International Anti-Slavery Society. But the largely fruitless quest took him away from campus for close to a year, and led to his departure from Knox and return to New York.
2. Jonathan Blanchard, 1845-1857
Jonathan Blanchard attracted new students, secured substantial contributions, and hired three faculty who would lead the College for the balance of the 19th century -- Albert Hurd, George Churchill and Milton Comstock. Improvements to campus included Old Main and the Female Seminary, later known as Whiting Hall, as well as a new residential building -- all completed in 1857. But his successful management was marred by a long and bitter fight with college founder George Washington Gale over whose denomination would control the College -- Blanchard's Congregationalists or Gale's Presbyterians. Gale prevailed, and Blanchard left Knox to become the founding president of Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois.
3. Harvey Curtis, 1858-1862
To succeed Blanchard, Harvey Curtis was chosen by the Presbyterian faction. His administration is most remembered for forging Knox's formal connections with Abraham Lincoln. The senatorial debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in October 1858 drew the largest audience among the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates and featured a massive banner, "Knox College for Lincoln," on the side of Old Main. Knox also awarded Lincoln an honorary doctorate in 1860. It came in the midst of Lincoln's presidential bid -- the first honorary doctorate awarded by Knox, and Lincoln's first academic credential of any kind. College and town founder George Washington Gale died in 1861. Curtis became ill and died in office in 1862.
Acting President: John G. Sanburn, 1863
John G. Sanburn is considered a founding father of both Knox College and Knoxville. After moving to Knoxville in the spring of 1832 with his stock of goods and a new bride, he was prominent in civic affairs. Sanburn was the first county clerk, first clerk of the circuit court, first recorder, first probate judge, first postmaster of Knoxville and later in his life, was the treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Knox College. Sanburn died in 1865 on April 15, the same day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
4. William S. Curtis, 1863-1868
Classes in Knox's Preparatory Academy (high school) had been co-educational from the beginning, and Knox had been unofficially moving toward co-education in its regular curriculum as well. After the Civil War, which had depleted many colleges of male students, Knox president William Curtis sought to reverse the trend. In 1867, he attempted to spin off the Female Seminary into a separate college, headed by the Seminary's principal, Lydia Howard. Howard, who would later become the first president of the faculty at Wellesley College, resigned. Protesting in support of Howard, Knox students refused to attend class, which then forced Curtis's resignation.
Acting President: Edward Beecher, 1868
Edward Beecher graduated from Yale in 1822 as valedictorian of his class and an elected member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1830, he came West to become president of Illinois College in Jacksonville. Beecher served there until 1844, when he came to Galesburg. Heavily involved in the establishment of the first anti-slavery society in Illinois, his house in Galesburg hid more than one slave traveling on the Underground Railroad. Beecher also urged his sister to write a book about slavery. She heeded his advice; Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe would later become famous around the world, sparking the American Civil War. Edward Beecher died on July 28, 1895.
5. John P. Gulliver, 1868-1872
John Gulliver brought considerable experience in education and recruited new faculty, including Mary Ives Seymour, who taught French music and "light gymnastics"; and professor of English and political science John William Burgess of Amherst, the guardian of famed poet Eugene Field, who attended Knox for two years. Gulliver also made Knox fully co-educational, though the sexes were still seated separately in chapel and classrooms. When expenses exceeded income, Gulliver offered to serve without salary and take his pay from the tuitions of new students he would bring to the College. When trustees refused, Gulliver resigned.
Acting President: Albert Hurd, 1872-1875
Born in Kemptville, Ontario, on November 6, 1823, Albert Hurd graduated from Middlebury College in 1850. After graduation, he worked as a natural sciences lecturer at Knox from 1851-54. Hurd was soon named professor of chemistry and physical science, a position that he filled until 1897, when he became professor of Latin and geology. Hurd continued to teach until the day he died.
6. Newton Bateman, 1875-1892
Newton Bateman came to Knox having been the first Illinois State Superintendent of Education. He introduced few innovations, but won the affection of faculty and students, and his term was the second-longest in Knox history. He brought Maria Whiting to head the Female Seminary, and the building was named Whiting Hall in her honor after she raised funds for its expansion in the 1880s. Through his acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, Bateman secured a program of "military drill" -- a predecessor to the Army ROTC program. Alumni Hall was added to the campus in 1890, with the cornerstone laid by U.S. President Benjamin Harrison.
7. John Huston Finley, 1892-1899
John H. Finley completed a bachelor's degree at Knox in 1887 and five years later, following graduate study at Johns Hopkins, was named president of Knox. He was the youngest president of any American college at the time, the first Knox president who was an alumnus of the College, and the first who was not an ordained minister. He had a flair for the effective publicity -- three United States presidents visited the college at his invitation. Finley inaugurated the celebration of Founder's Day and raised the prominence of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate anniversary -- marked in 1898 by a visit from U.S. President William McKinley and his entire cabinet. Laboratory science had been taught at Knox since the construction of Old Main in 1857; under Finley, biology, physics, philosophy and chemistry were formally added to the curriculum. Finley left Knox for New York, where he served as president of City College, as state commissioner of education, and later as editor in chief of The New York Times.
Acting President: Thomas Rigney Willard, 1899-1900
Thomas Rigney Willard received a bachelor's degree at Knox in 1866, then immediately taught Latin & Greek in the Knox Academy. He studied at the Chicago Theological Seminary from 1867-1868 and Andover Theological Seminary from 1868-1870. Willard studied at the University of Leipsig from 1873-1875. He returned to Knox in 1875 as a professor of Greek and German from 1875-1903. He became a professor of German in 1903-1912. In 1899 Willard became dean of the college and acting president when President Finley left Knox for educational and editorial work in New York. He was known as the patron saint of Knox athletics. According to an article in the Knox Alumnus of Fall of 1959, the present "Flunk Day" may date back to a May morning when all students abandoned classes to work on Willard Field in honor of the beloved dean.
8. Thomas McClelland, 1900-1917
Before coming to Knox, Thomas McClelland taught philosophy at Tabor College in Iowa and served as president of Pacific University in Oregon. He emphasized scholarship at Knox, and his endowment projects were promotions for higher academic standards and better salaries for faculty. Andrew Carnegie made him a member of the board of the Carnegie Foundation, and this connection and others brought some large gifts and inspired others. Galesburg honored him for bringing $50,000 of Carnegie funds for the city's public library. A new gymnasium and the George Davis Science Hall were built during his administration. Among the noteworthy innovations in other fields was the installation in 1916-17 of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa -- the third in Illinois and the first in the state at a liberal arts college.
Acting President: William E. Simonds, 1917
When Simonds began teaching at Knox, the college was emerging from a long period of academic and financial depression. He is greatly credited with Knox's revitalization, described as "part and parcel," "factor and result," of Knox's return. Simonds held several positions throughout his time with the college. From 1889-1903 he was professor of English literature and instructor in German. From there, he began his administrative career as secretary of the faculty. Finally, Simonds would serve as dean of the College until his death in June of 1930.
9. James L. McConaughy, 1918-1925
James McConaughy came to Knox from the education department of Dartmouth College, with ideas that disturbed some of the teaching staff at Knox. But it was time for a change, and McGonaughy revised both the curriculum and regulations on campus life. His administration wiped out all traces of the 19th-century "prairie college" -- completing a modernization that had begun with Finley. A significant share of social discipline was turned over to the students, to the great improvement of morale.
Acting President: CE McKinley, 1925
Born in 1870, Charles E. McKinley was an Iowa native. He graduated from Grinnell in 1891 with Phi Beta Kappa standing. McKinley received theological training from Andover Theological Seminary and earned a doctor of divinity degree from Grinnell in 1921. While serving as a faculty member at Knox from 1922-1926, McKinley was noted for his lectures on biblical literature. He also served as a college trustee from 1918-1926.
10. Albert Britt, 1925-1936
An Illinois native, Albert Britt had edited magazines and books in New York. He stimulated the interest in athletics and was popular with the students and in the community. He had to cope with the Great Depression, trimming expenses with great tact, including a 20 percent reduction in faculty salaries. Despite the national economy, plans were made to celebrate the 100th birthday of the College in 1937, and Old Main was restored during the 1930s through the leadership of Janet Greig Post, an alumna of the College, former Dean of Women and the first woman to serve on the Board of Trustees.
11. Carter Davidson, 1936-1946
Carter Davidson took office just before Knox's celebration of its centenary in 1937, which developed into an elaborate pageant and program, and attracted widespread publicity. Coming to Knox from Carleton College, he updated the curriculum and raised faculty salaries. In addition to coping with lingering effects of the Great Depression, the Davidson administration also was shadowed by the Second World War -- including the only year, 1945, with an all-women graduating class. During the war, Knox hosted an Army Air Cadet training corps. After the war, the college built special living quarters, affectionately known as "The Shacks" to accommodate the influx of married veterans.
Acting President: Harold Way, 1946
Harold Way began teaching at Knox two years after receiving his bachelor of science degree in 1925. While acting as professor of physics from 1927-1947, he completed a doctorate at the University of Iowa. He also served as an administrator to the national science foundation. His efforts are credited with bringing Knox through the difficulties of World War II. The Knox Alumni Association recognized his ability and merit with an Alumni Achievement Award in 1943.
12. Lyndon O. Brown, 1947-1948
An economist and author of several college textbooks, Lyndon Brown left the leadership of Stewart, Brown and Associates, a marketing and distribution research organization, to become president of Knox. A graduate of Carleton College, he had taught at Northwestern University and brought to Knox plans for expansion, development and modernization. But he clashed with the faculty, and after 18 months in Galesburg, he resigned to re-enter his special field of marketing research in New York.
Acting President: Kellogg D. McClelland, 1948-49
A 1905 graduate of Knox and member of Phi Delta Theta, Kellogg McClelland's first major college success was winning the Lawrence Prize in freshman Latin. Later in life, he would act as a Knox College trustee for many years. After the death of Albert J. Perry in 1915, McClelland was chosen to be the next treasurer of the college. He was honored in 1938 for his valued contribution to Galesburg's Testimonial Fund to Knox. McClelland passed away on April 6, 1967.
13. Sharvy G. Umbeck, 1949-1973
Born and educated in Illinois, Sharvy Umbeck had been dean at The College of William and Mary; his 24-year tenure at Knox is the longest in College history. In 1958, the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debates brought recognition and distinguished visitors to campus. Among the capital improvements of 1950s were Memorial Gymnasium; new men's and women's dormitories; and expansions of Seymour Library and Seymour Union. The 1960s brought new track, football and baseball fields; the Ford Center for the Fine Arts Center in 1964 and the Science-Mathematics Center, completed in 1970 and later named in Umbeck's memory. Umbeck died unexpectedly in 1973. Hermann Muelder, a 1937 Knox graduate, renowned historian and long-time faculty member, served one year as interim president.
Acting President: Lewis Salter, 1973
Lewis S. Salter was born on February 24, 1926 in Norman, Oklahoma. After earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Oklahoma, he served in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant, infantry, from 1943-1946. In addition to being a Rhodes Scholar, Salter also earned bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from Oxford University in theoretical physics. He was at Knox from 1967-1978, during that time acting as professor of physics, dean of the college, vice president for academic affairs, and executive vice president. Salter wrote numerous scientific articles and a physics textbook, and he was a visiting scientist at top research labs in the United States and Canada.
Acting President: Hermann R. Muelder, 1973-1974
Hermann R. Muelder served at Knox as director of general education, professor of history, and chairman of the history department from 1956-1967. He was a 1927 graduate of Knox and began teaching here in 1934. Muelder retired from teaching in 1974 when he was named honorary trustee and college historian. He was the center of a nationwide event when he famously called for the abolition of the "home run" rule in baseball. Muelder received the Alumni Achievement Award in 1974.
14. E. Inman Fox, 1974-1982
Prior to coming to Knox in 1974, Inman Fox had been dean of Vassar College. Under Fox, Knox's endowment nearly tripled, an accomplishment that generated a case study on the role of presidential leadership by the National Center on Higher Education Management. Fox left Knox to assume the chairmanship of Hispanic Studies -- his academic specialty -- at Northwestern University, and in 1985 he was awarded The Cross of the Order of Queen Isabella the Catholic for his contribution to Spanish literature and culture.
15. John McCall, 1982-1993
A noted scholar of Chaucer, John McCall had been professor and chair of English, then provost, at the University of Cincinnati. McCall initiated a comprehensive strategic planning process that examined the College's curriculum and administrative structure. He made two especially controversial decisions -- in the academic field, he eliminated the major in geology; in athletics, he dropped the College's long-time sports nickname that some felt was an ethnic slur against Native Americans and others viewed as harmless nostalgia. During McCall's tenure, Knox completed the $24-million Sesquicentennial Capital Development Program -- a five-year fund-raising effort that included restoration of Seymour Library, construction of T. Fleming Fieldhouse and increases to academic and student scholarship endowments.
16. Rick Nahm, 1993-1998
Prior to coming to Knox, Rick Nahm was vice president for development at the University of Pennsylvania. During his time at Knox, the College endowment increased to $43 million and enrollment grew from 900 to nearly 1,200. Collaborating with Carl Sandburg College and the Galesburg School District, Nahm established the George Washington Gale Scholars program, which supports academically promising first-generation and low-income youth through mentoring, community service and college scholarships. Nahm left Knox to take the position of senior vice president of Colonial Williamsburg. Morton W. Weir -- a Knox graduate, chair of the Knox Board of Trustees and chancellor emeritus of the University of Illinois -- served for most of 1998 as interim president of the College.
Acting President: Morton Weir, 1998
Graduating from Knox cum laude in 1955, Morton Weir was a pre-medicine major turned psychologist. He received an M.A. in experimental psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1958 and his Ph.D. in the same field a year later. Weir was a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 11 years before going into administration, serving as chancellor of UIUC for six years and then as a senior consultant at the University of Illinois Foundation. He was also a fellow of the American Psychological Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Weir was given the Knox Alumni Achievement Award in 1973.
17. Richard S. Millman, 1999-2001
Richard Millman came to Knox from Whittier College, where he had served as provost, dean of faculty, and professor of mathematics. Shortly before he assumed office, the College embarked on the Knox Now! Campaign, a $125 million campaign to increase funds for student scholarships, faculty salaries, academic programs and campus improvements. Millman resigned the presidency in 2001 to return to teaching, eventually leaving Knox for the University of Kentucky.
Acting President: Roger Taylor, 2001-2002
18. Roger L. Taylor, 2002-2011
Roger Taylor came to the presidency of Knox through an unusual route. After graduating in 1963 from Knox -- where he met his wife Anne (Zweifel) also Class of 1963 -- he served in the United States Navy, received a law degree from Northwestern University and practiced law in Chicago for 30 years with the firm of Kirkland & Ellis, before retiring to his family farm south of Galesburg in 1999. While Taylor initially agreed to serve temporarily as interim president after Richard Millman's departure, "Hire Roger" buttons began appearing on campus, and in February 2002, he was selected as Knox's 18th president. Taylor articulated three goals for his tenure: "nurturing academic excellence, strengthening institutional self-confidence, and charting a course toward financial impregnability." During his time in office, enrollment increased from 1,000 to more than 1,400; academic, athletic and residential facilities were expanded and renovated; and the curriculum was revised to better express the educational mission of the College and meet the needs of today's students.
19. Teresa L. Amott 2011- 2021
The first woman to hold the office of President of Knox College, Teresa Amott comes to Knox from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where she served as provost and dean of the faculty. She received her bachelor's degree in economics from Smith College and her Ph.D. in economics from Boston College. Her research is in the field of labor economics, and her academic career includes teaching at Wellesley College and the University of Massachusetts, and faculty and administrative positions at Bucknell University and Gettysburg College.
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