A look at past UI presidents

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Robert Easter: 2012-present

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Easter currently serves as the University president and has spent nearly 40 years at the University. So far in his term, he has helped stabilize the University after back-to-back resignations by B. Joseph White and Michael Hogan. White served as interim chancellor of the Urbana campus from 2009-2011. He previously served as the dean of the College of ACES and department head of Animal Sciences.

Michael Hogan: 2010-2012

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Hogan’s plans for centralized financial aid and admissions were met with strong disapproval from many faculty members and the Board of Trustees. Students and faulty began petitioning for his dismissal after emails surfaced revealing Hogan’s “bullying” toward Vice President and Chancellor Phyllis Wise. Hogan resigned in 2012 due to strained relations with the board. 

B. Joseph White: 2005-2010

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White was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award from the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations in 2007. White announced his resignation in 2010 following a summer of ongoing clout investigations regarding a Category I admissions scandal. Stanley Ikenberry was selected as the interim president after his resignation. White is currently a James F. Towey Professor of Business and Leadership at the University.

James Stukel: 1995-2005

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Stukel was an alumnus of the University of Illinois, graduating with his master’s and doctorate degrees in engineering before joining the College of Engineering faculty and eventually serving as chancellor of the Urbana campus. In his time as president, Stukel created the Illinois Connection and increased the size of the Chicago campus, leading UIC to name the James Stukel Towers residence hall after him in 2007. Stukel retired in 2005.

Stanley Ikenberry: 1979-1995

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Ikenberry served one of the longest terms in the University’s history with a 16-year tenure. In Urbana-Champaign, Ikenberry led several major academic initiatives, including the creation of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. The diversity on campus increased during his term with the creation of the President’s Scholars Program. After stepping down as president, Ikenberry became a national speaker and professor and serves as the special assistant to the president at the University.

John Corbally: 1971-1979

Corbally became the president in 1971 after serving as the former president and chancellor of Syracuse University. Corbally improved the agriculture and veterinary medicine programs and laid the groundwork for the Chicago campus. He also began the first capital campaign at the university, raising more than $130 million from donors, according to the university.

David Henry: 1955-1971

Henry’s tenure as president saw numerous civil rights and Vietnam War protests, which eventually lead Henry to create the Special Educational Opportunities Program, or Project 500, after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 1968, to improve minority access to the university. The Commerce Building, built in 1912, was renamed the Henry Administration Building after Henry. He retired in 1971 after serving for 16 years, one of the longest presidential tenures in University of Illinois history.

Lloyd Morey: 1953-1955

One of the first educational television stations, WILL-TV, was founded during Morey’s administration and the president participated in a broadcast on its first night on air. In 1956, Morey came out of retirement to become the 22nd Auditor of Public Accounts for the State of Illinois for a six-month period. During his time there, his administration focused on developing the first complete reform accountancy program.

George Stoddard: 1946-1953

Following World War II, Stoddard doubled the faculty by a 24 percent average increase in salary in response to the influx of student enrollment due to returning soldiers. During his time as president the University expanded its library to 2.5 million collections, received a donation of 1,600 landscaped acres and 4,000 acres of farmland and held the first Festival of Contemporary Arts. The Board of Trustees voted “no confidence” in Stoddard in 1953, forcing him to resign after he made a controversial decision to ban research on a possible cancer drug.

Arthur Willard: 1934-1946

When Willard was named president in 1934, he declined to have a traditional inauguration due to the Great Depression. Willard’s research on ventilation helped contribute to the building of the Holland Tunnel in New York City. The University of Illinois’ Willard Airport in Savoy was named after him. Willard retired in 1946.

Arthur Daniels: 1933-1934

Daniels served as acting president after the resignation of Harry Chase.

Harry Chase: 1930-1933

Chase resigned in 1933 after being named chancellor of New York University.

David Kinley: 1920-1930

Kinley, born in Scotland, served as vice president under Edmund James’ administration and eventually rose to acting president in 1919 and president in 1920. During his time at the University of Illinois, Kinley created the Department of Economics, helped raise funds to build Memorial Stadium and proposed a bill to increase education appropriation that was passed by the state legislature. Kinley resigned in 1930 after reaching the maximum age of retirement. David Kinley Hall, completed in 1925, was named after him.

Edmund James: 1904-1920

James’ main focus during his 16-year tenure was improving the University of Illinois’ relationship with China. James created the first collegiate office for foreign students and founded housing for Chinese students. He also established the University of Illinois Press and created University Laboratory High School in Urbana. The James Scholar program was named after him, and James was offered a leave of absence after he fell ill.

Andrew Draper: 1894-1904

Draper was the first to lead the University of Illinois with the title of president rather than regent, and was a powerful asset with his distinguished career in both law and education. Draper constructed a house for the University president and added numerous educational buildings on campus. He also modified the institution’s administrative organization during his term, and created a set of rules that detailed the duties of the treasurer, business manager and secretary. Draper resigned in 1904 to become the first Commissioner of Education in New York.

Thomas Burrill: 1891-1894

Burrill became regent in 1891 and was well-known as a professor for his work in botany. Once he became regent, he immediately addressed student unrest by lifting the ban on fraternities and declaring military drill no longer mandatory. He also created a tenure system for faculty, and added physical improvements to the campus, such as installing electric lights and paving the streets. Burrill served the institution for nearly 50 years before retiring.

Selim Peabody: 1880-1891

Peabody started his career at the University as a professor of mechanical engineering and physics. At the time of his tenure, the University was rebounding from an economic depression which put them in mounting debt, and Peabody navigated the University back into a steady financial footing. He also changed the University’s name from the Illinois Industrial University to the University of Illinois in 1885. Peabody resigned after facing student unrest over issues such as compulsory chapel attendance and a ban on fraternities.

John Milton Gregory: 1867-1880

Gregory became the first regent of the Illinois Industrial University after a member of the Board of Trustees heard him speak at a convention. The University opened on March 2, 1868, with about 50 students and two faculty members, but later increased in size to nearly 450 students and 30 faculty. Gregory’s proposed curriculum promoted liberal arts, as well as agricultural and industrial education. He also advocated for self-government for the students, including a court system and a constitution. Gregory was later buried on campus, between Altgeld Hall and the Henry Administration Building, following his death.