University of Iowa Presidents' Quotes

Quotes from Prior University of Iowa Presidents
Professor Judith Pascoe
October 21, 2015

[Note: During September and October of 2015 there was widespread criticism of the Iowa Board of Regents' process, and ultimate selection of Bruce Harreld, as president of the University of Iowa. For a repository of well over 200 documents, news stories, and published opinion pieces from this time, see "Business Background: Enough for University President," Sept. 2-Oct. 31, 2015.

On October 21 there was a community protest both outside and inside the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City, where the Board of Regents was meeting. One of the most effective contrasts between the University's past and newly selected presidents was provided by the accomplished Professor Judith Pascoe from the English Department -- in the form of signs bearing quotations from the school's earlier presidents. Those quotes have been kindly provided me by Professor Pascoe in order that her historic research might continue to be available here.

As I wrote at that time, "When policy is driven by ideology, rather than history and data, it can produce an ISIS-like destruction of a society’s greatest treasures. And 'the university,' as an idea in virtually all nations and cultures, with its evolution over the millennia, is as worthy of protection from ideologically-driven destruction as Iraq’s antiquities." Nicholas Johnson, "Better Ways to Pick a New UI President," The Gazette, September 27, 2015, p. C5 ("Don’t it always seem to go/That you don't know what you've got/‘Til it's gone" -- Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi).

-- Nicholas Johnson, October 31, 2015]

1) Amos Dean: “Education is, or should be, the cultivation of the mental faculties.” (Lectures on Phrenology, 1835) [Photo Credit: Nicholas Johnson; Portion of Crowd at Community Protest of Board of Regents, Iowa City, Oct. 21, 2015.]

2) Silas Totten: “The University, from the beginning, should be made the best Institution in the State.” (Address on University Education, 1860)

3) Oliver Spencer: “I would recommend that the salaries . . . be raised . . . with the exception of my own, which should be somewhat lower.” (University Archives, 1863 Report to Board of Trustees)

full Spencer quote: “I would recommend that the salaries of all the officers and teachers of the institution should be raised to the Standard of 1861-2 with the exception of my own, which should be somewhat lower.”

4) James Black [couldn’t find a quote from him]

6) Josiah Pickard: “With love of liberty our forefathers recognized intelligence as requisite to its maintenance” (Historical Sketch of the State University of Iowa, repr. 1899)

7) Charles Schaeffer: “Whether the institution is to grow and prosper must depend on the efforts of friends.” (University Archives, 1888 Report to Board of Regents) [Photo Credit: Nicholas Johnson; Display of Quotes on Signs at Community Protest of Board of Regents, Iowa City, Oct. 21, 2015.]

8) George MacLean: “The university belongs to all people without distinction of class.” (University Archives, 1901 Report to Board of Regents)

9) John Bowman: “I would always be kind and beneficial and be honored and do good.” (The World That Was, 1947)

10) Thomas Huston Macbride: “And so the man of Science and the Poet have much in common.” (“The Botany of Shakespeare,” A Paper Read Before The Contemporary Club, Davenport, Iowa, 1899)

11) Walter Jessup: “Education is Iowa’s never-ending frontier.” (Sally Mason says that Willard Boyd is fond of quoting this Walter Jessup quote in her 21 December 2007 Graduate College Commencement address.)

12) Eugene Gilmore: A university cannot suffer a continuing loss of support and remain the same university. (Reported in John C. Gerber’s A Pictorial History of the University of Iowa, 2005. Gerber writes, “When he took office in 1934 President Gilmore had lost no time in appealing to members of the legislature and the Board of Education to reverse the downward slide. As dean of the College of Law he had come to know many of them personally, and as a high officer in the Philippine colonial government he had learned how to work with governing bodies. A university cannot suffer a continuing loss of support, he argued, and remain the same university.”)

13) Virgil Hancher: “Education is an investment in the future.” (February 1961 State of the University Address, qtd. in Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, University of Iowa Press Digital Editions) full Hancher quote: “Education is an investment in the future. Iowa can afford it. It affords anything that it wants. Of all that is good, Iowa can afford the best. But it may be required to make some hard and wise decisions in order to do so.”]

14) Howard Bowen: “[O]ne of the first things I did was to encourage the formation of the Faculty Senate.” (Oral history interview with Howard R. Bowen, carried out by James Beilman for the University of Iowa Libraries, February 6, 1977)

15) Willard Boyd: “Consulation must be real, not cosmetic.” (“Museums as Centers of Controversy,” 1999)

16) James Freedman: “When the ground seems to shake and shift beneath us, liberal education provides perspective.”

17) Hunter Rawlings: “[T]he fundamental value of a college degree lies in planting the seeds of lifelong learning.” (Hunter R. Rawlings III and Lilian Aoki, “A College Education Is About More Than a First Job,” Huff Post College, posted 31 January 2013 I’m not sure if this is the quote I used—the poster didn’t get returned to me and I can’t find a photograph of it.

18) Mary Sue Coleman: “A college education . . . has a catalytic effect of geometric proportions.” (qtd. in “Mary Sue Coleman, Embracing the Unknown,” The Michigan Daily, 19 April 2014)

19) David Skorton: “[T]he funding we allocate to the humanities has never come close to the value the humanities add to individual lives.” (Qtd. in Kevin Kiley’s “A National Defense,” Inside Higher Ed, 20 May 2011.)

20) Sally Mason: “One of my goals as President is to make sure that we remain a University that both educates and inspires.” (Graduate College Commencement, University of Iowa, 21 December 2007)

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