A peek at the past presidents

Most students are familiar with current President Tim Flanagan or Al Bowman, but few are familiar with the presidents responsible for the early founding of our university. In honor of Illinois State University’s Founders Day, here is a little look at some of our past presidents.


Charles E. Hovey – Courtesy of the Dr. JoAnn Rayfield Archives at ISU

Charles E. Hovey (1857-1862) Our first president, then called principal, began teaching classes at Major’s Hall in Bloomington. In addition, he oversaw all finances and construction of what would be the campus of Illinois State Normal University.

Richard Edwards (1862-1876) Edwards pushed through the trying times of the Civil War to later see the rapid growth of the university during the postwar era. During this time, Illinois State Normal University was the largest school in the U.S. and enrolled a total of 327 students. Edwards is known as the man who coined the term “Grandest of Enterprises” for the teaching profession.

Edwin C. Hewett (1876-1890) Hewett worked under the guidance of Edwards before becoming the third president of Illinois State Normal University. In 1884, Hewett’s “A Treatise on Pedagogy for Young Teachers” was published. By 1889 the school increased to 18 faculty and 677 students.

David Felmley (1900-1930) Felmley is remembered for his belief in simplistic spelling. He wrote “We shal not hav students enuf,” and with his positive outlook on enrollment and the war ending, summer enrollments reached almost 4,000 students while the regular fall enrollment increased to 1,300. Things like clubs, sports and Homecoming were encouraged.

Harry A. Brown (1930-1933) Brown was not a very well-trusted president. He was disliked for trying to replace faculty during the depression. He was forced to resign after falsifying a transcript for a friend.

Raymond W. Fairchild (1933-1955) Fairchild is credited for keeping the school afloat during WWII. Some of his success is credited to the U.S. Navy, which used the facilities for education programs during the war. Fairchild hired more qualified women and pushed for more degrees and resources. The first master’s degree was granted in 1945. Enrollment was at 3,059 students in 1955.

Bone - Courtesy of the Dr. JoAnn Rayfield Archives at ISU

Robert G. Bone – Courtesy of the Dr. JoAnn Rayfield Archives at ISU

Robert G. Bone (1956-1967) Bone was known for his personal and friendly demeanor around campus. Bone is responsible for the high rise campus, a huge increase in student enrollment, and doubling the salaries for faculty in just a decade. During his time as president, doctoral programs and liberal arts degrees were introduced to the school.

Samuel J. Braden (1967-1970) Braden kept the peace around campus during the challenges of the student power, civil rights and anti-war movements. He faced a lot of grief for keeping a flag at half-staff to honor Black martyrs and the tragedy at Kent State during this time.

Lloyd Watkins (1977-1988) By the end of Watkins’s term, the enrollment was just above 22,000. Classrooms were overstuffed, the university was under-funded, and students were competing with higher academic standards.

Thomas Wallace (1988-1995) Wallace came to ISU from Purdue. He proposed solutions by securing tax money and reducing enrollment to meet the current funds. He pushed for a new science building, parking ramps, a student services building and a computing and telecommunications system.

Victor John Boschini, Jr. (1999-2003) Boschini was known for his emphasis on strategic planning, fundraising and improving campus morale. He also served as an associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations.

Al Bowman

Alvin Bowman – Archive Photo

Alvin Bowman (2004 – 2013) Bowman is known for his friendly presence on campus. Bowman joined the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology faculty in 1978. In 1994, he served as director of the Down Syndrome Speech-Language Clinic. When Bowman announced his retirement before the 2013-2014 school year, students gathered in the quad to show support and appreciation for his term as president.

Timothy Flanagan (2013- current) Flanagan began his presidency in August 2013. He is Illinois State University’s eighteenth president. He was drawn to ISU for its reputation as one of the top public universities in the country, as well as the academic strength and impressive graduation rates. Flanagan came from Framingham State University in Massachusetts.


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