shortcut to content
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Presidential History

Page address:

George M. GageMankato Normal School opened Wednesday, Oct. 7, 1868, in temporary quarters in the Methodist Episcopal Church at Second and Cherry streets and remained there until space was prepared in the Shaubut Building at Main and Front streets. Professor George M. Gage was the first principal of the school, with 27 students, and supervised the move into the original Old Main in 1870.

Julia SearsDavid C. JohnJulia Sears became principal in 1872. She was replaced a year later by the Rev. David C. John, a retired Methodist minister.

Edward SearingIn 1880 Edward Searing became the school's first head to be called president. During Searing's 18 years, the school first offered courses above the high school level and began a full five-year instruction program. Two wings were added to the school building and enrollment climbed.

Charles H. CooperSearing was succeeded by Professor Charles H. Cooper in 1898. During Cooper's term of office an addition to the main building was completed to serve as the lab school. In 1913 the first dormitory, Daniel Buck Hall, was erected, and Cooper Hall opened in 1921. When fire demolished Old Main in February 1922, construction began on a new building, which opened in 1924. In 1921 the name of the school was changed to Mankato State Teachers College, and two-year degrees for teaching in the elementary grades and three-year degrees for teaching in junior high school were first awarded.

Frank D. McElroyIn 1930 Frank D. McElroy became the first president to hold a Ph.D. degree. Tuition was charged for the first time in 1934 replacing a pledge to teach which granted free tuition. In 1939 the valley physical education building was opened for use.

Clarence L. CrawfordDr. Clarence L. Crawford became president in 1946. The first four-year bachelor of science degrees were awarded in 1939, the first bachelor of arts degree in 1947 and the first masters degrees in 1954. The early fifties saw a great building program initiated, and Searing Center and Nichols Hall opened in 1952. By 1956 enrollment had increased to more than 3,000 students.

Mankato State Teachers College became Mankato State College in 1957, and the first official plans were made for campus expansion to the present Highland Campus. With enrollment in excess of 7,000, cramped dorms forced the planning for new residence space and other expansion to Highland Campus. The first section of Crawford Center was occupied in 1959, and the first phase of McElroy was completed and opened during 1962-63. Later in the 1960s, an additional six buildings had been occupied on Highland Campus including Armstrong Hall, Gage Center, Memorial Library, Centennial Student Union, the Performing Arts Center and Morris Hall. Enrollment was in excess of 9,500 and the faculty numbered 450. Dr. Melvin G. Scarlett was acting president from 1965-66.

Dr. James F. NickersonDr. James F. Nickerson began his duties as president in 1966. During Nickerson's presidency, a record enrollment of 14,000 students was reached, sixth year programs were authorized and the first specialist degrees were awarded. Trafton Science Center and an addition to the Centennial Student Union were completed on upper campus. Dr. Kent Alm was acting president from 1973-74.

Dr. Douglas R. MooreDr. Douglas R. Moore was named president in March 1974. The college became a university in 1975, and the campuses were consolidated during Moore's four years at Mankato State. Additions to Morris Hall, Highland Arena, Nelson Hall and a new administration building were also completed. Edward McMahan was acting president from 1978-79.

Margaret R. PreskaOn Feb. 8, 1979, Dr. Margaret R. Preska was chosen president. Her tenure at Mankato State included an increase in enrollment to 16,500 students. The campus also saw considerable new construction, including the Ostrander-Student Bell Tower, Warren Street Center, Andreas Observatory, Wissink Center, Pennington Building and the Memorial Library addition. Additionally, her tenure included expansion into new programs and the establishment of a major development program among friends of the university. Dr. John B. Davis, Jr., was acting president during 1992.

Dr. Richard R. RushDr. Richard R. Rush began his duties as president of Mankato State University in September 1992, serving until June 2001. During his tenure he repositioned MSU as a statewide University; enhanced the learning environment, particularly through expanded national and statewide programs and faculty support; refocused attention to external fund raising resulting in more than $35 million raised since 1994, more than the cumulative total of the University's previous history. He changed the name of the university to Minnesota State University, Mankato to reflect the institution's growing mission; created a regional lobbying group of community and business leaders to advocate for southern Minnesota at the Legislature; established and expanded the Global Wireless Education Consortium; created a business/industry partnership with South Central Technical College; planned and implemented Learning Communities, First Year Experience, Maverick Hall and Freshman Orientation; instituted full-tuition Presidential Scholars program; and elevated the men's hockey program to Division I, receiving NCAA approval and admission into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. During his tenure, the Andreas Theatre was constructed, as was the Taylor Center. Dr. Karen Boubel was Interim President from June 2001 through June 2002.

Dr. Richard DavenportDr. Richard Davenport became the twelfth president of the university on July 1, 2002. He was inaugurated on October 3, 2003.