University Presidents Portraits
Location: The University President Portraits are located in the Upper Rotunda and the Periodical Room on the second floor.
Adonijah S. Welch
(1821-1889; president 1868-83)
Portrait painted by artist Othmar J. Hoffler
Son of a Connecticut farmer, Welch graduated from the University of Michigan with honors, studied law, prospected for gold in California, served as first principal of the "normal school" which later became Eastern Michigan University, went to Florida for his health and became a lumberman and fruit grower, and was serving as Reconstruction senator from Florida when he accepted appointment as Iowa State's first president. Removed from office under pressure from narrow-gauge interests dissatisfied with the College's development, he continued on the staff until his death in 1889. Recognized as one of the ablest pioneer administrators in Land Grant education, Welch was a frail man, but drove himself and others relentlessly. He acted with dignity and decisiveness, introduced advanced ideas of faculty and student participation. As a teacher he pioneered such subjects as landscape architecture, genetics, the philosophy of science, and the history of civilization, and evidenced his breadth of interests in conducting classes in rhetoric, geology, political economy, and sociology.
Seaman A. Knapp
(1833-1911; president 1883-84)
Portrait painted in 1914 by artist S.S. Hayden
A New York native and Union College graduate, Knapp conducted female seminaries in the east until coming to Iowa for his health. He gained notice as a stockman, speaker and farm journalist, and in 1879 was appointed to head Iowa State's program in agriculture. After his one-year term as president, he left Iowa State to enter a distinguished career in southern agriculture. He is generally credited with the founding of the cooperative demonstration farm program and county agent system.
Leigh S. J. Hunt
(1854-1933; president 1885-86)
Portrait painted in 1943 by artist Henry Rossman
An Indiana native, Hunt had headed school systems in several Iowa communities, and was superintendent in West Des Moines at the time of his appointment as president of Iowa State. Only 29, Hunt lacked the maturity and educational background the office required. But following his troubled term here, he achieved spectacular successes as journalist and banker in the Pacific Northwest, gold miner in Korea, cotton grower in the Sudan, and promoter of irrigation homesteads in Nevada.
William I. Chamberlain
(1850-1902; president 1886-90)
Portrait painted in 1943 by artist Henry Rossman
Connecticut-born, raised on an Ohio farm, and graduated from Western Reserve University, Chamberlain taught classics in academies and small colleges until failing health forced him to take up farming. Elected secretary of the Ohio Board of Agriculture in 1880, he greatly extended the board's activities and services, while continuing his own scholarly interests. An administrator of proven ability under ordinary circumstances, he faced an extraordinarily turbulent situation when he assumed the presidency at Iowa State. Student disorders over the fraternity-sorority question, together with continued unrest among Iowa farm interests over Iowa State's curricular development, finally led to his resignation.
William M. Beardshear
(1850-1902; president 1891-1902)
Portrait painted in 1938 by artist Christian Abrahamsen
Ohio-born, Beardshear served in the Union army throughout the Civil War, studied for the ministry at Otterbein College and Yale University, filled several pastorates before coming to Iowa in 1881 as president of Western College at Toledo, and was West Des Moines superintendent of schools when an alliance of farm organizations secured his appointment as president of Iowa State. Most storied of Iowa State presidents, Beardshear was a physically impressive man who combined hard common sense with sentimentality and a robust sense of humor. Many of his goals were still unattained when he suffered a fatal heart attack; but during his administration Iowa State "came of age."
Albert B. Storms
(1862-1933; president 1903-10)
Portrait painted in 1937 by artist Othmar J. Hoffler
A Michigan farm boy and University of Michigan graduate, Storms had served pastorates in Detroit, Mich., and Madison, Wis., and was pastor of the First Methodist Church of Des Moines when he was appointed president of Iowa State in 1903. He took a liberal view of Land Grant education, and proved admirably suited to the task of continuing the advancement of the College along the lines laid down by President Beardshear. His administration witnessed a strengthening of the College's divisional structure, establishment of the Agricultural Extension Service, development of a plan for campus landscaping, modernization of the physical plant, a lifting of the ban Beardshear had imposed on fraternities, a general liberalization of policy in student affairs, organization of the Missouri Valley Athletic Association, and the founding of the Iowa State Alumni Association.
Raymond A. Pearson
(1873-1939; president 1912-26)
Portrait painted in 1942 by artist Frank Johnson
Son of an Indiana railroad executive, Pearson was a Cornell University graduate in dairy industry, did government and commercial dairy laboratory work, and in 1903 returned to Cornell to organize a department of dairy industry. He headed the New York Department of Agriculture for four years prior to his appointment as president of Iowa State. Pearson completed the divisional organization of undergraduate programs; strongly promoted the graduate program, which was given divisional status in 1915; broadened extension service; and gave wholehearted support to "big-time" goals in athletics. Campus construction during his administration surpassed that of any other era prior to the post-World War II boom: 14 buildings in service during the 1960's were constructed during Pearson's term. Pearson resigned to become president of the University of Maryland.
(1863-1935; acting president 1926-27)
Portrait painted in 1935 by artist Robert W. Grafton
Herman Knapp was born in Vermont to Seaman A. and Maria Elizabeth Hotchkiss Knapp. Seaman Knapp became the second President of the College (1883-1884). Herman Knapp graduated from Iowa State College in scientific agriculture, and served as secretary to the president, director of agriculture, treasurer, registrar, and purchasing agent and business manager. From 1926-1927 he was acting president of Iowa State College until the appointment of President R. M. Hughes. The State University of Iowa awarded Herman Knapp an honorary doctor of laws degree.
Raymond M. Hughes
(1873-1958; president 1927-36)
Portrait painted in 1943 by artist Henry Rossman
Raymond Mollyneaux Hughes was born in Atlantic, Iowa, but grew up in southwestern Ohio. He graduated from his father's alma mater, Miami (Ohio) University (1893) in Oxford and received a master's degree in chemistry from Ohio State University (1897). He was appointed to the presidency of Iowa State College (University) in 1927 and served till his retirement in 1936.
During his time at Iowa State, Dr. Hughes guided the college through the difficult Depression years, he brought Iowa State into a more harmonious relationship with sister institutions in the state system; promoted the enrichment of technical curricula; broadened research to focus on problems involving interdivisional efforts; established several research and service supporting agencies, most notably the Statistical Laboratory; began the College Art Committee and fostered the development of art on campus; and instituted the development of placement and student counseling services. Hughes also began the longstanding tradition of commissioning Iowa State portraits of presidents, deans, and faculty that today is the foundation for the Presidential Portrait Collection and the Iowa State Portrait Collection.
Charles E. Friley
(1887-1958; president 1936-53)
Portrait painted in 1953 by artist James Murray Haddow
A Louisiana native, Friley graduated from Texas A & M, did advanced work in educational administration at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, then returned to his alma mater, where he became founding dean of the school's science division. Coming to Iowa State in 1932 as dean of industrial science, he evidenced his administrative abilities in an effective revision and expansion of the division's instructional and research programs. He became president after five months as acting president. His 17-year term was the longest of Iowa State's first 11 presidents, and spanned higher education's most turbulent era, from the closing phase of the Depression through World War II and into the post-war "educational revolution." It was an administration characterized by emergency efforts, the most notable among them Iowa State's participation in the Manhattan (atomic research) project. Friley was directly responsible for Iowa State's establishment of the nation's first educationally-owned and operated television station.
James H. Hilton
(1899-1982; president 1953-65)
Portrait painted in 1965 by artist Richard L. Seyffert
The first Iowa State graduate to occupy its highest office, Hilton grew up on a farm near Hickory, N.C., attended North Carolina State College one year, completed his B.S. in animal husbandry at Iowa State in 1923, his M.S. at the University of Wisconsin in 1937. He was awarded the D.Sc. degree by Purdue University in 1945. He was county agent for Greene County, Iowa, 1923-26, then joined the Purdue staff. He was put in charge of dairy production teaching and research at Purdue in 1939, and the following year became assistant chief of the dairy husbandry department. In 1945 he returned to North Carolina State as head of animal husbandry. Three years later he was named dean of agriculture where he served until becoming Iowa State president.
W. Robert Parks
(1915-2003; president 1965-86)
Portrait painted in 1984 by artist Peter Egeli
The first social scientist to become president of Iowa State, Parks was the youngest of seven children in a Mulberry, Tenn., farm family. He earned his B.A. in political science at Berea College in 1937, his M.A. at the University of Kentucky in 1938, his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 1948. He was a research director in the United States Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1940-48, excepting 30 months of World War II navy duty. He taught and directed research in government and agriculture as professor of government at Iowa State, 1948-56, was professor of agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin, 1956-58, then returned to Iowa State as dean of instruction. He was named vice-president for academic affairs in 1961 and served in that capacity until taking office as president July 1, 1965.
(1929- ; president 1986-90)
Portrait painted in 1990 by artist Istvan Nyikos
Born in Ohio in 1929, Dr. Eaton received his B.A. in geology and mathematics from Wesleyan University, M.S. in geology, and Ph.D. in geology and geophysics from the California Institute of Technology. He served on the faculties of Wesleyan University (1955-59) and the University of California at Riverside (1959-67). While on academic leave from UC-Riverside, he served as project chief for the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, CO from 1963-65. Upon his return, Dr. Eaton served as chair of the Department of Geoscience (1965-67). After leaving UC-Riverside, Dr. Eaton worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in several administrative and scientific positions. He returned to higher education in 1981 as dean of the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M. In 1983, Dr. Eaton assumed the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M, a position he held until his appointment as president of Iowa State University in 1986. In 1990 Dr. Eaton resigned to become director of the Columbia University's Lamont -Doherty Geological Observatory.
(1941- ; president 1991-2000)
Portrait painted in 2000 by artist Laurel Stern Boeck
Born in Illinois in 1941, Dr. Jischke received a B.S. in physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma in 1968 and was appointed director of aeronautical, mechanical and nuclear engineering in 1977 and dean of the College of Engineering in 1981. He served as chancellor at the University of Missouri, Rolla from 1986 until becoming president of Iowa State University in 1991. In 2000 Dr. Jischke left Iowa State to become president of Purdue University.
Gregory L. Geoffroy
(1946- ; president 2001-2011)
Portrait painted in 2007 by artist Istvan Nyikos
Gregory L. Geoffroy was the 14th president of Iowa State University. He stepped down from the presidency in January 2012, but remains on the Iowa State faculty in the department of chemistry.
Geoffroy was born in 1946 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He received a B.S. (1968) in Chemistry from the University of Louisville, Kentucky; and a Ph.D (1974) in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. Dr. Geoffroy served as the Dean of the Eberly College of Science, and professor and chair of Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University (1974-1989), and was Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost (1997-2001) at the University of Maryland. He also served as Interim President (1998). Geoffroy remained in this last position until he assumed the presidency of Iowa State.
Dr. Geoffroy has an extensive publication record in chemistry journals and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. He was named a Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, in 1991.
(1957- ; president 2012-17)
Portrait painted in 2017 by Ying-He Lui
Born in 1957, Dr. Steven Leath received a B.S. in plant science from Pennsylvania State University, an M.S. in plant science from the University of Delaware and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. Prior to becoming the 15th president of Iowa State, Leath served as the vice president for research and sponsored programs for the University of North Carolina System.
During his five-year tenure at ISU, the university experienced record growth in student enrollment and diversity, first-year retention and graduation rates, research expenditures, and tenured faculty. Leath launched the university’s most ambitious comprehensive capital campaign, Forever True, For Iowa State, with a goal to raise $1.1 billion by July 2020. All told in his five years at Iowa State, Leath raised more than $720 million for the university, including more than $200 million for student scholarships.
Leath departed to become the 19th president of Auburn University, Alabama.