Brief History of UNI, 1876-1995 (with addendum, 1995-2017)

Note: The majority of the citations in this essay are attributed to "A Century of Leadership and Service Vol. I" (LD 2587 .L36 1990 v.1), written by Dr. William C. Lang, and the followup volume two (LD 2587 .L36 1990 v.2), written by Lang and Dr. Daryl Pendergraft. There are several reading room copies available in the UNI Special Collections and University Archives. While these books represent a particular perspective of UNI history, they are comprehensive.


Two powerful interests converged in 1876 to provide the circumstances for the founding of the institution now known as the University of Northern Iowa. First, there was the strong desire by grateful citizens of Iowa to provide for the orphans of Civil War soldiers and sailors. And second, there was the long-perceived need for an Iowa public institution devoted solely to the training of teachers. These two widely-held wishes, skillfully melded by Black Hawk County legislators, resulted in an institution that has trained generations of teachers and other productive citizens for over 140 years.

Annie Turner Wittenmyer of Muscatine led efforts in Iowa to provide care for children orphaned by the Civil War. She initially used private funds to establish homes for orphans in Davenport and Cedar Falls. In 1866 the General Assembly accepted at least partial public responsibility for these homes; it appropriated $25,000 to build and furnish a new home in Cedar Falls. The citizens of Cedar Falls responded by buying and giving to the state a forty acre site for the home. The boundaries of that land (using modern street names) were College Street on the east, 23rd Street on the north, 27th Street on the south, and, on the west, a north-south line running through what is now the Campanile. The legal description of that land is: the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 14 of township 89 of range 14 west of the fifth principal meridian. (Lang, p. 1)

The large brick building, later known as Central Hall, opened to receive orphans on October 12, 1869. It served as an orphanage for only a few years before it became apparent that this special and limited use would be coming to an end. As the orphans grew up and moved out into the economic and social mainstream, the need for special state homes diminished. In 1876 the state announced plans to move the remaining Cedar Falls orphans to the home in Davenport. By the summer of 1876, the Cedar Falls building would be empty. (Lang, p.2)

Black Hawk County legislators saw an opportunity. Many Iowans had been interested in a public training school for teachers, or normal school, since the early days of statehood. Indeed, as early as the 1850s, the General Assembly had gone so far as to authorize the establishment of normal schools in Andrew, Oskaloosa, and Mt. Pleasant. The state further promised $500 annually to each of these schools. The schools authorized at Andrew and Oskaloosa organized and offered classes briefly in the early 1850s, but the promised state funding did not materialize and the schools closed (Lang, p.14). The Mt. Pleasant school never organized. In addition, the State University in Iowa City had offered teacher training through its Normal Department, but by 1872 that course of study was limited to those who were preparing for high school teaching or school administration. (Lang, pp. 15-16)

In the late 1860s and early 1870s legislators introduced a variety of bills in the General Assembly to establish normal schools in a many Iowa cities and towns (Lang, pp. 14-15). Local boosterism and political in-fighting defeated all of these efforts. By 1876, Iowa, unlike most of its Midwest neighbors, still did not have a public normal school (Lang, pp. 16-18). Senator Edward G. Miller and Representative H. C. Hemenway, both of Black Hawk County, saw a wonderful opportunity: they proposed to turn the soon-to-be- empty Cedar Falls orphanage into a normal school. (Lang, pp. 17-18)

In retrospect this may seem like an obvious and beneficial solution to a significant public problem. But the parochial interests and local jealousies of that day should not be underestimated. Private colleges were concerned that a public normal school would cut their enrollments. Residents of the western part of the state wanted a school located nearer to them. Any city or town with any pretension to progress and prosperity was reluctant to allow another city to receive the economic, social, and educational advantages that a state institution would bring. (Lang, p. 16)

Miller and Hemenway used every opportunity in the 1876 session of the General Assembly to make their case to their colleagues for a normal school in Cedar Falls. They counted votes closely and used parliamentary procedures to bring the bills to the floor at the most favorable moments. By thin margins--one vote in the Senate and two votes in the House--the bill passed and Governor Kirkwood signed into law the measure "for the special instruction and training for teachers of the common schools of the state." (Lang, pp. 20-22).

Gilchrist Administration

The Governor appointed a Normal School Board of Directors, which first met to organize and elect officers in Cedar Falls on June 7, 1876. On June 8, the Board accepted the school property from the Orphans Home Board and selected James Cleland Gilchrist, Superintendent of Schools in Mason City, as the first Principal of the Normal School. Gilchrist had studied under Horace Mann at Antioch College and had led several normal schools before becoming superintendent in Mason City (Lang, p.23). He had a striking physical presence and was a forceful public speaker.

At the July meeting, the Board selected the remainder of the faculty and staff: Professors Moses Willard Bartlett, David Sands Wright, and Frances Webster comprised the faculty, while William Pattee was named Steward and Mrs. T. A. Schemerhorn was selected as Matron. The Board also began to outline the duties and responsibilities of the faculty, staff, and students. (Lang, pp. 24-25)

The first class at the Normal School was held on September 6, 1876, with twenty-seven students in attendance (Lang, p. 27). The conversion of the orphans home building to a collegiate institution was still underway. Students and most of the faculty lived in the school's single building; however, the heating system was not functioning and dormitory space was under construction. There was no budget for laboratory equipment or library books. For many years students relied on Principal Gilchrist's personal library for their research and study. (Lang, pp. 28-29)

Despite these initial difficulties as well as meager and unreliable state appropriations, the school prospered and grew. Students founded the first literary societies, Philomathean for men and Alpha for women, during the 1876-1877 school yea (Lang, p. 65). Other societies followed in later years. Literary societies were central features of campus life for students in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The primary purpose of society work was to provide students with the opportunity for public speaking. But the societies also functioned as social organizations: they often produced plays, gave receptions, and fielded sports teams (Lang, pp. 65-67). The first student newspaper, The Students Offering, began publication in 1878 and continued until 1884 when it ceased because of some now unclear faculty objection (Lang, pp.67-69). In 1883 a second major building, South Hall (later named Gilchrist Hall), opened with classrooms, living quarters, and a chapel designed to meet the needs of a collegiate institution. The Principal, his family, and the faculty were indefatigable pioneers in their efforts to make the school successful (Lang, pp. 47-49). By 1886, the total enrollment for the year had grown to over four hundred students. (Lang, p. 50)

Student life in those early days was regimented. During the week the rising bell rang at 6 A.M. Breakfast was at 7:05 with assembly and roll call at 8:40. Classes and study ran from 9 until 12:15. Dinner was served at 12:40.  Classes and study resumed at 1:40 and ran until 4. The time from 4:30 until 5:40 was for students to get exercise from walking or other activities. Tea was served at 6:05. Students studied during the evening and lights were to be extinguished by 10:30. Students could ask to leave school grounds on Saturday afternoons, but the remainder of the weekend was meant for study. (Lang, p. 52)

Principal Gilchrist had lofty goals for the school; he wanted his students to master both a variety of academic subjects in addition to becoming proficient in the best pedagogical techniques (Lang, p. 56). He developed rigorous curricula to meet the needs of teachers at several levels: those who wished to teach in rural or elementary schools, those who aimed for high schools, and those who sought school administrative positions (Lang, pp. 56-58). This issue was a source of contention for Gilchrist with certain Board members and other state officials. Gilchrist's critics believed that the normal school was intended solely to train teachers for rural or elementary level teaching; they believed that teachers aspiring to higher levels should train in established programs at a university or private college (Lang, pp.72-73). Gilchrist also received criticism from certain members of the faculty and Board for his perceived autocratic leadership and unilateral decisions (Lang, pp. 72-82). By 1886, he did not have enough support on the Board to be re-elected. Consequently, he submitted his resignation.  On a 5-1 vote, Homer H. Seerley, Superintendent of the Oskaloosa Schools, was elected to replace Principal Gilchrist (Lang, p. 86).

James Gilchrist had led the Normal School for its initial, difficult decade. Despite the criticism of those who wished to limit the school to pre-collegiate or two year college status, he had established the school on a sound academic foundation with justifiable claims to the scope of a four year college. Under his leadership, the new school had prepared hundreds of students to teach in all parts of Iowa. He had inaugurated a Model School on campus in which students could be involved in practical classroom teaching experiences or "student teaching". He had made friends for the school with innumerable speeches to community leaders and professional associations. The high moral tone that he set for himself, his staff, and his students brought great credit to the school. While his methods irritated some people, few could quarrel with his results.

Seerley Administration

Homer Seerley assumed the principalship with several important problems pending. First, despite his perceived shortcomings, Principal Gilchrist had allies among the faculty, the students, and especially among Cedar Falls townspeople. Some of these people spread unsettling reports about the prospects for the Normal School following the change in leadership. Seerley dealt with this problem by carefully avoiding factionalism and direct criticism of the Gilchrist administration (Lang, pp. 95-97). He tried hard to provide a seamless transition to his own administration. Still, enrollment leveled off for several years before it began to grow again. (Lang, p. 107)

Seerley also needed to deal with the persistent problem of the differing levels of preparation of students admitted to the Normal School. This was one of the areas which caused significant conflict and difficulty for his predecessor. Students entered the Normal School with many levels of preparation and expectation (Lang, p.98). Credentials of entering students ranged from as little as an eighth grade education with perhaps a little rural school teaching experience to as much as several years of college with considerable advanced teaching experience. Likewise, students' expectations varied considerably: some wanted to study for a term or two and then get back to teaching in a rural, one-room school. Others wanted to study for a year or two in order to secure the credentials to teach in a graded town school or high school. Still others wanted to study long enough to receive some sort of diploma or degree so that they could be principals or superintendents. The Normal School needed to offer courses to prepare teachers for all of these levels. (Lang, p. 102-103)

Principal Gilchrist tended to treat all entering students, no matter what their preparation, in the same way. For example, during his administration, all students were required to take an entrance examination. This angered administrators of high schools who thought that their students' diplomas should be honored, rather than questioned with further tests (Lang, p. 98). Seerley exempted high school graduates from this examination and consequently generated considerable good will among high school principals and school superintendents (Lang, pp. 101-102). Some Normal School faculty thought that this change would lead to jealousies among classes of students. However, it did not have this effect. Rather, it was an important step in separating "college prep" or high school work from formal collegiate training and, consequently, in reinforcing the institution's status as a college rather than a prep school or training institute. (Lang, p.103-107)

Seerley's leadership inspired confidence in the school. By 1890, enrollment rose from 541 in 1888-1889 to 746 between 1890-1891, with over 1,600 enrolled by the end of the decade (Lang, p. 154). What's more, an increasing number of students took more advanced courses and persisted to achieve degrees. The school's financial status solidified, too, when in 1890 Governor Horace Boies recommended that the words "annually hereafter" be inserted in Normal School fund authorization language. Before that time, the year-to-year survival of the Normal School was questionable until each session of the General Assembly actually made its appropriation. Several years had been very close calls.

Each session of the legislature saw the introduction of numerous bills to establish new normal schools. In both 1894 and 1900 the General Assembly deadlocked on the question, "Should we start more normal schools or should we build another building at the school in Cedar Falls?" After long and heated debate in both cases, the legislature decided to build new buildings in Cedar Falls (Lang, pp. 128-133). In 1894 they authorized $35,000 for the construction and equipping of a building to house classrooms, offices, and the library. This building was later known as the Administration Building (Lang, p. 126). And in 1900 they authorized $100,000 for building and equipping the Auditorium Building, now known as Lang Hall (Lang, pp. 135-136). These were major victories for the Normal School in Cedar Falls and President Seerley. A special train with over 300 dignitaries came from Des Moines to celebrate the dedication of the Auditorium in 1902 (Lang, p. 138).

The year 1902 also saw passage of legislation that had a major influence on the development of campus buildings and facilities. In that year the legislature authorized a tax of one tenth of a mill on real property in Iowa to be devoted to capital improvements at the Normal School (Lang, p. 140). During the life of the millage tax from 1902 through 1915 the state collected about $870,000 for the Normal School (Lang, p. 140). Those funds built:  the East Gymnasium, 1903 (now the Innovative Teaching and Technology Center);  the Physics Building (now Begeman Hall), 1903; Seerley Hall, 1908; the President's House, 1908; Sabin Hall, 1912; the first phase of Bartlett Hall, 1914; and Wright Hall, 1915. In short, most of the familiar red brick and limestone buildings in the eastern part of campus are the result of this tax.

The first decade of the twentieth century was tumultuous for higher education in Iowa. The legislature and many other groups of citizens were concerned with managing Iowa educational institutions with greater "efficiency". Most often "efficiency" was coupled with the notion of "duplication": that is, there should be no overlap in fields of study between or among the State University at Iowa City, the Agricultural College at Ames, and the Normal School at Cedar Falls. In 1904, the Normal School began to offer the Bachelor of Arts in Education degree (Lang, pp. 224-225). A legislative committee considered this degree to be duplicative of work offered at Iowa City (Lang, p. 244). The Normal School survived this challenge and even went on to receive legislative authority to change its name to the Iowa State Teachers College in 1909 ("Name of School", p. 2).

But a more serious challenge was in store. Until 1909, each of the Iowa public educational institutions was governed by its own board. However, in that year, and again in the name of efficiency, the governance of all three schools was united under one board, the Iowa State Board of Education (Lang, p. 238). The new board considered that it had a mandate from the legislature to make some kind of major improvement in the organization of the schools. In October 1912, the board made three recommendations: (1) that engineering studies be centered at Ames and discontinued at Iowa City; (2) that domestic science courses be discontinued at Ames and opened at Iowa City; and (3) that education courses beyond the sophomore year be discontinued at Cedar Falls and developed further at Iowa City (Lang, p. 290). The Teachers College seemed to have the most to lose. Despite its recent name change, it would be relegated to junior college status. Strong, ambitious students would naturally seek the collegiate program at Iowa City rather than transfer from Cedar Falls to Iowa City in the middle of their studies. Advanced lines of study would be discontinued at Cedar Falls (Lang, pp. 284-285).

Partisans of all three schools were outraged. Most had been unhappy with the institution of the unified board (Lang, pp. 247-248). This first major action of the board drove them to flood the legislature with protests (Lang, p.  292). Strongly-worded legislation against the recommendations passed by large majorities in both houses. The 1913 General Assembly ended before the bills could be reconciled, but the board could see which way the tide was flowing. The recommendations were rescinded and the Teachers College as a four-year institution was preserved. The college's first May Day celebration in 1913 commemorated this victory (Lang, pp. 314-315).

Many less serious developments took place on campus during the Seerley years. In 1892 the men students organized the Athletic Association in order to field better baseball, football, and track and field teams (Lang, p. 206). In 1894 the faculty organized the Athletic Board to supervise the Normal School's athletics (Lang, pp.210-211). Completion of the East Gymnasium in 1904 gave athletes a place to train and develop their athletic skills (Lang, p. 235). The organization of the Department of Physical Education in 1904 gave an academic background and home to faculty associated with athletics (Lang, p. 462).

The student newspaper began publication again in 1892 and has been published, under several different names, since that time. From 1892 until 1911 it was the Normal Eyte; from 1911 until 1967 it was the College Eye; and since 1967 it has been the Northern Iowan. The college yearbook began publication in 1905. Originally it was a special issue of the Normal Eyte; in 1906 it was the Pedagog; it became the Old Gold in 1907. (Lang, pp. 457-461)

Tuition was nominal during the school's first fifty years. Until 1926 it was, with some variation, about $5 per term (Lang, p.387). In 1926 tuition was set at $17.50 per term for freshmen and sophomores and $30 per term for juniors and seniors ("Official Notice," p. 2). By 1950 it had risen to $36 per term ("Raise Student fees," p. 1).

In 1892 Seerley revived the Model School which had run during the Gilchrist administration from 1883 through 1886 (Lang, p. 59). In order to provide student teaching opportunities for Normal School students, he concluded an agreement with the directors of District 5, which ran a school on the northeast corner of 27th and College Streets. This district had begun to grow as the population of the College Hill area grew. The directors of the district were happy to turn their responsibilities over to the Normal School. The "Training School", as Seerley called it, was held in several college locations until the Campus School Building, now Sabin Hall, was built to provide it with a purpose- built and separate home. (Lang, pp. 147-150)

With the beginning of American involvement in World War I in 1917, male students took military training instead of physical education. The Board of Education made liberal provision for faculty and students who wished to join the armed forces. Faculty were assured that their positions would be waiting for them when they returned from service. Students were allowed to conclude their current studies and then resume their studies when they returned, with a minimum of difficulty (Lang, p. 350). 541 students and alumni served in the armed forces during the war; eight died while in the service. A Student Army Training Corps unit, with forty-nine students under the command of a regular officer of the US Army, was organized on campus in October 1918. However, with the Armistice shortly thereafter on November 11, the unit was discharged on December 13, 1918 (Lang, p. 351).

Even before the war, the school's alumni had been considering the construction of some sort of memorial structure on campus. The war interrupted planning, but after the war the alumni decided to build a bell tower, or campanile, similar to the one on the Iowa State University campus (Lang, pp. 420-421). Alumni broke ground for the Campanile in 1924 (Lang, p. 422). The $60,000 structure was completed in 1926, a year which commemorated both the school's fiftieth anniversary and Seerley's fortieth year as President (Lang, p. 426). Two years later, in August 1928, Seerley retired at the age of eighty (Lang, p. 428).

Seerley's forty-two year administration was a period of extraordinary growth and development for the college. Enrollment grew from about four hundred to well over two thousand ("Total Enrollment," p. 1). The campus doubled in size with the completion in 1928 of the purchase of forty acres of land just west of the original forty acres (“College Buys", p. 1). When Seerley came to Cedar Falls in 1886, there were two academic buildings; when he retired, there were ten major buildings and many auxiliary service facilities. Seerley was one of the most respected figures in the field of education in the state and the nation. He had guided the college to a nationally pre-eminent position in its field. (Lang, pp. 432-435)

Latham Administration

The Board of Education selected Orval Ray Latham as the next president of the institution. He had most recently been Director of Teacher Education at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 7). Latham had to deal with at least two significant problems during his administration. First, there was the continuing problem of the proper role and status of the school (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 9). And, second, anything he tried to do would need to be worked out against the background of the Depression, which hit the nation shortly after he began his service at the Teachers College.

One of the areas on which Latham concentrated was the upgrading of faculty credentials. When President Seerley selected faculty, he placed a higher value on practical experience than on extensive graduate education. He had been involved in the Iowa education scene so long that he knew which superintendents and principals were doing exceptional work around the state. These were the people whom he recruited for his faculty. Consequently, when Latham took office, a large percentage of the faculty had a wealth of practical experience, but had done little graduate study. Indeed, about ten per cent of the faculty had no college degree at all (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 12-13). Latham realized that the college needed a more strongly-credentialed faculty in order to keep up with educational advances and to secure outside accreditation. Latham reorganized the system of faculty rank and reduced the number of those with the rank of "Professor" by about seventy percent. He made it clear that raises and promotions would be dependent upon securing further education. Large numbers of faculty heeded the warning and secured leaves, usually without pay, in order to study at universities around the nation (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 13-15). Faculty members made great sacrifices, in difficult economic times, to further their professional education.

During the 1930s, enrollment declined by about 25% when compared with enrollment levels in the 1920s (Lang and Pendergraft, p.41). The Board cut faculty salaries and trimmed expenses closely (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 40). Despite the Depression, Latham was able to secure sufficient funds to complete a significant number of buildings during his administration. The first building was a new power plant on the south edge of campus. Completion of this plant meant that the old plant, located right in the middle of campus, could be razed. After some landscaping, that area, known as the Back Circle, became a pleasant, central campus park. Latham was also able to provide more on-campus housing with the construction of Baker Hall, the first dormitory for men, and later with the construction of Lawther Hall. The Commons, completed in 1933, gave the campus its first student union. Prexy's Pond was completed in 1936 and the Greenhouse opened in 1938. The west grandstand of the Stadium was completed in 1940 (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 44-40).

Unfortunately, also in 1940, as enrollment rose and economic conditions began to improve, President Latham died of complications of surgery, the only UNI President to die in office (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 98). He had led the school through very difficult times and had left it a stronger institution. His insistence on improving faculty credentials was instrumental in securing accreditation, with certain reservations, from the North Central Association in 1930 (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 18). The college met the reservations so well that the 1932 NCA re-accreditation was accompanied by a special commendation. Likewise, the American Association of Universities put the college on its list of approved schools in 1940. It was the first teachers college to be added to the list. Latham also developed the administrative structure of the college by adding the posts of Dean of the Faculty, Director of Publicity, and Director of Alumni Affairs. (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 19-20, 21-22, 22)

Price Administration

The State Board of Education elected Malcolm Poyer Price as the next President of the Teachers College. Price had been Director of Personnel for the Detroit schools (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 104). Nearly all of his administration was involved with the effects of World War II on the Cedar Falls campus. When the United States entered the war, there was a sudden great need to train large numbers of people for the various branches of military service. College campuses were logical choices as training centers because of their existing facilities and reduced wartime enrollments. Colleges attempted to secure these centers for their campuses, because providing educational services to the trainees allowed them to retain their staff and keep their campuses in operation (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 114). The Board of Education approved several training centers on the Teachers College campus. In December 1942, the first contingent of WAVES (Women's Appointed Volunteer Emergency Service) arrived on campus to begin their basic training (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 115). During the war, over twelve thousand women took their WAVES basic training in Cedar Falls. In another WAVES program, over ten thousand women took Yeoman's, or secretarial, training, on campus. In a third program, the Army Air Force established a center and put over two thousand men through training on campus as well (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 119).

Military personnel were certainly an important part of the social, educational, and financial picture on the Teachers College campus during the war. However, with visiting speakers, performers, and traditional college activities, President Price tried to retain at least some of the atmosphere of a college campus (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 124-125). In December 1943, for example, he established the tradition of the Christmas tree lighting (Lang and Pendergraft, p.121). Enrollment, particularly of male students, declined sharply during the war. In 1943-1944, only 820 students (including just seventy-five men) enrolled ("war Brings Drop", p.1). Intercollegiate athletics were curtailed ("Fit to Fight, p.8). When the war ended, 2157 men and women from the Teachers College had served in the military. Sixty-nine died while in service (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 127).

The end of the war brought rapid changes. Enrollment for 1945-1946 was 1228 ("Enrollment Increases 41%", p. 30); in 1946-1947 enrollment more than doubled to 2477 ("Signs of a Big Year", p. 1). In all likelihood, if these postwar students had fit the young and unmarried profile of traditional students, the college and town could have solved the problems caused by surging enrollment fairly easily. But many of these new students were older veterans with families (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 127). Finding housing for these GIs and their families proved very difficult. Students went door-to-door around town in an attempt to find living quarters. The college hastily built several kinds of "temporary" housing for married students in the area now occupied by the Industrial Arts Center and the adjacent parking lots. This area, known as Sunset Village, eventually included housing for several hundred families in Quonset huts and other slightly more substantial units (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 128).

In 1950, as the GI Bulge tapered off, and as the college returned to more normal times, President Price resigned from office, but stayed at the college as a Professor of Education (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 169-171). He led the college during the difficult times of World War II and its aftermath. Under his administration the college made modest improvements in its physical plant. An addition to Lawther Hall was completed in 1948, and Latham Hall opened for use in 1949. In addition, the 19th Street site for the new Laboratory School was selected (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 147-150). In 1942, under the pioneering guidance of Herb Hake, the college made a modest beginning in broadcasting with a regular feature on local radio station KXEL. Radio broadcasts soon became an important part of the college's educational and public relations efforts (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 162-164). College faculty devoted a great deal of time to curricular reform in the 1940s. Their efforts came to fruition in 1949 when the specially-appointed Committee of Nine proposed a thorough revision of general education and the common professional sequence (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 141). The Board of Education accepted this proposal in 1950 (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 141).

Maucker Administration

The Board selected James William Maucker to be the next president of the Teachers College. He had been Dean of the School of Education at Montana State University (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 177). The possibility of offering graduate courses of study at the college was one of the first issues that President Maucker faced. The college faculty had discussed this issue since at least the late 1930s. But the war and the opposition of some college faculty had prevented the matter from going forward. By 1951 the issue could no longer be put off. Many Iowa school teachers and administrators wanted to take professional education courses beyond the bachelor's level in order to expand their skills and strengthen their credentials. Consequently, the college forwarded a graduate studies proposal to the Board in 1951 (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 185-189). The Board approved the proposal and the college began to offer graduate courses in the summer of 1952 (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 188). In the summer of 1960, the college began to offer its second graduate degree, the Specialist in Education, for one year of graduate study beyond the master's level (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 224).

The early 1950s were troubled by fears and suspicions of communist influences in many parts of American society. The Teachers College had its share of these problems. For example, there was considerable controversy over the Doud Loyalty Oath, a measure designed to assure that state employees were indeed loyal citizens of the United States (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 206). Perhaps more troubling was a series of anonymous letters accusing faculty members of communist sympathies. President Maucker investigated these charges, but could not substantiate them (Lang and Pendergraft, pp.209-210).

The school underwent two name changes during the 1960s. First, after considerable debate, the school became the State College of Iowa in 1961 (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 226). Prior to this time, all students were required to take the professional education sequence to prepare them to be teachers. However, surveys showed that a large percentage of Teachers College graduates did not become teachers (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 220). The primary significance of this name change, then, was that the school was allowed to offer liberal arts (non-teaching) degrees (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 223-224). The next name change, to the University of Northern Iowa, also provoked opposition both on and off campus. Many faculty thought that the State College did not have the facilities or staff to be a university (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 229). Also, other universities in the state did not welcome more competition to the field. But the legislation to change the name passed easily. The new university organized its academic departments into colleges. But other administrative changes came slowly. The Regents offered little or no financial support to smooth the transition to university status. (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 231-234)

The late 1960s was a time of unrest on campus. Protests against the war in Viet Nam and demands for civil rights often put students at odds with college administrators and townspeople. UNI students were frequently involved in demonstrations on and around campus. In the 1967-1968 school year there was considerable controversy surrounding Edward Hoffmans, an instructor who burned his draft card to protest the Vietnam War (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 282-294). In 1970, a number of students occupied President Maucker's home briefly to draw attention to their desire for an ethnic minorities center on campus (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 271-272). The demonstrations and protests made life hectic for students, faculty, and administrators during the late 1960s, but there was little violence or damage on the UNI campus. President Maucker even won the prestigious Meiklejohn Award from the American Association of University Professors for his handling of campus unrest (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 294).

After twenty years in office, President Maucker resigned in June 1970 (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 375). He had led the school through a period of extraordinary growth. Enrollment had grown from about 2700 to over nine thousand. Buildings completed under his administration include the Malcolm Price Laboratory School, Russell Hall, the first phase of the Rod Library, Gilchrist Hall, the Physical Education Center, the Union, and McCollum Hall. To provide housing for the increased enrollment, UNI made major additions to the residence hall system: Campbell Hall, College Courts, the Regents Complex, and the Towers were all completed in the Maucker administration. The campus expanded from 244 acres to 580 acres (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 377).

Kamerick Administration

The Regents selected John J. Kamerick as the next president of UNI ("For Immediate Release", p.1). An Iowa native, Kamerick had previously been president of North Texas State University (Lang and Pendergraft, pp. 378-379). He tried first to define an appropriate role for UNI and then to seek the resources necessary for UNI to play that role successfully (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 283). Kamerick faced significant obstacles as he tried to create a niche in the state for the fledgling university. The University of Iowa and Iowa State University opposed many of UNI's efforts to establish itself as a university. With the end of American involvement in Viet Nam and with declines in federal funding, universities again felt competition to attract students. (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 389-392)

One area that could not be ignored, however, was the expanding interest and enrollment in business courses at UNI. In 1975, the Regents approved a Master in Business Administration degree for UNI ("Regents See the Light,"  p.2). The business curriculum was an area of strong enrollment growth during the 1970s and 1980s (Hammen, p. 5). Education majors declined from about 75% of students in 1970 to about 33% in 1983. UNI's accounting program acquired a national reputation for excellence during this time (Halverson, p. 4).

Support among the faculty for a doctoral program at UNI also grew under Kamerick's leadership; it seemed like a natural development for UNI to offer advanced graduate study, especially in education. However, the Regents first approved the Doctor of Industrial Technology degree in 1978 ("Doctoral Level Degree," p. 6) and then the Doctor of Education degree in 1982 ("Regents OK Doctorate," p. 1).

One of the central issues of the early and middle 1970s was the development and construction of the UNI-Dome. This project faced substantial obstacles from many quarters. First, there was general antagonism on the part of the public toward universities as a result of the troubles of the late 1960s; this made fund- raising difficult. Second, some students did not wish to have their fees used to build an athletics facility. Similar opposition to an athletics facility came from faculty who believed that the university had greater need for an auditorium for cultural performances. And finally, there was skepticism that an air-supported roof was an architecturally sound idea for a northern climate. Despite the opposition, the Dome was completed and has since become something of a symbol of the university. (Lang and Pendergraft, p. 463-466)

President Kamerick resigned in 1983 and taught history at UNI until his retirement ("Kamerick Retirement Noted,"  p.4). In addition to the Dome, several other buildings were completed during his administration: the Schindler Education Center, the second phase of the Rod Library, the Industrial Technology Center, the Communication Arts Center, and Strayer-Wood Theatre (Gerjerts, p. 1). Relations between the administration and the faculty were strained at times; in 1976 the faculty decided to bargain collectively with the Board of Regents. They certified an American Association of University Professors-National Education Association amalgam known as United Faculty as their bargaining agent. Under Kamerick, UNI initiated fifty new degree programs. Outside accreditations rose from four to eleven (Finder, p. 1).

Curris Administration

The Regents selected Constantine W. Curris as the next president. He had previously been president of Murray State University in Kentucky ("Curris Named UNI President," p. 10). Curris began his presidency with a survey to identify UNI's strengths and weaknesses. One weakness that emerged was a general dissatisfaction with the appearance of campus. The campus had been devastated by the Dutch elm disease in the late 1960s ("Elms We Never Again," p. 1). Curris began a major tree-planting and landscaping program that resulted in a much more pleasant-looking campus. He also undertook a complex, long-term campaign to heighten the profile and improve the image of UNI around the state (Craig, p. 5). He occasionally clashed with state officials in his generally successful efforts to secure adequate funding for UNI. (Nardini, p. 1)

Curris resigned in 1995 to become president of Clemson University in South Carolina (Nardini, p. 1). During his administration, enrollment reached a record level of over thirteen thousand students. In fact, Curris sought a cap on admissions at one point because he thought that enrollment was outrunning the capacity of UNI facilities. His program of building renovation and new construction was impressive: under his administration the Business Building, the Kamerick Art Building, the third phase of the Rod Library, and the Center for Energy and Environmental Education were completed. A major renovation of Seerley Hall made that building a campus landmark. And the construction of Residence on the Hill, the first dormitory built at a Regents universities in many years, offered students a choice in living arrangements. Also under Curris, UNI's reorganized fund-raising operations undertook several major capital campaigns to raise money for such projects as the Performing Arts Center. (University of Northern Iowa Alumni Association, p. 54)

Addendum to the original article:

Koob Administration

Robert D. Koob, the eighth president of UNI, began his service at the university in the fall of 1995.

Koob had been senior vice president and vice president for academic affairs at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, California, since 1990. (Mochal, p. 1)

President Koob was born in 1941 in Graettinger, Iowa. He graduated from the State College of Iowa (UNI) in 1962 with a B. A. in chemistry. After receiving his B. A., President Koob was a high school mathematics and science teacher in Moville, Iowa. Later he was a teaching assistant at the University of Kansas and held two research positions there before receiving his Ph. D. in chemistry from that institution in 1967.

In 1967 he began teaching chemistry at North Dakota State University as an assistant professor. By 1972 he had achieved the rank of professor. At North Dakota State, President Koob served in several different positions including vice president for academic affairs and interim president. ("Robert D. Koob," p. 1)

As undergraduates at UNI, President Koob and his wife, Yvonne, lived in Quonset huts in Sunset Village, the married student housing area. When they returned to UNI, they lived in the President's House. President Koob and his wife had seven children. He enjoyed reading science fiction, spending time with his family, and playing racquetball. (Sundermeyer, p. 2)

When Koob was named president in 1995, he was able to initiate new building projects and renovations. The Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center opened in 2000. Several campus buildings were remodeled or renovated, such as Maucker Union and the residence halls.

President Koob retired in May 2006.

Allen Administration

Benjamin Allen was named the ninth president of the University of Northern Iowa on April 28, 2006, and assumed his duties on June 5, 2006.

In 2007, President Allen was appointed by two state college associations (the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges) to the Presidential Advisory Committee for the National Commission of University Accountability.

Under his leadership, the University of Northern Iowa established priorities of increasing student achievement in undergraduate programs and providing statewide leadership in Pre-K through 12 education, including UNI’s lead role in the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership with Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. During his time as president, the ninth United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, the 14th Dalai Lama, and Michelle Obama visited and gave speeches at the campus.

On February 29, 2012, the Teacher Education Faculty at the University of Northern Iowa voted 15-1 (with one abstention) to support a motion of no confidence in President Allen, Provost Gloria Gibson, and the Iowa Board of Regents. Their vote was a protest of the decision-making process in President Allen's recommendation to the Board of Regents to close the Malcolm Price Laboratory School Northern University High School, effective June 30, 2012. On March 2, 2012, the university faculty voted 197-53 in support of a motion of no confidence in President Allen. Speakers cited the lack of faculty consultation in the decision making process to close the Price Lab School, and several academic programs on campus. On March 15, 2012, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) said they would investigate reports that the UNI administration had violated rules of academic governance in making budget cuts and firing faculty.

Dr. Allen resigned in 2013. ("Biography of President Allen.")

Ruud Administration

William Ruud was named the tenth president of UNI in February 2013. He was formally installed as president in a ceremony on October 4, 2013 in the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

Dr. Ruud received his bachelor's degree in public administration and hospital administration from the University of North Dakota. While at the University of North Dakota, Dr. Ruud was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He received his master's degree and his doctorate in organizational behavior from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Ruud began teaching at the University of Toledo in 1981, and went on to become dean of the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University in 1993, and later the vice president for institutional advancement. Beginning in 2004, Ruud next served as professor of management, policy, and strategy at California State University at Stanislaus, and served two years as vice president for development and university relations. In February 2007, he became president of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. 

On May 18, 2016, it was announced that Ruud would leave the University of Northern Iowa to become president of Marietta College, effective July 3. ("Biography of President Bill Ruud.")

The Nook Administration

Mark A. Nook began serving as the eleventh president of the University of Northern Iowa on February 1, 2017. Prior to this appointment, he served as chancellor of Montana State University Billings (MSUB). 

Originally from Holstein, Iowa, Nook has committed his Midwest education and values to higher education for many years and on many levels. He is dedicated to ensuring every member of the university community reaches their individual educational, professional and personal life goals.

Prior to serving as the chancellor at MSUB from 2014-2016, Nook was the senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin System from 2011-2014. He also served as provost (2007-2009 and 2010-2011) and interim chancellor (2009-2010) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and in a variety of roles at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

He graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics, a master's degree in astrophysics from Iowa State University in 1983 and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1990. ("Mark A. Nook Biography.")

Works Cited



Written by Gerald L. Peterson, Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist, January 1998; marked up as a Web document by Susan Basye, Special Collections Assistant, February 1998; updated January 28, 2016 (GP). Addendum added by Library Associate Dave Hoing, October 2017. Last updated April 30, 2021 by Student Worker Matthew Bancroft-Smithe.