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IU presidents, from Herman B Wells to Pamela Whitten

Whitten was named IU’s first female president in April 2021.

By Cameron Garber

garberc@iu.edu | @garber_cameron

IU President Pamela Whitten took office as the 19th president of Indiana University on July 1, 2021, and is the first woman to occupy the position. Before being selected to succeed former IU President Michael McRobbie, Whitten served as the President of Kennesaw State University since June 2018.

Under her leadership, Kennesaw State University saw increased enrollment and increased diversity, with the amount of self-identified minority students increasing from 43.1% in 2017 to 48.7% in 2020, according to a report from Kennesaw State University news. Whitten also led the creation and expansion of majors such as cybersecurity, engineering, computer science and nursing. Whitten’s previous position was Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost for the University of Georgia from 2014 to 2018.

Whitten’s predecessor, McRobbie, served as IU president from 2007 to 2021. McRobbie’s long tenure was a period of comprehensive academic transformation, according to a report from IU News. Programs for public health, international studies, architecture and engineering began during McRobbie’s administration, which also oversaw renovations to nearly all major buildings across IU. Additionally, the number of minority students doubled between 2007 and 2020, according to the report.

IU’s first president was Reverend Andrew Wylie, who served as president of the thennamed Indiana College from 1829 until 1851. He died in office from an injury sustained while chopping wood. Wylie was succeeded by Alfred Ryors, who served from 1852 to 1853 before retiring to become a mathematics professor in Danville, Kentucky. IU’s third president William Mitchel Daily served from 1853 to 1859. He was charged with incompetence, plagiarism and icurrence of debt, and although these charges were never officially substantiated, Daily resigned under pressure.

Cyrus Nutt was IU’s fifth president and served from 1860 until 1875. During Nutt’s tenure, IU admitted its first female student, Sarah Parke Morrison, in 1867. David Starr Jordan served as IU’s seventh president from 1884 until 1891, leaving a controversial legacy at IU. His administration oversaw many consequential changes to IU such as moving campus to the Dunn’s Woods and the introduction of the major department system, but many of his achievements are marred by his staunch eugenicist beliefs.

One of IU’s most well-known presidents was Herman B Wells. He served as IU’s 11th president from 1938 to 1962, during which time IU’s enrollment nearly tripled from 11,000 to 31,000. Wells also worked to desegregate many parts of campus and supported the creation of the Kinsey Institute. Wells is honored today on campus with a statue outside the Dunn Woods.

IDS FILE PHOTO BY COLIN KULPA Then-IU President-elect Pamela Whitten speaks April 16, 2021, in Neal-Marshall Grand Hall.