Image by Will Toppin

Historic LC: timeline of three LC Presidents

Over its 153 year tenure as an institution, Lewis & Clark College has had a grand total of 26 presidents, interim presidents, and acting presidents. Some of their names are likely familiar to current students, as they live on in the names of buildings on campus: for example Morgan S. Odell of Odell dormitory and Rev. William J. Monteith of the Monteith meeting room in Templeton, named for the College’s first president. (The Odell dormitory is actually named for the college’s then-first lady, Ruth Odell.)

Rev. William J. Monteith was Albany College’s first president, serving a one-year term from 1867 to 1868. (Albany College was renamed to Lewis & Clark College in 1942 when it moved to its current campus on the Fir Acres estate.) The institution was originally founded on land gifted by Monteith’s brother. The college was established through a partnership of Linn County and the Presbytery of Oregon, under the direction of Monteith and another pastor. Monteith’s term was short: he resigned during the next summer so he could dedicate himself to being a pastor at the Albany Presbyterian Church.

Wallace Howe Lee was president from 1895 to 1905, and again from 1915 to 1920. Lee worked as an English professor, a professor of Ancient and Modern Languages, the director of the music and the president of the college over his many years at the school. During his first nineteen years, he was heavily involved with local choir programs.

At the time, the institution was working to pay off the debt from the mortgage on its property, so Lee’s salary was reduced to whatever was left in the budget after all other salaries and expenses were paid. Due to the tight budget, Lee taught all of the college classes with three assistants, and some at the academy (which fed into the college). The college also offered scholarships for the first time under Lee’s presidency. Lee himself chose students worthy of aid and paid for their scholarships out of his own salary.

In 1905, Lee resigned, going on to spend six years as an assistant pastor at Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church, and then three years as the Dean of Whitworth College. In 1914, he returned to LC for another 22 years, “during which time he occupied every administrative position,” according to the LC Archives. He taught classes on literature, education, and religion, and remained a large influence on-campus musical life.

President Morgan S. Odell served from 1942 to 1960. His term began at a critical juncture: the college’s transition to Fir Acres Estates in 1942. Odell had served in the Italian Army during WWI and had earned his doctorate from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Odell met with Aaron Frank, the man who sold Fir Acre Estates to LC, while he was being considered as a candidate. “Aaron Frank advised the trustees, ‘He is your man. Don’t let him get away from us. We need him in Portland,’” according to LC Archives.

After a stall in his selection due to the start of WWII, Odell was officially invited to the presidency. Under his leadership, the college prospered in its new location. In 1943, Odell reported, “The college is better off financially than it has been for twenty years. The new campus is debt-free. With growing church and individual support, we can carry on through the present academic year, without undue financial strain,” according to  LC Archives.

Odell retired in 1960, after an accomplished career as president. He was much beloved by students. 

“To the students, Dr. Odell is the fortress of decision; to the faculty, he is the citadel of resolution,” Ann Granning at the Pioneer Log said in 1952. “He does not walk or talk or act like a man placed high above others, but as a man placed among others to work with them.”

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