Their spirit of inclusion and resolve to stand for what is right has never wavered through the decades, and that spirit lives on today in Otterbein’s values and excellence.
1847 – 1849 | Mr. William R. GriffithA.B.
On September 1, 1847 Otterbein University opened its doors to eight students including women and in its first year enrolled 81 students, 52 men and 29 women. William Griffith, a recent Indiana Asbury (now DePauw University) graduate, headed the University with the title of Principal. All of the students originally enrolled in the preparatory program (secondary school) of the University. This was typical in mid 19th century United States since few secondary schools existed to prepare students for higher education. As late as 1864 80% of the students enrolled in the preparatory program and not until 1889 did college level students predominate.
The Scioto Conference of the approximately 100,000 member United Brethren in Christ denomination, plus two other Ohio conferences, founded Otterbein following an 1845 resolution adopted by the Church General Conference encouraging founding a college. In 1846 the Scioto Conference initiated the purchase of the bankrupt Blendon Young Men’s Methodist Episcopal Seminary for $1,300. Located in Westerville the property consisted of eight acres and two buildings.
Otterbein received its charter as a University from the Ohio Legislature on February 13, 1849. Griffith’s tenure as principal ended that year but he continued as Professor of Ancient Languages until 1852.
1849 - 1850 | The Reverend William Davis
Employed with the title President, William Davis was a member of the Miami Conference of the Church. He provided only nominal leadership. He hired the second principal of the Ladies Department and a professor of mathematics and natural science. A cholera epidemic in the area closed Otterbein one month early.
1850 - 1857 & 1860 - 1871 | The Reverend Lewis DavisD.D.
Historians recognize Reverend Davis as father of education in the denomination and founder of Otterbein. The only president to serve two terms, he first resigned when elected bishop. At the first Board of Trustees meeting on April 26, 1847, the Board elected him Board President. He had already raised $1,000 toward purchase of the campus.
President Davis provided academic leadership. By 1853 he had initiated a higher education curriculum and hired faculty to implement it. In 1857 the University graduated the first two students (both women). Davis oversaw the founding of the literary societies, the production of a Shakespearean play, a farm manual labor program, the first music and art instruction, and a lecture series. In 1867 Otterbein helped create the Association of Ohio Colleges to set and evaluate academic standards.
Davis was an astute crisis manager. On January 26, 1870 fire destroyed the main campus building. He acted immediately to relocate classes and raised $35,000 in Westerville. Construction on a new central building (later known as Towers Hall) began in 1870. Davis also successfully brought Otterbein through the Civil War despite the loss of numerous male students and several faculty to Union Army service.
In 1871 President Davis resigned to accept a professorship at Union Bible Seminary. He remained an Otterbein trustee until 1889, the year before he died.
1858 - 1860 | The Reverend Alexander Owen
President Owen was a member of the Allegheny Conference of the United Brethren Church and editor of the Church’s Unity Magazine at the time of his election. He oversaw a scholarship fund raising plan that produced $75,000. During his tenure, the University abandoned the manual labor program for students. Otterbein also admitted the first African American student. Because of poor health, President Owen resigned in 1860.
1871 - 1872 | The Reverend Daniel EberlyB.A., M.A.
At the time the Trustees appointed President Eberly, Otterbein class of 1858, he was Principal of Cottage Hill College (PA), a women’s college. He had a minimal relationship to Otterbein during his presidential year. The new main building (later Towers Hall) opened during his tenure. He presided at the 1872 commencement, gave the address and resigned.
1872 - 1886 | The Reverend Henry Adams ThompsonB.A., M.A., D.D.
Trustees selected Reverend Thompson, who brought a varied educational experience to the presidency. An 1858 graduate of Jefferson College (PA, later Washington and Jefferson) and Western Theological Seminary (PA), he had taught mathematics and natural sciences at Otterbein for five years.
President Thompson led Otterbein to many academic achievements. He established the teacher education program and a Bachelor of Science degree. Student activities had high priority. The campus YMCA and YWCA were organized. In 1880 students published their first newspaper. In the 1870’s Otterbein intercollegiate baseball began. Thompson was among the first educators to argue that higher education led to higher lifetime earnings.
President Thompson provided strong leadership outside the University. He helped establish the General Board of Education of the United Brethren Church. He served as Ohio Commissioner of the Department of Science and Education and arranged for an Ohio exhibit in the U.S. Centennial Exhibit in Philadelphia. While president, he ran on the Prohibition Party ticket for Congress, for Lieutenant Governor and Governor and for U.S. Vice President. In 1876 he chaired the Party’s national convention. He regarded campaigning as a way of educating the public rather than a path to power. After resigning the presidency, he served 15 years on the Otterbein faculty.
1886 - 1889 | The Reverend Henry GarstB.A., D.D.
When elected, President Garst already had a long history with the University. He graduated in 1861, taught as Professor of Latin (1869-1886). Later he taught mental and moral philosophy and English Bible (1889-1900). In 1900 the Board named him Professor Emeritus. He also served various times as treasurer, secretary and pastor. In 1907 he published a comprehensive history covering Otterbein’s first fifty years. A year later trustees awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Generally he continued the policies of President Thompson. He effectively argued that public higher education was unjust because tax payer dollars went to support a small number of students. He also stated that public universities had to ignore religious education, the most important aspect of education and life. Enrollment continued to grow in his presidency.
1889 - 1891 | Dr. Charles A. BowersoxB.A., M.A., PH.D.
At the time of his election to the presidency, the Honorable Charles Bowersox was an attorney in Bryan, Ohio. An 1874 Otterbein graduate, trustees chose him as the first non minister to hold the presidential title. During his tenure, organized athletics, including football, track and tennis began.
He continued to devote most of his time to his legal practice and in 1891 he resigned from the University.
1891 - 1901 | Dr. Thomas J. SandersB.A., M.A., PH.D., LL.D.
At the time the Trustees chose Dr. Sanders, Otterbein class of 1878, as President, he had completed five years as Superintendent of Schools in Warsaw, Indiana. During his first five years in office, he spent much time contacting constituents outside the University. In his second five years he emphasized teaching and administrative work. In 1897 he promoted the University by organizing the Semi-Centennial Celebration.
President Sanders provided strong leadership. He eliminated the separate Ladies’ Department. He raised funds to convert Saum Hall to a science building. Intercollegiate basketball began. To support the University, he helped create the Women’s Cooperative Circle in the United Brethren Church. In 1893 Otterbein constructed the Association Building, its first gymnasium. Dr. Sanders also purchased additional land and secured the gift for Cochran Hall, a women’s residence hall built later. He worked tirelessly to pay off University debt.
In 1901 Otterbein received a second proposal to move to Dayton. As an alternative, President Sanders worked with Westerville to secure a commitment for street paving, a water plant, a sewer system, additional sidewalks and other infrastructure improvements. This not only kept Otterbein in Westerville, but also provided the opportunity for it to grow with the metropolitan area in later years.
Dr. Sanders resigned the presidency in 1901 but served Otterbein as a revered philosophy professor for an additional thirty years.
1901 - 1904 | Dr. George ScottPH.D, LITT. D.
Under President Scott’s leadership a 1901-1903 campaign raised $63,000 to eliminate the Otterbein debt for the first time. He also raised funds to finish work on the University chapel. His administration implemented the first true Otterbein budget system.
Dr. Scott urged faculty to study abroad and secured opportunities for faculty sabbaticals. He taught Latin during his presidency. When he left the presidency in 1904, Trustees appointed him Vice President to handle internal administration and free his successor for external relations and fund raising. For twenty years he served as Professor of Latin.
1904 - 1909 | The Reverend Lewis BookwalterM.A.
President Bookwalter demonstrated that strong leadership can produce significant accomplishments even in a short presidency. Trustees appointed him after he had extensive experience in United Brethren college presidencies, two years at Westfield College (IL) and ten at Western College (IA). As Trustees intended, he spent most of his time with off campus constituencies. In four years, he increased enrollment from 401 students to 551. Three Otterbein fraternities formed, without University approval.
President Bookwalter’s remarkable fund raising and construction record included Cochran Hall (1907, $31,000), Carnegie Library (1908, $40,000), Lambert Hall (music, 1909, $28,000), and a heating plant. He resigned in 1909.
1909 – 1939 | The Reverend Walter G. ClippingerB.A., B.D., LL.D., L.H.D.
President Clippinger did his undergraduate work at Lebanon Valley College (PA) and received his professional degree at Bonebreak Theological Seminary (OH) where he taught religious philosophy. At Otterbein he had a record tenure and extensive achievements.
During his presidency, Reverend Clippinger faced both a short crisis and a very prolonged one. With the entrance of the U. S. into World War I (1917) the enrollment crisis was met by suspending intercollegiate athletics and establishing two Student Army Corps companies on campus. The Great Depression, the longest sustained crisis in Otterbein history, led to many challenges. President Clippinger reduced faculty and staff, cut salaries and increased fund raising efforts. He was one of the few presidents to lead his institution through the depression with endowment intact and in a strong position to face the crisis of W.W. II.
President Clippinger brought important physical change to the campus. He built McFadden Science Hall, King Hall, Alumni Gymnasium and an athletic field and stadium.
President Clippinger significantly strengthened the Otterbein educational program. In 1917 the institution became Otterbein College, better aligning mission and name. The College received numerous accreditations. It established departments of speech, business administration and physical education.
The Clippinger administration enriched the co-curricular program. The The Tan and Cardinal, Quiz and Quill and the first Student Council organized. Although President Clippinger originally opposed fraternities and sororities by 1932 they received official recognition, enrolled a majority of students and superseded literary societies.
In 1939 President Clippinger retired. Trustees recognized him by awarding two honorary doctorates and naming the administration building for him.
1939 - 1945 | The Reverend Dr. John R. HoweB.A., B.D., PH.D, D.D.
Otterbein Trustees chose Dr. Howe, Otterbein class of 1921, a young, energetic Professor of Systematic Theology and the Philosophy of Religion at Bonebreak Theological Seminary, to follow President Clippinger. He had special abilities in public relations and speaking, student and faculty relations and constituent involvement. Through his leadership, the College faced and met a major challenge because of World War II.
The draft, combined with women dropping out to marry service men, decimated enrollment. President Howe had increased enrollment to 536 by 1941, but it dropped in 1943 to 286 with only 80 men. By 1944 it rebounded to 408 students. Seven faculty members left for military service. True to its religious commitment, Otterbein enrolled Japanese Americans from western internment camps as well as twenty conscientious objectors.
Despite wartime limitations President Howe expanded program and facilities. Intercollegiate athletics continued, though restricted. He helped develop a craft program to build and sell signs providing income to students and set up cooperative houses. He built a heating plant, opened a health center and improved the athletic field. He reorganized the curriculum on divisional lines and the College joined the National Association of Schools of Music.
In January 1945 President Howe resigned and went on to serve several pastorates and a professorship at Evangelical Seminary (IL). He left Otterbein well positioned to face post-war challenges.
1945 - 1945 | Dr. Royal F. MartinB.P.E., B.A., M.ED., LL.D.
In January 1945 the Executive Committee of the Otterbein Board appointed Professor Royal F. Martin, Otterbein class of 1914, Acting President. He held the position until July 1 when his successor took office. Professor Martin served Otterbein for 44 years in various posts including track coach, professor of physical education, director of athletics, division chairman and vice president. He had represented the College effectively as President of the Ohio Athletic Conference, the Men’s Physical Education Section of the Ohio College Association and the Ohio Conference Managers Association.
As Acting President he provided stability. In May he announced the Centennial Campaign, initiated by his predecessor, had reached pledges of $400,000. At that time Trustees appointed him Vice President with many internal responsibilities including veterans affairs. He retired in 1958. In 1961 Trustees designated him 14th President, Vice President Emeritus, and awarded him an honorary doctorate.
1945 - 1957 | The Reverend J. Gordon HowardB.A., B.D., M.A., D.D.
The Trustees elected J. Gordon Howard, Otterbein class of 1922, to the presidency. He had served as director of youth work and as editor of Sunday School literature for the Evangelical United Brethren Church. President Howard successfully met the challenges of his time.
Dealing with veterans returning to school under the G.I. Bill required strong leadership. The College purchased eight military surplus steel barracks for housing, twenty-four trailers for married students, and a surplus building for a student center. In 1952 President Howard secured an Air Force ROTC detachment.
To deal with overcrowding and modernizing the campus, President Howard led in vigorous fund raising. His presidency yielded $2.7 million. In 1948 he organized the Development Department. The same year he built Barlow Dining Hall and Memorial Stadium. More building followed: Cowan Hall, Centennial Library and Clements Hall. He renovated King Hall and the Carnegie Library (renamed Clippinger Administration Building).
In the broader community Reverend Howard represented Otterbein effectively. He served presidential terms in the Ohio College Association, Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, YMCA of Western Ohio and West Virginia and Columbus Torch Club.
He resigned the presidency in August 1957 when the Evangelical United Brethren Church elected him Bishop. In recognition of his service Trustees named the president’s house Howard House and elected him to the Board.
1957 - 1958 | Dr. Floyd J. VanceB.A., M.A., LL.D.
In August 1957, Trustees named Otterbein Registrar, Floyd Vance, Otterbein class of1916, Acting President. Beginning in 1921 through 43 years, Dr. Vance held ten different positions at the College: president, principal of the academy, dean, treasurer, business manager, director of admissions, foreign student advisor, director of placement, chairman of credits committee and French professor.
As acting president for a year and one-half, Dr. Vance increased enrollment, improved faculty salaries, raised $85,000 in the Annual Fund and began plans for new residence hall construction.
In 1958 following the selection of a new president, Trustees named him the sixteenth president of Otterbein and awarded him an honorary doctorate. He returned to the registrar position and retired in 1964.
1958 - 1971 | Dr. Lynn W. TurnerB.A. M.A., PH.D., LL.D., LITT.D.
In 1958 Trustees named Dr. Lynn W. Turner president. He was a distinguished American historian and Professor of History at Indiana University who had graduated from Indiana Central (now University of Indianapolis) and earned a Ph.D. at Harvard. He presided over one of the greatest periods of change at Otterbein and in American higher education.
In 1968 Otterbein adopted a new calendar and curriculum known as the 3/3 plan. It included a quarter system with a core of common courses (later integrative studies) taken by all students through four years, a nine course major and a student course load of three per quarter.
In the Turner era Otterbein diversified the student body geographically, racially and religiously. Educational program opportunities opened for students in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Sierra Leone, New Mexico, Detroit and worldwide through the World Campus Afloat.
In 1970 the Turner administration accomplished its most revolutionary change with the adoption of a new governance system. Otterbein adopted one senate replacing former student and faculty senates.
The Turner building program erected seven residence halls and built the Campus Center, Hirsch Health Center, Schear Science Center and the Courtright Memorial Library.
In 1971 President Turner retired. He had positioned Otterbein well for the future.
1971 - 1984 | Dr. Thomas J. Kerr, IVB.S., M.A., PH.D., L.H.D, LL.D.
Trustees chose Dr. Thomas Kerr, a 1956 Cornell graduate, as 18th president. An Otterbein history professor since 1963 he had also served seven months as Acting Academic Dean. As president he emphasized sense of community, the liberal arts combined with experiential learning, the Christian tradition and involvement with Columbus.
The College created a continuing education/adult degree program and established associate and bachelor of science degrees in nursing and a bachelor of fine arts in theatre and dance. Other new programs included computer science, equine science, journalism, accounting and technical theatre. Computer science needs led to a computer science center established in cooperation with Battelle Memorial Institute. Faculty established honors, reading and study skills, and English as a second language programs.
Major physical plant additions and improvements included the Rike Physical Education Center, Battelle Fine Arts Center, an addition to Cowan Hall and preservation work for Towers Hall.
Dr. Kerr represented Otterbein effectively in the broader community. He served as Vice President of the Grant Hospital Board, Chairman of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Independent Colleges, sectional leader of area United Fund and Boy Scout campaigns and a member of many boards and councils.
In 1984 Dr. Kerr left Otterbein to assume the presidency of the Grant Hospital Development foundation.
1984 - 2009 | Dr. C. Brent DeVoreB.S.J., M.A., Ph.D.
Prior to be selected President of Otterbein College by the Trustees in 1984, C. Brent DeVore served as President of Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia.
During his tenure President DeVore increased the diversity of students, faculty, and staff, elevated the quality of educational opportunities for all students, established a Center for Teaching and Learning, improved facilities campus-wide, and developed a culture of inclusivity and caring. During his tenure the College established masters level programs in Nursing, Education, and Business. Enrollment doubled from 1,600 to 3,100 and faculty with terminal degrees increased from 45% to 95%.
Beyond the campus, President DeVore served on the Council of Independent Colleges, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Ohio College Association, Nationwide Mutual Funds, National Campus Compact, Phi Kappa Tau Foundation, Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, Seran Foundation, United Methodist Higher Education Foundation, Communities in Schools, and the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce.
A careful steward of the College’s resources, President DeVore increased the endowment and balanced the budget every year. He led fundraising campaigns for Roush Hall, Towers Hall, Cowan Hall, and Courtright Memorial Library renovations, the Clements Recreation Center, the new Memorial Stadium, the Science Building Complex, an Equine Center, an Art and Communications Building, and several residence halls.
President DeVore modeled and promoted community service, supported the creation of service-learning courses, created a Center for Community Engagement, and encouraged efforts to increase Otterbein’s outreach in Westerville, Columbus, and beyond. As a result, Otterbein College gained national recognition for exceptional accomplishments in Community Service, including being named to the President’s Higher Educational Community Service Honor Roll in 2007 and being classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a “community engaged university” in 2008.
2009 - 2018 | Dr. Kathy KrendlPh.D.
Kathy A. Krendl, Ph.D., served as the 20th president and the first woman to lead Otterbein University from July 2009 through her retirement in June 2018. During her tenure at Otterbein, the university won national recognition for its distinctive undergraduate curriculum and its focus on experiential learning. Otterbein is consistently recognized on the President’s Honor Roll of community-engaged institutions. It also consistently ranks in the top tier of institutions for its commitment to a student-centered learning environment.
During her tenure President Krendl served on a number of central Ohio boards including the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation, YWCA Columbus, Ohio Campus Compact, Westerville Area Resource Ministry, and I Know I Can. She also co-chaired the Ohio Foundation for Independent Colleges Women’s Scholarship Initiative.
Dr. Krendl taught in the area of Women and Leadership and established the Otterbein Women’s Leadership Network to develop regional partnerships promoting opportunities for women of all ages. She also founded the Otterbein Women’s Leadership Advisory Council.
President Krendl was awarded the Global Women’s Summit Leadership Award, Living Faith Award, Ohio’s Most Powerful and Influential Women Award, and Deloitte’s WISE Woman Award. In 2015, she was honored by WELD (Women for Economic and Leadership Development) as the first recipient of the Riveter Award. In December 2016, she was honored as a finalist for the CEO of the Year (Large Nonprofit Category) by Columbus CEO magazine. In 2017 President Krendl received the Smart Business magazine Progressive Woman award, the Ohio Federation of Independent Colleges (OFIC) 2018 Volunteer of the Year award, and the Helping Hands of Central Ohio 2018 Ambassador for Education award. She was also named a 2018 YWCA Woman of Achievement honoree and selected as the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year in 2018.