History

History

Millersville University

Millersville University's history can be traced to the idea that for free public education to succeed, institutions for the training of qualified teachers needed to be established. This idea was realized in the normal school movement, a social and educational reform crusade that gained currency across the country and in Pennsylvania in the mid-19th century. From its inception, the institution that became Millersville University was committed to the ideals of teacher training and classical learning as essential components of public education and enlightened citizenship."

Dr. Dennis Downey, We Sing to Thee, ix.

What's in a name?

  • 1855 – Lancaster County Normal School
  • 1859 – Millersville State Normal School
    (the first Pennsylvania State Normal School)
  • 1927 – Millersville State Teachers College
  • 1959 – Millersville State College
  • 1983 – Millersville University

Past Presidents

John F. Stoddard

John F. Stoddard
Principal 1855-1856

Dr. Stoddard served as the first principal of the Lancaster County Normal School for less than a year. Stoddard was the author of numerous textbooks, primarily in the field of mathematics and an educational entrepreneur, founding the Susquehanna Company Normal School and attempting to revive the University of Western Pennsylvania, and a principal of public schools in Pennsylvania, New York State and New York City.

James P. Wickersham

James P. Wickersham
Principal 1856-1866

Dr. Wickersham, a pioneer in teacher education, established the first state normal school in Pennsylvania and was responsible for the development of the curriculum which served as the model for other normal schools in the state. He was also the founder of the Pennsylvania State Teachers Association. Wickersham left Millersville to become the state superintendent of schools and later served as President Arthur's Envoy to Denmark.

Edward Brooks

Edward Brooks
Principal 1866-1883

Dr. Brooks was one of the original faculty members when the normal school opened in 1855. He brought a national reputation to the school through his writings, lectures and activity in educational organizations.

Benjamin F. Shaub

Benjamin F. Shaub
Principal 1883-1887

Dr. Shaub was the first Millersville graduate to serve as principal. He was an honors graduate and former superintendent of Lancaster County common schools. His appointment as principal in 1883 was made after many objections by faculty and students. Shaub resigned from his position to become a partner in the Lancaster Carpet Company.

Eliphalet O. Lyte

Eliphalet O. Lyte
Principal 1887-1912

Dr. Lyte entered the normal school in 1866 after serving in the Civil War and teaching for two years. He became professor of rhetoric and bookkeeping in 1868 and later a professor of pedagogy and grammar before being named principal. He was associated with the school for 44 years before his resignation due to ill health. Credited for the first building boom at Millersville, he designed and directed the construction of the Science Building (since removed), the Library (currently Biemesderfer Executive Center) and the Gymnasium (now Dutcher Hall). He also oversaw the construction of the Model School, formerly Myers Hall and now Charles and Mary Hash Building. Lyte was also a prolific writer of music and is famous for his round, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

Peter M. Harbold

Peter M. Harbold
Principal 1912-1918

Dr. Harbold graduated from Millersville and then became a professor of history for a short time. Heading the Model School in 1901, Harbold left to become superintendent of Lancaster County schools in 1911. Returning in 1912 as principal, he resigned several years later over a policy dispute with the Board of Trustees.

Charles H. Gordinier

Charles H. Gordinier
Principal/President 1918-1929

Dr. Gordinier came to Millersville in 1911 when he replaced A. R. Byerly as professor of classical languages. In 1918 he became the first president of Millersville and held the title when the normal school became a state teachers college in 1927.

Landis Tanger

Landis Tanger
President 1929-1943

Dr. Tanger, an 1898 graduate of Millersville was appointed president of the state college in 1929. He presided over heroic attempts to save the University and other schools from being closed during the Great Depression and the early years of World War II. After retirement in 1943, Tanger continued to be an active member in the school community.

Daniel L. Biemesderfer

Daniel L. Biemesderfer
President 1943-1965

Dr. Biemesderfer, a 1917 graduate of Millersville State Normal School became university president in 1943. During his tenure, the college struggled through the student shortage of World War II, the student surplus of the post-war years and the declining enrollments and state appropriations in the 1950's. During his presidency, liberal arts and graduate studies were added to the curriculum.

Robert A. Christie

Robert A. Christie
President 1965-1968

Dr. Christie was an active individual in higher education and was appointed president of Millersville in 1965. Promoting liberal arts throughout his presidency, Christie oversaw the development of the east campus and other locations. He resigned under pressure from the Board of Trustees in 1968. In 1970, he and his family were killed in a plane crash off the coast of British Honduras in South America.

William H. Duncan

William H. Duncan
President 1968-1981

Dr. Duncan was associated with the college for 46 years. After receiving his degree at Millersville, he became a social studies teacher before holding administrative positions such as director of admissions, registrar, acting dean of instruction and dean of students prior to his appointment as president. He oversaw the continuing building boom of the 1960's and early 1970's, the decline of state appropriations in the 1970's, the change of emphasis from teacher training to liberal arts, and rapidly increasing enrollments.

Joseph A. Caputo

Joseph A. Caputo
President 1981-2003

Dr. Joseph A. Caputo became president of Millersville State College in 1981 before the transformation of the school into a university in 1983. During his years at Millersville, Caputo oversaw the school's enrollment increase by nearly 1,400 students, the expansion of academic programs including the creation of an Honor's College, master's degrees in business administration, nursing and others as well as minors in areas such as African-American studies and women's studies. He also established the Lancaster Partnership Program, the university's advancement office and improved university facilities including the science and technology building, McCollough Communications Complex and the Student Memorial Center.

Francine G. McNairy Francine G. McNairy
President 2003-2013
Francine G. McNairy served as the 13th President of Millersville University of Pennsylvania from 2003 until her retirement on January 25, 2013.  During Dr. McNairy's tenure, a strategic planning process  was developed leading to a new vision statement, a redirection of the University's institutional identity program, a redesign of the budget process to encourage greater constituent participation and transparency, a focus on securing new revenue sources and a strategic planning process of aligning budget priorities with institutional priorities and goals.  She championed an increase in the diversity of the faculty, staff and student body, and established greater outreach to government, business and opinion leaders.   She oversaw the completion of the University's second capital campaign and led the development and completion of its successful third $88 million Soar to Greatness campaign.  Under her leadership, the University's commitment to community/civic engagement resulted in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's distinguished designation as a Civic/Community Engagement University.  In 2012, the Washington Monthly ranked the University 68 out of 682 higher education institutions in the U.S. for its contribution to serve the public good -- the only one of the 14 Pennsylvania State owned Universities to rank in the top 100.