As the 15th President of Ball State University, Dr. Ferguson led a refreshed university vision and planning process (The Centennial Commitment 18 by ’18) in preparation for the University’s Centennial in 2018. The new strategic focus was grounded in embracing Ball State’s legacy of beneficence and the spirit of entrepreneurship. Promoting the concept of Entrepreneurial Learning across campus extended the Ball State niche of optimizing student involvement in learning with their faculty. Key focus areas included programs defined as Student-Centered, Community-Engaged, and implementation of best practices guiding all planning and operations consistent with a model 21st Century Public Research University. Key success metrics included overall increases in student enrollment (2.6%) to 21,196 students with student success in retention and graduation rates with four year rates showing the highest rate of increase for all Indiana public universities (12% over five years to 44.7%). Ball State was characterized as fiscally healthy with a balanced annual budget and 2015 Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s Bond Ratings maintained at Aa3 due to “the University’s strong, integrated management approach.” Increased State appropriations (3%) were related to successful performance funding and affirmation of Ball State as Indiana’s “Entrepreneurial University.” Approval was obtained for a new $62.5M Health Professions Building to house a newly formed College of Health. New community economic development partnerships with the city, county, and state in accord with the Launch Indiana program extended Ball State’s entrepreneurial expertise. Dr. Ferguson consistently promoted high quality student life experiences that were inclusive and diverse as demonstrated in the impactful Beneficence Dialogs.
Dr. Ferguson and his wife, Grace, were known for their warmth and welcoming spirits and both exemplified the model of servant leadership. Dr. and Mrs. Ferguson initiated the Centennial Scholars Fellowship Program to recognize outstanding Ball State University Seniors who exemplified the Ball State vision of transforming learners into leaders.
Prior to his arrival at Ball State, Dr. Ferguson served as the 19th President of the University of Maine.
Jo Ann M. Gora was president from 2004 until her retirement in 2014. She led efforts to raise Ball State’s national reputation and the academic quality of its students. During her tenure, more than $520 million of construction and renovation changed the face of Ball State’s campus, including the David Letterman Communication and Media Building, the Music Instruction Building, The Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass, Kinghorn Residence Hall, Park Residence Hall, and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, which was named in her honor upon her retirement. Under Gora’s leadership, the university raised more money in a decade than it did in its previous 86 years. The Ball State Bold capital campaign topped its $200 million goal by more than $10 million. That campaign allowed the full implementation of Education Redefined Strategic Plan 2007-2012, the cornerstone of which was making immersive learning opportunities available to every undergraduate student. Gora was one of the 12 charter signatories to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2006. In 2009, she and other officials broke ground on the largest ground-source, closed-loop geothermal district energy system in the United States, allowing the university to shut down its coal-fired boilers and heat and cool more than 45 campus buildings while reducing its carbon footprint by nearly half. Gora came to Ball State from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she had been chancellor for three years, and Old Dominion University, where she was provost and vice president for academic affairs for nine years.
Beverley J. Pitts served as interim president from January-August 2004. Pitts resumed her role as provost and vice president for academic affairs after the arrival of President Jo Ann M. Gora. She served in that position until becoming president of the University of Indianapolis in fall 2005. She held several other Ball State positions including associate provost, assistant provost, and director of academic assessment. Before coming to Ball State, she was chair of the Department of Communication at Anderson University. She is also a professor of journalism and served as director of graduate studies in the Department of Journalism at Ball State. In addition to her educational career, she has been active as a practicing journalist.
Blaine A. Brownell became the 12th president of Ball State University on July 1, 2000. Before arriving in Muncie, Brownell held faculty and administrative positions at University of Memphis, University of North Texas in Denton, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Purdue University. During his three-and-a-half year tenure, enrollment rose to its highest level in 12 years, helped in large part to a record freshman retention rate of 80 percent. Ball State received the largest single grant in university history in 2001 when Lilly Endowment Inc. invested $20 million in the iCommunication initiative, establishing the university as a leader in the innovative use of digital media. The gift helped the Above and Beyond campaign raise more than $113 million, surpassing its $90 million goal. Private gifts also reached new heights, including the largest single private gift in university history, $17.2 million, which led to the naming of the Miller College of Business. During his presidency, the $30 million Art and Journalism Building and a $7.5 million renovation to the Fine Arts Building were completed, and construction began on the Music Instruction Building. Brownell resigned in January 2004 to become CEO of u21pedagogica.
Robert Bell was named president of Ball State University in February 1981. He was the first Ball State graduate to become president of the university. Bell received his degree in 1940 and joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the business department in 1947. In 1965, he was selected as the first dean of the College of Business and then was named vice president of business affairs in 1973. He had planned to resume teaching in the College of Business when he was asked to succeed Jerry Anderson as president in an attempt to "give the university some stability." Under Bell's leadership, the university began initiatives in computerization for the campus, computer literacy, and applying technology to university programs. Bell retired in 1984.
Jerry Anderson became president of Ball State University on July 1, 1979, at age 45. Previously, he had served as vice chancellor and chief academic officer of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. Anderson's initiatives included adoption and implementation of a university-wide planning process, establishment of a compensation program that contained merit and market components, decentralization of decision-making, and promotion of research and scholarship by the faculty. Anderson resigned after only 18 months as president.
Richard Burkhardt was appointed acting president after John Pruis resigned in 1978. He had joined Ball State as dean of the college in 1952, after serving as director of the division of teacher preparation at Syracuse University. When Ball State became a university in 1965, Burkhardt was appointed vice president for instructional affairs and dean of faculties. He was instrumental in establishing the university's London Centre program, Town and Gown Lecture series, and the Kirkpatrick Memorial Workshop on Aging. Following his term as president, Burkhardt was named provost and vice president of academic affairs. He served in that capacity until 1980 when he decided to return to full-time teaching and research in the history department.
John Pruis became president of Ball State University on July 1, 1968, at the age of 43. He had been associated with Western Michigan University, his alma mater, as professor of speech for 13 years, vice president for two years, and secretary to the university's Board of Trustees for four years. Accomplishments during his term as Ball State president included establishment of special programs and foreign language houses, Whitinger Scholars program, John R. Emens Scholars, Martin Luther King Jr. scholarships, and undergraduate research grants. He oversaw improvement of both graduate assistant and doctoral fellow programs. The construction of Bracken Library, the College of Architecture and Planning, Cooper Science Complex, and two parking garages were completed during Pruis' presidency, and work began on the College of Business building. Several other buildings underwent various stages of completion or remodeling as well. The Ball State University Annual Fund grew from $170,758 to approximately $1.8 million. Pruis resigned on August 31,1978, after 10 years of service as president.
Winfred E. Wagoner was appointed acting president for a period of six months when President Pittenger resigned in December 1942, and later his term was extended to more than two years. He had served as controller of the college for 17 years. During his term as president, he spent half of the day in the business office and the other half in the president's office. Wagoner suggested three new directions for the college facing the post-War period: a college solely for prospective teachers; a "college for public service" that would concentrate on education for teachers, public health and nursing practitioners, social workers, and public employees; or a "general college." He also proposed a self-study toward improving courses and curricula, and recommended planning for a campus design and construction of at least three new buildings. After the inauguration of President Emens in 1945, Wagoner continued to serve the college as the controller by managing all business affairs.
L. A. Pittenger was a native Hoosier, born in Delaware County and educated at Indiana State University. He taught English at Muncie High School, was on the faculty of Indiana Normal School, taught at Bloomington High School, and became head of the English Department at Kent State Normal School in 1913. He served three two-year terms in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1923 to 1927. Pittenger also became a professor of rural education at Ball State in 1923. He assumed the presidency of the college after the death of President Burris in 1927. In 1929, the Indiana General Assembly separated Ball Teachers College from the Indiana State Normal School and named it Ball State Teachers College. In March 1930, on the third attempt by Pittenger, the North Central Association of College and Secondary Schools transferred Ball State from the list of teacher-training schools to the list of colleges and universities. During this period, several buildings were added to campus, including Burris Laboratory School, the Fine Arts Building, and Elliott Hall. The Beneficence memorial to the Ball Brothers was dedicated in 1937. Pittenger resigned in December 1942, due to illness. In 1952, he was elected to the Indiana State Senate.
Linnaeus N. Hines became president of the Indiana State Normal School and its Eastern Division on October 21, 1921. He had served as a member of the Board of Trustees and the state superintendent of public instruction. Although Hines' tenure was relatively short, the college saw significant growth and change during this period. From 1919 to 1922, enrollment increased from 180 to 522. Science Hall and a new heating plant were constructed and work on Ball Gymnasium began. The Easterner, the college newspaper, began publication in 1922. To honor the Ball family for their generosity, the name of the institution was changed to Ball Teachers College, Eastern Division, Indiana State Normal School by the Indiana legislature in 1922. Hines resigned as president in the fall of 1924.
Prior to the establishment of the Eastern Division of Indiana State Normal College (now Ball State University) in 1918, four attempts were made at creating an institution of higher learning in Muncie. All of them failed.
However, these early attempts at bringing higher education to the east central part of Indiana laid important groundwork for Ball State's eventual success. All of these schools were housed in what is now the university's Administration Building, dedicated in August 1899.
Four men served as presidents of these institutions:
Information about some of Ball State's past presidents was supplied by Ball State's Archives and Special Collections, located in Bracken Library.
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