It’s hard to believe that the 200th year is upon us and our celebration of the most interesting and unique facts about Norwich at 200 will soon come to a close. As we prepare to look to the future and the next 200 years of legacy building, we thought that readers might be interested in seeing the bird’s eye view of Norwich history from a few different angle.
This week, we offer an overview of the presidents of Norwich. Leadership defines Norwich in so many ways, and these are the leaders who have grown this institution to the stature it has today. Some of these are household names. Others sometimes fade into the background, but are no less a part of our 200-year story.
Many of our 23 presidents (of whom 12 were also Norwich alumni) have been featured in their own 200 Things About Norwich pieces, which are linked below. You can find an even more in-depth version of this timeline in the recently published Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich University by Alex Kershaw.
Presidents of Norwich University
- Alden Partridge, 1819-1843: Our founder, first president, and educational visionary. “200 Things About Norwich” has featured pieces on Partridge’s hiking, his West Point years, his educational philosophy, and the other academies and schools he established to further his system of education.
- Truman Ransom (Class of 1825), 1844-1847: Alden Partridge’s protégé, an early graduate of the Academy, whose presidency and life were both cut all too short by his service and death in the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War
- James Butler, 1847-1848: Butler and his successor, Henry Wheaton, each served brief terms as the university sought new leadership with the loss of Truman Ransom.
- Henry Wheaton (Class of 1841), 1848-1849
- Edward Bourns, 1850-1865: Bourns’ 15-year term was the first long-serving presidency that the university had seen since Alden Partridge. He saw the university through the Civil War and went on to found Northfield Savings Bank.
- Samuel Shattuck (Class of 1860), Acting President 1866-1867: The beginning of Shattuck’s acting presidency was the beginning of an era of uncertainty as the university dealt with the repercussions of the South Barracks fire and struggled to find stable footing in its new location of Northfield, Vt. The 1860s and 1870s saw a series of brief presidencies.
- Thomas Walker: 1867-1868
- Roger Howard: 1869-1871
- Malcolm Douglass: 1871-1875
- Charles Curtis (Class of 1837), 1875
- Josiah Swett (Class of 1837), 1875-1877
- Charles Curtis (Class of 1861), 1877-1880: As the only Norwich president to serve two non-consecutive terms, one might call Curtis the Grover Cleveland of NU.
- Charles Lewis (Class of 1855), 1880-1892: Over his own objections, Lewis was made president and had the university renamed in his honor after he saved Norwich from financial ruin. The post seems to have been mostly honorary.
- George Nichols, Acting President 1892-1893
- Charles Dole (Class of 1869), Acting President 1894-1895
- Allan Brown, 1896-1904
- Charles Spooner (Class of 1878), 1904-1915: Spooner saw Norwich through the controversy of the “College Wars,” when the state of Vermont threatened to withdraw all funding and scholarships from the university.
- Ira Reeves, 1915-1917: Like Truman Ransom, Reeves’ service to the university was cut short by his service to country in World War I.
- Herbert Roberts, Acting President 1917-1920: Though he was officially only the acting president, Roberts saw Norwich through the trying period of World War I.
- Charles Plumley (Class of 1896), 1920-1934: Plumley was another one of our long serving presidents, whose term spanned the years of the Great Depression.
- Porter Adams, 1934-1939: Adams was an avid aviator (and personal friend of Amelia Earhart) who worked to bring aeronautical engineering to Norwich.
- John Thomas, 1939-1944: Our president for most of World War II, Thomas was a seasoned educator who had previously served as president of Middlebury.
- Homer Dodge, 1944-1950: The immediate postwar years at Norwich were a time of upheaval and adjustment to a new normal, and Dodge’s leadership paved the way for one of the biggest growth periods in NU history.
- Ernest Harmon (Class of 1916), 1950-1965: General Harmon was one of our longest-serving and most iconic presidents, overseeing huge growth as the Norwich campus transformed during the 1950s and 1960s.
- Barksdale Hamlett, 1965-1972: Hamlett was president during the Vietnam era and the merger with Vermont College that led Norwich to admit women and civilians for the first time.
- Loring Hart, 1972-1982: It was President Hart who made the groundbreaking decision to allow women to join the Corps of Cadets in 1974.
- Russell Todd (Class of 1950), 1982-1992: President Todd’s term saw the development of some of Norwich’s alternative education offerings, which would become a signature in the 21st
- Richard Schneider, 1992-present: President Schneider became our longest serving president in 2016, with a term spanning unprecedented changes in the landscape of American education.