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John Irvin Cleland, 1891-1894

John Irvin Cleland c.1860 - 1927
John Irvin Cleland
c.1860 – 1927

John Irvin Cleland, a graduate of Centre College who had been serving as a professor of Latin and philosophy at the college, was named the president in 1891. During his tenure, Alumni Hall, the first building on the current campus, was completed by October of that year. Two other buildings were also built during his tenure, a small dining hall seating fifty and a professor’s cottage, later called the Cottage Dormitory that would house 14 students.

“Gradually more students were coming to PC from beyond the Clinton area to make use of the residential facilities on the new 16-acre site. In 1892, there were 62 students enrolled in the college division and 71 in the preparatory classes—all taught by a seven-man faculty, which included President Cleland.” (Hammet, Spirit of PC, 15)

In 1894, Cleland apparently became disenchanted with the role of administrator and resigned, leaving Presbyterian to pursue graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. After a year of graduate school, he became the third president of Arkansas College, now Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas, serving until 1897. (Brooks Blevins, Lyon College, 1872-2002: The Perseverance and Promise of an Arkansas College, 2003, p. 48)

Cleland later attended McCormick Theological Seminary and became a minister in the northern branch of the Presbyterian Church. He served the rest of his life as a minister and evangelist and died in 1927.