University Museums

Title: William Miller Beardshear, President, Iowa State College, 1891-1902
Name: Portrait
Date: 1938
Period: American Impressionism
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 50 x 39 in. (127 x 99.1 cm)
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Gift of the Class of 1898, Iowa State College. In the Presidential Portrait Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Parks Library
Object Number: U82.123
More Information
William M. Beardshear (1850-1902) was president at Iowa State College from 1891-1902.

Ohio-born, Beardshear joined the Union Army at the age of 14 and served in the Civil War, studied for the ministry at Otterbein College and Yale University, filled several pastorates becoming to Iowa in 1881 as president of Western College at Toledo. He was West Des Moines superintendent of schools when an alliance of farm organizations secured his appointment as president of Iowa State College.

Most storied of Iowa State presidents Beardshear was a physically impressive man who combined hard common sense with sentimentality and a robust sense of humor. Many of his goals still were unattained when he suffered a fatal heart attack, but during his administration, Iowa State "came of age".

Quickly winning the respect and affection of student, faculty and the public at large, Beardshear was unhampered by the factionalism that had handicapped his predecessors. He organized Iowa State's academic structure along divisional lines, made exceptionally judiciously staff appointments, obtained the school's first state appropriation for operating funds (1900-1902) and induced the General Assembly to broaden the tax base to provide building funds. Adoption of the name "Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts" in 1986 reflected the institution’s increasing maturity under his administration.

Label Text:
William M. Beardshear

Born in Ohio in 1850, William Miller Beardshear joined the Union Army at the age of 14 and served throughout the Civil War. He studied for the ministry at Otterbein College and Yale Divinity School. He filled several pastorates before coming to Iowa in 1881 as the President of Western College in Toledo. In 1889, he was appointed Superintendent of Schools in West Des Moines.

In 1891, Beardshear was appointed President of Iowa State, and during his tenure, ISC truly came of age. Beardshear developed new agricultural programs and was instrumental in hiring premier faculty members such Anson Marston, Louis B. Spinney, J.B. Weems, Perry G. Holden, and Maria Roberts. He also expanded the university administration, and the following buildings were added to the campus: Morrill Hall (1891); the Campanile (1899); Old Botany (now Catt Hall) (1892); and Margaret Hall (1895).

While Beardshear was President, the following events also occurred at Iowa State: the school colors of cardinal and gold were named, Iowa State became known as the Cyclones (1895), and the first Bomb (the university yearbook) was published in 1893. He died in 1902 of complications following a heart attack. In his honor, Iowa State named its central administrative building (Central Building) after Beardshear in 1938.