Harry Kelso Eversull (1937-1942)

Henry Smith

The College was knee-deep in the Great Depression when Harry Kelso Eversull took office as the ninth president in 1937.

Straight from his pulpit at Walnut Hills Congregationalist Church in Cincinnati, Dr. Eversull was the last member of the clergy to serve as president. His inauguration made the pages of Time magazine as it attracted Gen. Charles G. Dawes and Rufus Dawes back to campus to make special appearances.

"The old college has come out of the doldrums and is definitely headed for a bright future," wrote Charles C. White, Class of 1897 and president of the Alumni Association.

Dr. Eversull was already a noted author and historian who had studied at Wabash, Yale, Cincinnati, Elon and Stanford. He was also a veteran of World War I. During the first two years of the administration, enrollment actually reached record levels with 430 students. Through personal visits and correspondence, Dr. Eversull made many attempts to reach out to current students, alumni and potential donors.

Col. Dean Hess '41, the retired U.S. Air Force pilot, ordained minister and humanitarian who helped to save countless orphans during the Korean War, wrote a tribute to his alma mater and Dr. Eversull in his book "Battle Hymn." As a student during the Depression, Col. Hess was often without enough money to pay for his tuition, though the College extended him the same care and consideration as full-paying students.

"I often did not see how I was going to make it through college," Hess wrote. "I owed them so much in tuition that I sometimes was reluctant to go from one class to another, worried that I would be met at the door and told that I was going to have to drop out. The College officials were considerate of my problems—but I seemed an almost impossible case. While I was never able to pay the full amount until years later, I would always scrape up a couple of dollars to put down on my account… The officials of the College remained extraordinarily kind and considerate in helping me. Dr. Harry K. Eversull, the president, used to call me in to ask how I was doing. Did I have a job that would see me through? Was there any way in which he could help me develop a work-and-study program? One of my professors, a particularly strict disciplinarian, rescheduled an exam for me one morning when he saw that my head was nodding. To these people I shall always be grateful."

Shortly after he began his tenure, Dr. Eversull released his "Five-Year Forward" proposals, which were goals that included increasing enrollment to 500 students, revising the curriculum, rehabilitating campus buildings and equipment, and pursuing a campaign fund drive that would "liquidate the debt, increase the endowment by $1.5 million, and build a science hall and a chapel," according to Dan McGrew's book, "In the Various Branches of Useful Knowledge."

At the start of the Great Depression, faculty had agreed to take a pay cut—that cut eventually reached 50 percent. Dr. Eversull wanted to raise faculty salary by 20 percent, despite the fact that the College had been operating under a deficit. By the end of the Depression, the College withstood a full decade of consecutive deficits totaling about $250,000.

Though some of the building upgrades were completed, none of the Five-Year Forward goals were completely reached. The breaking point for Dr. Eversull came when the United States fell under the attack of Japanese bombers. Twenty days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the ninth president submitted his resignation to the Board of Trustees "to return to religious work for which I have been trained and in which my primary interests lie."