About Feature 1

William Allison Shimer (1945-1947)

Henry Smith

With the war coming to an end, the Board of Trustees began a search for the type of leader who could propel the College into the post-World War II era.

When William Allison Shimer was identified as the College's eleventh president, the Board's choice received great praise. Educated at Harvard University, Dr. Shimer had taught philosophy at The Ohio State University and later at Bucknell University, where he was also dean of the faculty. For 12 years he served as executive secretary of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, founding that society's magazine, The American Scholar and its newspaper The Key Reporter.

Vernon Bowen '27 described some of Dr. Shimer's goals in a profile that was published in The Marietta Alumnus at the start of the Shimer Administration: "Yes, he has a lot of plans on what he hopes to do at Marietta. He hopes, among other things, to give students just the tiniest taste of vocation finding, so that they will better know what kind of work they would like to follow after their liberal arts training. He hopes to get increasing numbers of students to realize exactly what an advantage they have available in Marietta's superb library—and to get them to depend more on themselves in the process of obtaining an 'education.' "

A personable man, Dr. Shimer connected easily with the campus. "He's the sort of person who grins, rather than smiles, who is ready with a chuckle over many things—including himself as he thinks back to the West Virginia farm boy who dared start Harvard University with only $50 in his pocket, insufficient credits—and of the four and a half years' work he did in three years' time while living in an unheated room, living on a dollar's worth of food a week, and working for 25 cents an hour at all kinds of jobs in order to keep alive."

The first semester under Dr. Shimer, there were 227 students enrolled at Marietta. By the start of the second semester, in January 1946, there were 559 students enrolled. More than half of those students were veterans. When this growth occurred, Dr. Shimer spent a great deal of time trying to obtain temporary housing for the GIs and their families. By the fall of 1947, enrollment broke the 1,000-student barrier, reaching 1,229 students.

It was also during his tenure the College purchased the building at the corner of Sixth and Putnam streets from the Marietta Chair Company. That building, known now as Mills Hall, is still in use.

Despite the College's proliferation, a personal conflict arose between the Board and Dr. Shimer, resulting in the president's resignation just two years into his tenure. After divorcing his wife of 26 years, Dr. Shimer married Dorothy Blair, the Dean of Women and formerly the director of public relations. Most of the faculty and student body stood behind the merits of Dr. Shimer and strongly urged the Board to reconsider, to no avail.

The College's laundry aired in the Aug. 11, 1947, edition of Time magazine. "Dr. Shimer & bride hurried home to protest. He had strong support: 22 of the 28 professors at the summer session signed a petition backing him. The petition referred to his previous career as national secretary of Phi Beta Kappa and editor of the American Scholar, as dean of the faculty at Bucknell and as a Navy Lieutenant during the war. Said graying Professor T.D. Phillips of Marietta's physics department: 'Marietta College needs some new trustees.' While Dr. Shimer and two of his professors argued with the trustees, students marched around the campus bearing placards: 'We Want Shimer,' 'Let Him without Sin Cast the First Stone.' Marietta's trustees were unyielding. Dr. Shimer at last agreed to resign."