Commitment Header for Inauguration of Earl F. Martin.

History of Inauguration

A brief history of leadership at Drake:


George Thomas Carpenter

President: 1881-1882

Chancellor: 1882–1883 (*Drake adopted the title “chancellor” for its institutional leaders between 1882 and 1903)

Drake’s archives do not include any mention of an inauguration of the University’s founder and first president. More likely, the community was focused on rapid construction of the campus’ first building—Students’ Home—in time for classes to begin on September 20, 1881.


Barton O. Aylesworth

Acting Chancellor: 1893–1897

At 34, Aylesworth was said to be the youngest university leader in the country when he took the reins at Drake. (Though he replaced the ailing Carpenter and assumed all the duties of the office, Aylesworth was never formally recognized as chancellor.)


William Bayard Craig

Chancellor: 1897–1902

Hailing from Canada, Craig is the only Drake University president born outside the United States. 


Hill McClelland Bell

Vice Chancellor: 1902–1903

President: 1903–1918

Bell, the first president to hold a Drake degree, watched the Glee Club perform Drake Alma Mater at his inauguration, the first such ceremony to marry alumna Emma Scott’s lyrics with alumnus Clifford Bloom’s music. 


Arthur Holmes

President: 1918–1923

A pastor of the churches of the Disciples of Christ in Philadelphia, Holmes remains the only Drake president who was also an ordained minister.


Daniel Walter Morehouse

President; 1923–1941

Daniel Morehouse was an internationally known astronomer who earned his Bachelor of Science from Drake in 1900 before going on to discover a comet.

Morehouse’s inauguration ceremony took place on the first day of homecoming celebrations. Following the event, Morehouse attended a public reception while the auditorium was immediately transformed to host a circus taking place that evening.


Henry Gadd Harmon

President: 1941–1964

Harmon’s inauguration took place Oct. 17, 1941, when an inaugural procession formed on the steps of Old Main and marched across University Avenue to the University Church of Christ.

The inauguration dinner at the Hotel Fort Des Moines, which ran the tidy sum of $1.50 per person, included such delicacies as mixed pickles, new peas sauté, coconut rocks, and something identified only as “Drake Surprise.”

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Arthur H. Compton spoke at the ceremony, while President Harry S. Truman sent his congratulatory words by mail (the original letter lives in Drake University Archives and Special Collections).


Paul Frederick Sharp

President: 1966–1971

“Never in its 40-year history,” proclaimed the January 1967 edition of Drake University Magazine, “has the Drake Field House taken on the air of expectancy that it did the morning of October 28, 1966.” 

After a luncheon that included frosted melon balls with grenadine syrup, the inaugural ceremony took place with a processional of more than 600 individuals—trustees, faculty, visiting dignitaries, university and college presidents, and delegates from learned societies—in multi-colored caps and gowns, and Sharp was presented the newly designed presidential medallion (see “A Field Guide to Investiture 2016” beginning on page 12). 

An inaugural ball was held that evening, and the football game between Drake and North Texas State the following day featured a special halftime inauguration program. An exhibit of works by Drake College of Fine Arts faculty in honor of the event was on display at Cowles Library.


Wilbur C Miller

President: 1972–1985

Miller’s term was a time of tremendous growth: Capital projects included the Harmon Fine Arts Center, Olmsted Center, Olin Hall of Biological Science, Cartwright Hall, the Bell Center, and Aliber Hall.


Michael Ferrari

President: 1985–1998

March 2, 1986, marked the investiture of Michael R. Ferrari. Professor of Voice Marion Hall sang the national anthem during the opening of the ceremony, and later added her rendition of Drake Alma Mater to the proceedings.

Charles Nelson, professor of history, served as Marshal of the University, Master of Ceremonies, and presented an address on behalf of Drake faculty.


Robert D. Ray

President: 1998–1999

A 1952 graduate of the College of Business and Public Administration and 1954 Law School alumnus, Ray served as governor of Iowa from 1969 to 1983. He served as interim mayor of Des Moines in 1997 and was named Drake’s 11th president in April 1998.


David E. Maxwell

President: 1999–2015

Maxwell’s inauguration ceremony on Oct. 9, 1999, was the first to be held in The Knapp Center and included the presentation of gifts from various University constituents and friends, among them a crystal globe representing the thousands of Drake alumni around the world, a brick representing the staff as the foundation of the University, and a pair of juggling clubs representing the many challenges a president must constantly manage.