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Southern Illinois University (System). Office of the President. | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Southern Illinois University (System). Office of the President.

Historical Note:

The Southern Illinois University system developed over time.  In 1868, educators in southern Illinois held meetings in Salem, Carbondale, and Centralia to discuss the need for a teacher training school in the lower half of the state.  The meetings engendered a Committee of Fifteen which petitioned the Illinois General Assembly about the educational needs of the region.  The General Assembly subsequently passed the charter act establishing Southern Illinois Normal University on March 9, 1869, which was signed by Governor John M. Palmer on April 9.  The act appointed a board of trustees to select the location of the new institution.  They placed advertisements in southern Illinois newspapers to solicit donated land, money, and buildings from local communities that desired to be the home of the university.  Carbondale outbid competitors including Olney, Tamaroa, Centralia, and Du Quoin with $100,000 in city bonds, $50,000 in Jackson County bonds, and an estimated property value of $75,000 for the Southern Illinois College building.  The first building, known as the Main Building, also called Normal Hall and today remembered as Old Normal, was dedicated on July 1, 1874.  The first student body, comprised of 53 students, were enrolled in the 1874 summer session; the first regular session began on September 6 of that year.

Southern Illinois Normal University grew steadily in enrollment and curriculum during its first several decades.  By the late 1930s, university officials and alumni began to petition the Illinois General Assembly and Governor about the anticipated enrollment growth following the conclusion of World War II.  They also recognized the need to provide higher education beyond the Normal-school curriculum, and residents of Illinois’ 31 southern counties, viewing SINU as the only accredited university in the region, desired that it expand to grant more liberal arts degrees.  With the help of Illinois Senator Robert G. Crisenberry, the Sixty-third General Assembly passed legislation granting SINU limited university status on June 30, 1943, allowing it grant liberal arts degrees and master’s degrees in education.  The Sixty-fifth General Assembly changed the name of SINU in 1947, dropping “Normal” from its title to become Southern Illinois University.

The university’s academic programs, enrollment, and faculty and staff grew substantially during the presidency of Delyte W. Morris from 1948-1970.  It was during these years that the SIU System began to take shape.  The lack of higher education opportunity in the Metro East, outlined in a report by Dr. Alonzo Myers of New York University, prompted SIU to expand in the East St. Louis area.  In 1957 the university purchased the defunct Shurtleff College facilities in Alton and a former building of East St. Louis High School as temporary facilities in which to educate students.  Land for a permanent campus was purchased in 1960 for what became Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and the first classes on the SIUE campus occurred in the fall of 1965.  The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield was established in 1970, and enrolled its first students in 1973.  The Carbondale, Edwardsville, and School of Medicine campuses form the Southern Illinois University system.

Delyte Morris had been the president overseeing both the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses until 1968, when Robert W. MacVicar was named Chancellor of SIUC, John S. Rendleman was named Chancellor of SIUE, and Morris became President of the SIU System.  University administration underwent significant reorganization in the early 1970s after Delyte Morris was relieved of his duties by the SIU Board of Trustees in 1970.  Willis E. Malone was named Acting Chancellor of the Carbondale campus in June 1970 and was replaced by Robert G. Layer in September 1970.  In August 1970, the Board created the University Administrative Council (UAC) which held primary administrative powers over both campuses.  John S. Rendleman remained Chancellor of SIUE.

James Montgomery Brown was appointed Chief of Board Staff (a member of the UAC), a position created by the Board in July 1970.  The position was abolished in 1974 and the new position of General Secretary of the SIU System was created, in which Brown served until 1979.  The duties of this position were to serve as an educational analyst and advisor to the Board, assist it in system planning and maintaining external relationships, and administer the Office of the Board of Trustees.  In August 1971, the Board had abolished the UAC, changed Layer’s and Rendleman’s titles from Chancellor to President, and re-vested chief administrative authority to the president positions.

The SIU System maintained the structure of General Secretary and a president for each the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses until 1979.  On February 8, the General Secretary position was abolished and the Office of the Chancellor of Southern Illinois University (system) was created.  Kenneth Shaw was the first system Chancellor from 1979-1986.  The Chancellor reported to the Board of Trustees and served as the primary link between the Board’s responsibilities for policies and the campus Presidents’ responsibilities for operations.  On January 1, 1996, the Board reversed the titles of President and Chancellor so that the SIU System titles would be uniform with those at other colleges and universities throughout the state and nation.  Ted Sanders, who served from 1995-2000, was the first to be called President of the SIU System.


Mitchell, Betty. Southern Illinois University: a Pictorial History. St. Louis, MO: G. Bradley Publishing, Inc., 1993.

Lentz, Eli G.  75 Years in Retrospect, from Normal School to Teachers College to University, Southern Illinois University, 1874-1949.  Carbondale, IL: University Editorial Board, Southern Illinois University, 1955.

Note Author: Matt Gorzalski

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