Central Michigan University Presidents

Prof. Charles F. R. Bellows (1892 - 1896)

Prof. Charles F. R. Bellows 1892 - 1896

Charles F. R. Bellows (1832-1907) was the first head of Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute in Mount Pleasant (1892-96). Born in Charlestown, New Hampshire in 1832, his family moved to Climax, Michigan in 1837. He received a second class teaching certificate from Michigan State Normal School in Ypsilanti (now Eastern Michigan University) in 1855 and later a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan. In 1867, he entered the faculty of the Michigan State Normal School, where he was a professor of mathematics (1867-91) and acting principal (1870-71). Bellows left Ypsilanti in 1891 and agreed to be the founding principal of the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute University in June of 1892.

For the first year (1892-93), the Institution held classes in the Carpenter Building in downtown Mt. Pleasant. Bellows surveyed the future location of the campus and was involved in the construction of the original Main Building (where Warriner Hall stands today), which opened in September of 1893. During his tenure, Principal Bellows organized a separate Conservatory for Music through his own funds, which became incorporated into the Normal in 1900. He continued to teach as a professor and spoke to teacher groups throughout the State. Under principal Bellows, Central was known by three different names - Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute (1892-93); Central Michigan Normal School (1893-95); and finally Central State Normal School (1895-1927) after the State Board of Education took over governance of the School. Principal Bellows also led an advertising effort for the School in order to gain more students.
In 1896, Principal Bellows resigned from Central. He returned to Ypsilanti in 1902 to join the faculty of the State Normal School.

Charles McKenny (1896 - 1899)

Charles McKenny 1896 - 1899
Charles McKenny (1860-1933) was the second principal of Central (1896-1900). Born in Dimondale, Michigan in 1860, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Michigan Agricultural College in 1881 (now Michigan State University). Prior to Central, McKenny was a teacher at Charlotte (Michigan) schools, a principal at Vermontville (Michigan) schools, a professor of English at Olivet College, and principal of the normal department at Olivet College for the seven years immediately preceding his time in Mount Pleasant.
During his tenure at Central, enrollment continued to increase. The Central State Normal Athletic Association was formed and the first football game was played with Principal McKenny acting as assistant coach. McKenny left in 1900 to become head of the Milwaukee Normal (now University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and in 1912 he took the position of president of Michigan State Normal College, leading it to become the largest teacher training school in the world.

Charles Grawn (1900 - 1918)

Charles Grawn 1900 - 1918
Charles Grawn (1857-1942) was the third to hold the position of principal and the first president at Central State Normal School from 1900-18. Born in Salem, Mich. in 1857, he attended the State Normal School in Ypsilanti (B.Ed). His graduate studies were performed at Columbia University (M. A. 1904) and he received an honorary Master of Arts degree from University of Michigan (1906). Before his tenure at Central, Principal Grawn was the superintendent of Traverse City schools and principal of the training school at Michigan State Normal.
Grawn was the first head of Central to use the title president (beginning 1908). Under his leadership, the campus increased in size to twenty-five acres and three new buildings were built, including Central Hall and the Training School. The curriculum was modified and Central was authorized to grant higher-level teaching certificates. Charles Grawn retired in 1918.

Dr. Eugene Clarence Warriner

(1918 - 1939)

Dr. Eugene Clarence Warriner 1918 - 1939
Dr. Eugene Warriner (1866-1945) served as the fourth head of Central from 1918-39. He was born in Earlville, Illinois in 1866. Dr. Warriner graduated from the University of Michigan (1891) and later received an honorary doctorate of laws from Alma (1937). Prior to his time at Central, Dr. Warriner was the principal of Battle Creek High School (ca. 1893-96) and served the Saginaw schools for twenty-two years (ca. 1896-1918).
During his 21 years at Central, Dr. Warriner presided over the change of Central State Normal School into a four-year college. The name of the school was changed to Central State Teachers College in 1927 to reflect this. Additionally, the enrollment of the Institution nearly doubled, the Old Main Building was destroyed by fire (1925) and replaced by what would become known as Warriner Hall, the first Central Homecoming was held (1924), Alumni Field was built (1932) and a vast amount of infrastructure improvements were made, the College received North Central Accreditation (1932), and graduate education began in a joint effort with the University of Michigan (1938). President Warriner retired in 1939.

Dr. Charles L. Anspach (1939 - 1959)

Dr. Charles L. Anspach 1939 - 1959
Dr. Charles Anspach (1895-1977) was the fifth leader of Central. He received a BA (1919) and MA (1920) from Ashland College (now University) in Ohio and Ph. D. from the University of Michigan (1930). Before becoming president at Central, Dr. Anspach was Dean of Ashland (1926-30), Head of the Department of Education at Michigan State Normal College (1930-34) the Dean of Administration at Michigan State Normal College (1934-35), and president of Ashland College in Ohio (1935-36).
President Anspach oversaw numerous changes to Central including a name change to Central Michigan College of Education (1941-55), then to Central Michigan College (1955-59), and finally Central Michigan University (1959- ), the tripling of enrollment to over 5,000 students, the quadrupling of faculty and staff to over 500, the growth of the campus built environment (from seven buildings to over forty) including the expansion of residence halls (from one to eight), the authority to grant graduate degrees (1954, 1958). He retired in 1959, one month after Central assumed University status. After retirement, President Anspach served as a delegate to the 1962 Michigan Constitutional Convention and remained in Mount Pleasant until his death in 1977.

Judson Foust (1959 - 1968)

Judson Foust 1959 - 1968
Judson Foust (1902-79) was the sixth head of Central (1959-68). Born in Ann Arbor in 1902, Judson Foust studied at Albion College (BS 1923) and then received his Master’s and Ph.D. at University of Michigan (1927, 1938). Before ascending to the presidency, Dr. Foust was a math instructor at Central (1929-41), Director of the Summer School (1941-46), Assistant to the President (1946-52), and Vice President of General and Academic Affairs (1952-59).
While President Foust was leading Central, the institution came into its own as a University. A vast expansion of the built environment was undertaken with a substantial number of buildings being constructed south of Preston Street for the first time. The University also experienced issues associated with growth, which culminated in the Michigan State Senate investigation into the operations of the University. President Foust retired in 1968.

William B. Boyd (1968 - 1975)

William B. Boyd 1968 - 1975
William B. Boyd (1923-2020), the seventh president of CMU (1968-75), was born in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. After serving in the U. S. Navy (1943-46), He received a BA from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina (1946), an MA degree from Emory University (1947), and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (1954). Before arriving in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Boyd served as a faculty member in history at Michigan State University (1953-58), Dean of the Faculty and professor of history at Alma College (1958-65), and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at the University of California – Berkeley (1966-68).
During President Boyd’s tenure, Central saw progressive policies instituted. Some initiatives include loosening restrictions on students and in residence halls, instituting an affirmative action hiring policy, the development of courses in African-American studies, the creation of a Cultural Center, and a campus beautification project. In addition, the athletics programs were promoted to NCAA Division I status and Special Olympics Michigan brought its headquarters to the CMU campus. President Boyd oversaw the safety and security of a relatively peaceful CMU campus during a time when unrest was seen at many colleges and universities in the U. S. In 1975, Dr. Boyd resigned from Central and accepted the position of President at the University of Oregon.

Dr. Harold Abel (1975 - 1985)

Dr. Harold Abel 1975 - 1985
Dr. Harold Abel (1926-2002) was the eighth Central Michigan University president (1975-85). Dr. Abel was born in New York City. He obtained his BA in psychology (1949), MA in special education (1951), and Ph. D in psychology (1957) from Syracuse University. Before Central, Dr. Abel was a faculty member at the University of Nebraska (1956-65), a faculty member at the University of Oregon (1965-70), and president of Castleton State College in Vermont (1970-75).
While Dr. Abel was president, the first doctoral program, which was in psychology, was introduced. The University also began organizing into colleges during Dr. Abel’s tenure. In 1985, President Abel resigned and later accepted the position of President at Walden University Institute for Advanced Studies. After a brief stint as a member of the psychology faculty at CMU, Dr. Abel accepted the presidency of the Graduate School of America in Minneapolis (now Capella University).

Arthur Emmett Ellis (1985 - 1988)

Arthur Emmett Ellis 1985 - 1988

Arthur Emmet Ellis (1932-2013) was the ninth president at Central (1985-88). Born in Grand Rapids, he obtained a BA in economics from Michigan State University (1958) and an MA in higher education from Eastern Michigan University (1969). Prior to becoming the head of CMU, President Ellis served in the military, worked in the private sector, and worked in State government. In 1968, he began working in higher education at Eastern Michigan University. In 1970, Ellis moved to Central and served as Vice President for Public Affairs (1970-85). He took over as Interim President when Abel resigned in 1985 and was named President in 1986.

During his time with Central the University saw continued growth in terms of faculty hiring, student enrollment, and campus infrastructure as well as the development of the Mount Pleasant Smartzone to promote technological research in Mid-Michigan. He retired in 1988 and returned to working in state government.

Edward B. Jakubauskas (1988 - 1992)

Edward B. Jakubauskas 1988 - 1992
Edward B. Jakubauskas (1930-2013) was Central’s tenth president (1988-92). Dr. Jakubauskas was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. He obtained a BA (1952) and MA (1954) in economics from the University of Connecticut and a Ph. D in economics from the University of Wisconsin (1965). Before coming to Central, Dr. Jakubauskas served in the U. S. military and in Federal and state government. He moved to higher education as the Director of the Industrial Relations Center at Iowa State University (1966-71). He also served as Dean of the College of Commerce and Industry (1971-76) and Vice President for Academic Affairs (1976-78) at the University of Wyoming, and the President of the State University of N.Y.-Genesco (1978-88).
While President Jakubauskas was at CMU, the Centralis Scholarship program designed to attract academically gifted students was introduced, initiatives to improve minority student affairs began and several capital outlays were undertaken. He retired in 1992.

Leonard E. Plachta (1992 - 2000)

Leonard E. Plachta 1992 - 2000
Leonard E. Plachta (1929-2008) was the eleventh president of Central Michigan University (1992-2000). He obtained a BA and MBA from the University of Detroit and received his doctorate from Michigan State University. Prior to coming to CMU, he worked in business as an account analyst as well as academia as a professor of accounting and department chairman at the University of Detroit, and as chairman of business education at Alma College. When Dr. Plachta came to Central, he was a professor of business (1972-77), assistant dean of the College of Business (1977-79) and dean of the College of Business Administration (1979-92). In 1992, he was appointed Interim President and he was later appointed to President in 1994.
During his tenure, President Plachta focused on developing effective academic programs, improving student services, and creating an efficient management and financial structure at the University. He retired in 2000.

Michael Rao (2000 - 2009)

Michael Rao 2000 - 2009
Michael Rao (1967- ) was the twelfth president of CMU (2000-09). He received a BA from the University of South Florida and a Ph. D from the University of Florida. Before coming to Mount Pleasant, Dr. Rao Dean of (1992-94) and President (1994-98) of Mission College in California and Chancellor of Montana State University - Northern (1998-2000).
During his tenure at CMU, the University was designated a doctoral / research-intensive university by the Carnegie Foundation, there was continued growth in student population, including an increase in the number of international students, and the push for a medical school at CMU. In 2009, Dr. Rao resigned and accepted a position as President of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Kathy Wilbur (2009 - 2010)

Kathy Wilbur 2009 - 2010
Kathleen Wilbur (1953- ) was the thirteenth president to serve at Central (2009-10). President Wilbur earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism (1975) and a master’s degree (2012) from Michigan State University. Before accepting the position of President at CMU, she worked in politics and in Michigan State government, including as director of three State departments. She served as a trustee of Michigan State University (1985-91) and came to Central in 2002 as the Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs (2002-2009).
President Wilbur accepted the position on an interim basis in 2009. During her tenure, she made efforts to communicate directly with students on University matters and also dealt with steep budget cuts due to dwindling state appropriations. In 2010, President Wilbur returned to her position in CMU administration and in 2011 she was appointed to the position of Vice President for Development and External Affairs.

George Ross (2010 - 2018)

George Ross 2010 - 2018
George Ross was the fourteenth president of Central Michigan University, serving from March 1, 2010 to July 31, 2018. He obtained his BA (1975) and MBA (1990) degrees from Michigan State University and his doctorate from the University of Alabama (1997). Prior to his position as President of CMU, Dr. Ross worked in the private sector and served as the Director of Finance at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit (1986-91), the Vice President for Business and Fiscal Affairs at Tuskegee University (1991-95), the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (1995-99), the Executive Vice President at Clark Atlanta University (1999-2002), the Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services and Treasurer at Central Michigan University (2002-08), and the President of Alcorn State University (2008-10).
During his time at Central, President Ross worked to minimize the increases in tuition and sought increased funding from State and other sources. He was also involved with the implementation of the Medical School and the University’s growth in non-traditional academic areas.

Robert Davies (2018 - Present)

Robert Davies 2018 - Present

Robert O. Davies is the fifteenth president of Central Michigan University. He began his tenure on September 1, 2018. Prior to his appointment as CMU's president, Davies served as the President at Murray State University in Kentucky (2014-18).

Davies earned a B.S. in management from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1991, an M.B.A in finance and marketing from the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2005.

In addition to his time at Murray State, Davies has served as president of Eastern Oregon University and vice president for university relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He also had alumni relations and development positions at The State University of New York at Buffalo, Boise State University, and the University of Nevada, Reno.