Rollins Presidents

Lewis M. Duncan, 14th president of Rollins CollegeLewis M. Duncan (2004-present)

In March 2004, Lewis M. Duncan, formerly dean of Dartmouth College's Thayer School and senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Tulsa, was elected as the fourteenth president of the College. On his appointment, President Duncan remarked that the coming years are certain to be ones of extraordinary change, challenge, and opportunity in higher education. He has stated that the world has never faced greater need for quality liberal education for a rising generation of citizen leaders and that Rollins College is exceptionally well positioned to answer this call. For more about the Office of the President and President Duncan, please visit


Rita Bornstein, 13th president of Rollins CollegeRita Bornstein (1990-2004)

Under the leadership of Rita Bornstein, who was previously vice president of the University of Miami, the College focused on strengthening its commitment to excellence, innovation, and community. Standards were raised, innovative academic programs were introduced, and co-curricular activities were developed around themes of leadership education and civic engagement. In 1997, Rollins reaffirmed its role as a leader in the national conversation on liberal education, hosting leading educators for a conference entitled “The Rollins Colloquy – Toward a Pragmatic Liberal Education: The Curriculum of the Twenty-First Century.” President Bornstein also oversaw the largest fundraising effort in Rollins’ history. Widely considered to have transformed the College, The Campaign For Rollins secured $160.2 million, providing support for academic programs, scholarships, faculty chairs, and facilities, and significantly strengthening the College’s financial health. Thanks to the generosity of donors and astute financial management, the College’s endowment more than quintupled during Bornstein’s presidency. For more information about President Emerita Rita Bornstein, please visit


Thaddeus Seymour, 12th president of Rollins CollegeThaddeus Seymour (1978-1990)

Thaddeus Seymour served previously as dean of Dartmouth College and president of Wabash College in Indiana. As Rollins celebrated its centennial, President Seymour defined its goal of providing superior liberal arts education in a personal and caring environment. During his administration, Rollins successfully completed a $43.9-million fundraising campaign that provided facilities and endowment to support quality improvement and enhanced reputation. During this time, the faculty also completely reformulated the College’s curriculum, based on the pioneering work of the well-known educator D.S. Bloom. Students pursued courses that fulfilled general education requirements in skills (composition, mathematics, foreign language, and decision-making), the cognitive area (social, natural, and physical sciences), and the affective area (arts and literature). The framework of this curriculum remains in place to this day, although it continues to be refined.


Jack B. Critchfield, 11th president of Rollins CollegeJack B. Critchfield (1969-1978)

Jack B. Critchfield, elected president of Rollins from a position at the University of Pittsburgh, moved the College in new directions by establishing programs in environmental and interdisciplinary studies, graduate and undergraduate programs in criminal justice and strengthening support from the business community.


Hugh F. McKean, 10th president of Rollins CollegeHugh F. McKean (1951-1969)

During the administration of Hugh F. McKean, the College developed the honors degree program for exceptionally well-prepared and qualified students. He also established graduate programs in education and business, the former Brevard Campus, and the Hamilton Holt School, providing evening education programs for nearly 2,000 adults annually. Although President McKean was a student and professor of art, his administration brought significant advances and general strengthening of the College programs in business administration, economics, and the sciences.


Paul Wagner, 9th president of Rollins CollegePaul Wagner (1949-1951)

Paul Wagner’s presidency started off on a high note with the faculty, students, and staff all approving of him and the energy he brought to the presidency. As the youngest college president in the country at the time, national news media embraced his charisma. Following some difficult administrative decisions and a controversial time in Rollins’ history, Wagner left the presidency.


Hamilton Holt, 8th president of Rollins CollegeHamilton Holt (1925-1949)

President Hamilton Holt, a nationally recognized journalist, editor, and internationalist, brought national visibility to the College in its middle years, and left a legacy that includes a distinguished tradition of "experimental" education. During Holt's administration, Rollins College established the conference plan, which emphasized close teacher-student contact. Under this plan, teachers and students shared the learning experience around a conference table, an activity that led students to develop clear standards by which to judge their work. The College retains aspects of this method, particularly in its program for first-year students, but not to the exclusion of other significant approaches to teaching.

The Holt years brought many national figures to campus including Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, Justice William O. Douglas, and Edward R. Morrow. Perhaps most notably, in January 1931, Rollins hosted a Curriculum Conference, with the distinguished educator John Dewey as chairman. The resulting recommendations–which emphasized "Individualization in Education"–were implemented by Rollins in the fall of 1931. So provocative were these innovations, that Sinclair Lewis, in his Stockholm address accepting the Nobel Prize in literature, listed Rollins as one of only four colleges in the United States doing the most to encourage creative work in contemporary literature.


William Weir, 7th president of Rollins CollegeWilliam Weir (1924-1925)

William Weir served as president of Pacific College in Oregon from 1922-1925 and brought with him a surprising capacity for strong leadership. Shortly thereafter, however, Weir fell ill and resigned.


Robert Sprague, 6th president of Rollins CollegeRobert Sprague (1923-1924)

Prior to his appointment as president, Robert Sprague served as dean of the College.


Calvin H. French, 5th president of Rollins CollegeCalvin H. French (1917-1919)

From 1898 to 1913, Reverend Calvin French served as president of Huron College in South Dakota, where he practically built the institution from scratch and secured a substantial endowment. His plan to save Rollins from financial hardship, however, involved a multi-million dollar campaign to turn the College into a major university; he declared that he would resign if the Board rejected his proposal. The Board accepted his resignation and continued the search for another president.


William Blackman, 4th president of Rollins CollegeWilliam Blackman (1902-1915)

William Fremont Blackman was a faculty member at Yale University when he was called to the Rollins presidency in 1902. During his term in office, President Blackman faced a national depression and diminishing enrollment, yet he substantially increased the College's endowment, added to its facilities, and won the support of the Carnegie Foundation.


George Morgan Ward, 3rd president of Rollins CollegeGeorge Morgan Ward (1896-1902)

President George Morgan Ward, who later served as pastor of financier Henry Flagler's chapel in Palm Beach, Florida, guided the College through the devastating financial times following the citrus freeze of 1894-1895.


Charles Fairchild, 2nd president of Rollins CollegeCharles Fairchild (1893-1895)

Charles Fairchild was a science professor at both Berea and Oberlin colleges prior to becoming president of Rollins. Perhaps more importantly, however, he had served as part-time financial agent at both colleges. At this time, Rollins was struggling financially to survive and needed a strong leader who could decrease the deficit and secure the College’s future.


Edward P. Hooker, 1st president of Rollins CollegeEdward P. Hooker (1885-1892)

The Reverend Edward Payson Hooker arrived in Winter Park in 1883 with the charge of founding a Congregational Church in the new town. Following Lucy Cross’ presentation of the need to found a college in Florida to the Congregational Association, the committee persuaded Hooker to prepare a paper on the subject of Florida education for the 1884 annual meeting. Following the acceptance of his proposal, the Reverend became one of five committee members to receive inducements for the location of the College.  When Winter Park won the bid, Reverend Hooker was named Rollins’ first president.

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