JAMES EDWARD ALLEN - FIFTH PRESIDENT, 1935-1942
Although the Marshall College faculty favored Thomas Donnelly, Chairman of the Political Science Department, as Shawkey’s replacement, Governor Herman G. Kump used his influence to have his close friend, James E. Allen, the longtime president of Davis and Elkins College, appointed the College’s fifth President. It took Allen, who had been Davis and Elkins’ president for twenty-five years and had not sought the College’s presidency, two-month’s consideration before he accepted the offer. He arrived on campus on July 1935. Allen, however, found the secular atmosphere at Marshall quite "alien" from Presbyterian Davis and Elkins. He "never really became completely acclimated to his college assignment in Huntington," and even after four years at Marshall he wrote to a colleague that his "interests abide at Davis and Elkins."
Nonetheless, he had quite a successful term. One of his major achievements was the creation of a graduate studies program at the College in 1938 with the authority to offer masters degrees in six fields. The first masters degrees were conferred on two students at the 1940 commencement. During his tenure two dormitories, Laidley and Hodges Halls, were completed, giving men the first opportunity to have on-campus housing, as well as the construction of the Albert Gallatin Jenkins Laboratory School. He oversaw the College’s centennial celebration, including the dedication of the previously mentioned Marion Vest Fors murals in the Morrow Library. He enticed coach Eli "Cam" Henderson from Davis and Elkins to come to Marshall, who brought national attention to the College’s intercollegiate athletic program. He also brought about a general improvement in the professional qualifications of the faculty. Upon his retirement in July 1942, he received the official title of President Emeritus of Marshall College."
James Edward Allen, the son of Peter Woodward Allen and Fannie Blunt (Scott) Allen, was born on June 13, 1876, at Hebron, Virginia. His son described him as above all a "classical scholar," who possessed "a disciplined, pious outlook that had been honed to a fine edge by intensive parental moral and religious instruction." After attending local public schools in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, he entered Hampden-Sydney College, from which he graduated with A. B. degree in 1898. That year he taught school in Campbell County, Virginia, and in 1900 and 1901 he served as principal of the public schools of Phoebus, Virginia. From 1901 to 1903 he was the vice-principal of the Latin High School at Newport News, Virginia. In 1904 he worked as an instructor of modern languages at Deichman Preparatory School in Baltimore, Maryland and the next year as Latin instructor at Notre Dame College in the same state. During this time (1903 to 1905) he also took Latin courses at the University of Virginia. He pursued a graduate degree in Latin at John Hopkins University at Baltimore, also acting an instructor in Latin. After receiving his M. A., he returned to a high school at Newport News as its principal from 1905 to 1906.
In 1906 he joined the faculty at Davis and Elkins College to teach German and French. He remained at that college until 1909, when he was hired as the principal of the Nicholson School in Richmond, Virginia. The next year he returned to Davis and Elkins College, becoming its fourth president. While president "the college quadrupled its enrollment and substantially increased its endowment." In 1923 Hampden-Sydney College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, for his "outstanding contributions in the field of education." He remained at Davis and Elkins for the next twenty-five years, until he was enticed to accept the job of president of Marshall College in 1935. After seven years he retired in 1942 at the age of sixty-six, to devote himself to writing.
On June 18, 1910, he married Susan Hackney Garrott of Frederick, Maryland, and the couple had six children. His namesake, James Edward Allen, Jr., had a distinguished career in education, becoming the Secretary of Education under President Richard M. Nixon. Susan Allen died in 1923 at the age of 43. Allen then married Mary Parke Dickinson Carter on June 11, 1927, to help raise his family. He died at his home in Danville, Virginia, on January 6, 1950.
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