“Kerr Duncan Macmillian was unanimously voted in by the trustees. On May 5, 1913, to become the seventh president of Wells College. They awarded him a $6,000 a year salary which included a home with light and heat. On Friday, October 17, 1913, Wells College installed Kerr Duncan Macmillan as its seventh president in a formal ceremony. This formal inauguration was the first of its kind. Most presidents since then also have had formal ceremonies to welcome them to Wells College.”

“During his tenure as president (1913-1936), the longest in the college’s history, President Macmillan maintained firm control over Wells. He inherited an institution running with an annual deficit, which was routinely paid off by N. L. Zabriskie. By the time of his departure, the college had increased its net worth enormously and had become self-sufficient. He was cautious and slow to take action but was devoted to truth and demanded perfect honesty. A strong and strict man, he had upright moral principles and a decidedly patriarchal view of his college family.”

He reformed the curriculum, attracted and retained a remarkable faculty, saw the endowment double, twice over, during his presidency, and left the stamp of his unusual vision on the college. Among the many legacies from the Macmillan era are his public declarations and letters. These documents reflected his deep concern for the moral health and welfare of Wells College and its students. He also occasionally elaborated on his own ideas. His baccalaureate sermon given at the time of the college’s fiftieth anniversary in 1918 addressed issues of female education and their implementation in the context of the Founder’s original intentions. Within this historical framework, he insisted on maintaining high academic standards and an openly religious and Christian mission for the college, as well as the special democratic organization of the College Home, where students lived, ate, and studied together without distinction as to person or property.

The detailed memorial tribute he paid in 1926 to Nicholas Lansing Zabriskie, trustee and friend of the college who had guided its steps for over fifty years, gives a clear narrative of the growth and development of the college campus and its financial base. Through his entire presidency Macmillan strove for centeredness for Wells College, building on what he felt was one of its essential strengths.

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History”. And additional print files in the Wells College Archives.

More information is available in the Wells College Archives.

Summary reviewed and compiled by Nicole Di Mauro’12