Richard F. Rosser, 1977-1986
DePauw's Seventeenth President
After an extensive search conducted by a joint faculty-trustee alumni-student committee, the board of trustees named to the vacant presidency Richard F. Rosser, dean of faculty and professor of political science at Albion College, a member with DePauw of the Great Lakes Colleges Association. Rosser, a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan with both a master's degree in public administration and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, had retired from the Air Force after serving as professor and head of the department of political science at the Air Force Academy. Though a Methodist layman, he was the first non-ordained president of DePauw. He brought to his new post in February 1977 a brisk, energetic, and forceful administrative style.
One of President Rosser's first tasks was to reorganize the administrative departments of the university. Dean Farber remained in office until his retirement in 1979, but Donald Dodge Johnson was brought from Lawrence University in the summer of 1978 to take over responsibility for academic affairs with the new title of provost. In January 1979 Fred Silander of the economics department was named dean of the university. After Silander was transferred to the post of vice president for finance in 1981, his place as academic dean was taken first by Mildred Wills of the education department and then by James Cooper of the history department, who had been serving as faculty development coordinator since 1978. Upon the resignation of Provost Johnson in 1983, Cooper was advanced to the chief academic leadership position with the title of vice president for academic affairs. Named to assist him were John Morrill of the mathematics department as director of academic planning and James Rambo of the Romance languages department as coordinator for special academic programs.
In the meantime the development office under the leadership of President Rosser and Vice President Bottoms had been successful in increasing the level of annual giving to the university, especially through the Annual Fund. In April 1983 Eugene L. Delves, chairman of the board of trustees, announced the launching of a $90 million campaign to be led by trustee James J. Kelly. Thirty months in the planning stage, this drive, the most ambitious ever, was to reach completion in June 1987 at the time of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of DePauw University and was accordingly known as the Sesquicentennial Campaign.
Unlike early campaigns which focused in large part on building projects, this was aimed chiefly at raising funds to endow student scholarships and academic programs. By February 1985 the campaign had made so much progress that the goal was raised to $100 million. On Old Gold Day the next fall the administration was able to announce that enough gifts and commitments had been received to ensure going over the new goal, but that the campaign would continue until its appointed end in June 1987. It was said that no other liberal arts college of DePauw's size had ever raised so large a sum in a single campaign. Gifts from alumni accounted for nearly 85% of the total.
Among the immediate results of the campaign was the establishment of the Fisher Fund for faculty development and scholarly research, funded by a gift in excess of $1 million from John and Janice Fisher of Muncie, Indiana. In February 1985 the administration revealed that anonymous donors had made a multimillion dollar donation to the university for the creation of a Center for Contemporary Media. President Rosser, who described the gift as the largest in the history of the university, appointed a committee to plan for the establishment of the center, which would include resources for training undergraduates in radio, television, and print journalism within a liberal arts context. Named to head the center was Drake Mabry from the Des Moines Register, who set up headquarters in the former Delta Zeta sorority house on East Anderson Street.
The Rosser administration faced continuing demands from the student body for increased autonomy in personal and social affairs. The visitation issue was finally resolved in 1978 by a plan offering all students certain visitation options for members of the opposite sex. Incoming freshman were assigned to rooms in university residences according to their stated preferences on this matter, and visitation procedures for sections of upperclass halls and Greek living units were to be determined by 3/4 vote of the residents. In the fall of 1979 an additional option was provided by making both Longden and Hogate Halls coeducational, with men and women living on alternate floors. In addition juniors and seniors could obtain permission on a lottery basis to live out in town, the number not to exceed four percent of the undergraduate student body.
For the first time all students were permitted to bring automobiles to campus, with the proviso that they register them with the Student Affairs Office and park them only in university-designated areas. The thorniest question of all was the drinking issue, long the subject of student agitation and administrative concern. By 1980, however, the administration, recognizing a significant shift in attitudes among the DePauw constituency, was ready to make an historic departure from the traditional policy of prohibition by according students over the legal age the right to consume alcoholic beverages under certain conditions. Discussions over the next four years culminated in the adoption in 1984 by the board of trustees of a new comprehensive policy "intended to promote either abstinence or responsible use of alcohol." Strict guidelines and regulations were set down concerning the serving and consumption of alcoholic beverages by students that included a complete compliance with the laws of Indiana. The administration also demonstrated its special concern in the area of alcohol abuse and reaffirmed its opposition to the possession, use, or sale of illicit drugs.
The Rosser administration oversaw the construction of the Lilly Physical Education and Recreation Center, Walker Baseball Field, the renovation of historic East College and the planning for the renovation of the Roy O. West Library. During his last year as president, the University celebrated its sesquicentennial and published DePauw A Pictorial History.