Elliott, Edward C. (1874-1960) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Edward Charles Elliott (1874-1960), educator and sixth president of Purdue University, was born December 21, 1874, in Chicago, Illinois, to Frederick and Susan Elliott. He spent his childhood in North Platte, Nebraska. He graduated from North Platte High School in 1891 and went on to attend the University of Nebraska. There he studied chemistry, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1895 and a Master of Arts degree in 1897. After graduation, Elliott accepted a position as a high school science teacher in Leadville, Colorado. The following year he was elected to serve as superintendent of schools for Leadville. He served as superintendent until 1903 when he resigned to accept a fellowship at Columbia University's Teachers College. It was at Columbia where Elliott made the decision to pursue a career in education administration. He graduated in 1905 with doctorates in philosophy and education.
Following his graduation from Columbia University, Elliott accepted the position of associate professor in education at the University of Wisconsin. Two years later, in 1907, he married Elizabeth Nowland, whom he had been courting since his years in Leadville, Colorado. The couple had four children John, Susanne, Marion, and Edward. Their home at 137 Prospect Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin, which was designed for the Elliotts by the architectural firm of Claude and Stark, was designated a historical landmark in 1975. In 1909, Edward Elliott was named director of the Course for the Training of Teachers at the University of Wisconsin. During these years he co-authored several significant studies on education and also developed a rating scale for teachers which was the first of its kind in the country. In 1916, Elliott accepted the newly created position of chancellor at the University of Montana. Despite administrative infighting, Elliott was able to establish a university code, start a university funds campaign to finance much needed construction, and modernize the university's business offices. In May 1922 Elliott resigned from the University of Montana and accepted the position of president at Purdue University.
During Elliott's 23 years as president for Purdue (1922-1945), the University saw its greatest period of growth in prestige and service. During his tenure, enrollment more then doubled, 28 major buildings where constructed on campus, and the university's net worth nearly tripled. The Division of Educational Reference, the School of Home Economics, and Purdue's Graduate School, among other programs, were all established during Elliott's presidency. He was instrumental in establishing the Ross-Ade Foundation, the Purdue Research Foundation, and the Purdue Aeronautics Corporation. Under Elliott, Purdue became the nation's first university to own and operate an airport (1930). Elliott brought Amelia Earhart and Dr. Lillian Gilbreth to Purdue as part of his efforts to promote educational opportunities for women. Earhart became Consultant for Careers for Women at Purdue, a role that Dr. Gilbreth, professor of industrial engineering, would assume after Earhart's disappearance in 1937. Elliott, along with David Ross and others, helped establish the Amelia Earhart Fund for Aeronautical Research which funded the purchase of Earhart's Lockheed Electra (nicknamed Purdue's "Flying Laboratory").
In 1938, Elliott served as an educational advisor to the Committee on Educational Policy for the University of The Philippines. In 1940, Elliott temporarily took over as the athletic director of Purdue. During World War II, he served on the U.S. Committee on War-Time Requirements for Specialized Personnel (1942) and received a leave of absence from Purdue to serve as chief of the Division of Professional and Technical Employment and Training within the War Manpower Commission (1942-1943). In 1943, he resumed his duties as Purdue's president. On June 30, 1945, Elliott retired from Purdue University after having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in December 1944. Upon his retirement, Purdue's Board of Trustees created the office of President Emeritus for Elliott.
In 1946, the Elliotts moved to Washington, D.C. where Elliott directed a nationwide study on pharmaceutical education, published as The Pharmaceutical Survey. In 1948, the Elliotts returned to Lafayette. Two years later, Elliott was named Director of Educational Relations for the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education. He held this position until 1952. The following year, Elliott became an educational consultant to the Commanding General of the Army Ordnance Corps. In 1956, Elliott received the National Award of Meritorious Civilian Service for his work with the Ordnance Training Command. The next year, at the age of 82, Elliott suffered a mild stroke which left him partially paralyzed on his right side. He became an invalid and rarely left his home. In 1958, Purdue University renamed its Hall of Music the Edward C. Elliott Hall of Music, making it the first building named for a past president. Edward C. Elliott died June 16, 1960, at the age of 85. Over his lifetime, Elliott authored several books and articles on education and was awarded numerous honorary degrees and citations for distinction.