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The Story of Roscoe Pulliam

Roscoe Pulliam was the sixth president (1935-1944) of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The story of his presidency has been told in detail in books by Eli Lentz, George Kimball Plochmann, and Jim Neckers.

Mr. Pulliam was a Southern Illinois farm boy from nearby St. Clair County. He received his early education in a oneroom school near Millstadt. Later, with his mother's support, he entered Illinois State College at Normal. Before he was 20, he was teaching at the Stookie School, another one-room school near Millstadt.

After serving in World War I, he returned to what was then called Southern Illinois Normal University (SINU). He met and married Mabel McGuire, a native of Makanda, Illinois. Before Mr. Pulliam finished his Bachelor's Degree, he became Superintendent of Schools in Bunker Hill, later Staunton, and finally in Harrisburg, Illinois. He finished a Master's Degree at the University of Illinois and began to publish articles on public education.

In 1931 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention that nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt. After the election he was appointed to the President's Advisory Committee on Rural Education.

During the early summer of 1935, Mr. Pulliam was chosen President of SINU. Having been influenced by then President Henry Shryock, who had died in office, Mr. Pulliam gained a greater appreciation that SINU was no longer a teacher college, but one that was the equal of many small universities. SINU was outgrowing its administrative and faculty structure. Mr. Pulliam developed a network of committees and delegated responsibilities that have endured to this day. He made use of student employees to supply services, such as campus photographer, which had not previously existed.

Known as The Dreamer, Mr. Pulliam began to lay the foundation to expand the campus. Three facts were clear to him: first, that the population in general was increasing; second, that the people were going to need a higher level of education; finally, that Southern Illinois lacked educational resources. Mr. Pulliam, along with the faculty, students and people of Southern Illinois, organized an information campaign that resulted in legislation that made SINU legally a university in 1943. Unfortunately, Mr. Pulliam did not live to see all his dreams for a major university come true. On March 17, 1944, Roscoe Pulliam died.

The Roscoe Pulliam Scholarship Fund (established in 1953 by the late Mabel Pulliam and later restructured by the family), is a memorial in honor of Mr. Pulliam and the dedicated students, faculty, citizens and community leaders who in 1937-1945 conceived and fought for what is now known as Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.