Reverend Samuel Milton Vernon became Simpson College’s first president at the age of 25. He served as principal of the Des Moines Conference Seminary for one year prior to his election. In less than four months, Vernon submitted his resignation to enter the seminary to pursue theological studies.
Alexander Burns, an ordained minister, was elected Simpson College’s second president, beginning his tenure at the fall term. Burns, the former vice president at Iowa Wesleyan University, led the college through rough financial times. He resigned to become president of Wesleyan Female College in Ontario, Canada.
Thomas S. Berry
Thomas S. Berry, minister of the Indianola Methodist Church, became the college’s third president in July 1878. Berry had joined the Union Army during the Civil War, was wounded and taken as a prisoner for nearly a year. Berry died in office.
Edward L. Parks
Edward Lamay Parks, the college’s fourth president, was recruited by members of the Board of Trustees. Parks had taught at Northwestern University for seven years prior to being a pastor in Chicago. During his administration at Simpson, the college’s debt was eliminated, faculty increased and the student enrollment more than doubled He resigned in May 1886 to take join the faculty in systematic theology at Gammon School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia.
William E. Hamilton
William Ennis Hamilton, chair of Mathematics, accepted the acting presidency in the fall 1886. He was formally elected the fifth president in April 1887. Under his administration, the Science Hall and Ladies Hall were constructed and football was introduced. Hamilton resigned as president in June 1889, but remained on the faculty for twenty-five years.
Edmund M. Holmes
Edmund Meek Holmes, a Simpson alumnus and chairman of the Department of Classical Languages, was elected the college’s sixth president. Prior to teaching, he had served a parish in Carroll, IA. During Holmes’ administration, the Simpson College Battalion was created, a fourth year was added to the academy program and a strong faculty emerged. Holmes left the presidency to return to the parish ministry.