Dr. Arthur Holmes

Originally submitted by: Josh Brink, Drake University, Nov 29, 2010

Dr. Arthur Holmes, The Quax
Dr. Arthur Holmes became the fifth president of Drake University in September of 1918 and the first president to hold a Ph. D. His expertise and leadership from his long background of experience from college work in psychology, and his pastoral duties helped him accomplish many things at Drake. The Board of Trustees and those that hired Holmes saw him not as an administrator but instead a scholar. This indicated that he would not have to worry about the fundraising of the university. However, he proved to be very proficient in being able to raise money through one of his biggest success’ at Drake. His accomplishments furthered Drakes success and led the way for many advancements during an economic, political, and social uneasiness because of World War I. It was under him that the university had a noticeable financial, educational, and infrastructural growth. [1]


Holmes was born to William and Josephine Holmes on May 5, 1872, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Later in life he began his higher education at Bethany College in West Virginia. This was the beginning of his many places of study. Holmes got his A.B. in 1899 from Hiram College in Ohio, and he received is A.M. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1903. By 1908, Holmes had his Ph. D. from the University of Pennsylvania. While going to college to receive his A.M. and Ph. D. in Philadelphia, Holmes was the pastor of many churches of the Disciples of Christ. Before coming to Drake, he served many different positions at the University of Pennsylvania and later on would return there. [2]

Studied at Bethany College
Recieved A.B from Hiram College
Recieved A.M. from University of Pennsylvania
Recieved Ph. D. from University of Pennsylvania
Preached at churches in Philadelphia
Preached at churches in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Religious Director at the Y.M.C.A in Philadelphia
Psychology instructor at the University of Pennsylvania
Author "Decay of Rationalism"
Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania
Assistan director of the Psychoclinic
Author "The Conservation of the Child"
Dean of the general faculty Pennsylvania State College
Author "Principles of Character Making"
Joint author "When to Send for the Doctor"
Author "Backward Children"
President of Drake University
Author "Controlled Power"
Author "Mind of St. Paul"

Impact at Drake

In October of 1919, a separate School of Commerce, Finance, and Journalism was created. This however was not connected to the weak college of Business that was started in 1888, but it did offer many advance trainings for the business profession. Also, the affiliation with the alumni was fading quickly. Early on in the University, the connection had been quite strong, but the work was based off volunteers. In April of 1920, Robert Finch was named the alumni secretary and a National Alumni Association began to help heal the broken bond. Holmes also bridged a gap between students and the Board by proposing the legalization of fraternities and sororities. He brought up to the Board that 75% of the student population supported this cause. The Board reluctantly allowed these organizations to operate with limitations of not being able to affiliate themselves with other national fraternities and sororities. [2]

March 22-25, 1920, Drake students and organizations led by Dr. Holmes created the biggest financial effort known to the university at that time. It was said to be the “most spectacular event ever staged in Des Moines.” This money drive was a four day parade that allowed alumni and the citizens of Des Moines, especially the businessmen, to see how diverse and how far Drake’s influence was seen around the world. The best float to represent the university’s widespread influence was from the Bible College. It contained a ship and at the center was a revolving globe. On the globe, every place where students were serving as missionaries and educators was marked with a “D” and connected to one another with white ribbon. Also, the students on the float dressed up in costumes of many different countries. This four day event brought in $400,000 with $187,442 in the first day. Not only was Holmes pleased but surprised because this event was unadvertised. He expressed his gratefulness to the student in an article in the Times Delphic. Holmes relationship with the students and the alumni grew immensely because of this event. [1]

Everything seemed to be coming together and everything was running smoothly, but behind the scenes grew tension between Holmes and the teachers and the Board. Faculty began to oppose Holmes on personal reactions, and in turn Holmes took himself far away from the faculty even if it made him unhappy just so he could prove his point. This trickled down to the Board and that fired up their disapproval of Holmes. In 1922, Holmes was given paid leave for a year in which he returned to the University of Pennsylvania. After his teaching in Pennsylvania, he continued the rest of his career in Indianapolis, Indiana as a member of the School of Religion at Butler University from which he would retire. [2]


[1] Blanchard, C (1931). History of Drake University.
[2] Ritchey, C. (1956). Drake University Through Seventy-five Years.