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Valparaiso University: Presidents

Daniel Russel Hodgdon, 1920-1921

Hodgdon was one of the most colorful VU presidents, if not the most scrupulous. After the resignation of Henry Kinsey Brown, the board of trustees turned to Hodgdon, president of the Hahnemann Medical School in Chicago and a man with many impressive degrees, to solve the University’s financial crisis. Hodgdon arrived with grandiose visions of creating a great “modern” university, and quickly set about reorganizing the campus into an elaborate hierarchy of three colleges and ten schools, and launched a glitzy “Million Dollar Campaign” to increase endowment. Behind these well-received plans, however, were serious problems. The North Central Association refused to accredit the university. Moreover, some students began to investigate Hodgdon’s background and discovered that his impressive academic pedigree was largely fabricated—his Master and Doctor of Science degrees were from an unrecognized correspondence school, his LL.D. was simply honorary, and his Ph.D. from Columbia entirely fictitious.

In April of 1921, the VU Student Council and large numbers of faculty requested Hodgdon’s resignation. Hodgdon attempted to dissolve the Council and fire the faculty, and near-riots between Hodgdon’s detractors and supporters ensued on campus. At the same time, Hodgdon was in New York on a fund-raising trip and announced to a group of VU alumni that U.S. President Warren G. Harding would be the University’s commencement speaker the following year, a claim that turned out to have no basis in fact. At this point, the board voted to dismiss Hodgdon.

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