Holmes, Dwight Oliver Wendell

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Dwight Oliver Wendell Holmes

College president

Dwight Oliver Wendell Holmes was born on November 18, 1877 in Lewisburg, West Virginia. He was the son of a minister in the Washington D.C. and New York conferences of the Methodist Church. Holmes spent his formative years in Annapolis, Maryland; New York; and Staunton, Virginia. His secondary schooling was obtained in the preparatory department of Howard University.

After completing his secondary schooling, Holmes continued at Howard University. As an undergraduate Holmes was an athlete, playing quarterback on the football team and serving as captain of both the baseball and football teams. He established and was the president of Howard's first tennis team. He earned nine letters for athletics. In addition, Holmes organized Howard's very first debate competition. He also led Howard's college Mandolin and Glee Club. Holmes earned a B.A. in 1901. He was the valedictorian of his class.

The next year Holmes began his post-graduate work at Howard and then became an instructor at Sumner High School in St. Louis. In the fall of 1902 he was appointed to teach science courses in the High School of Baltimore in Maryland. While teaching high school, he simultaneously enrolled at Johns Hopkins University for classes in art and education. Holmes continued his education, earning both his MA. and Ph.D. at Columbia University. Howard University awarded Holmes an honorary MA. degree in 1912.


Born in Lewisburg, West Virginia on November 18
Earns B.A. from Howard University; is valedictorian of his class
Teaches at the Sumner High School in St. Louis; teaches science at the High School of Baltimore (Douglass High School)
Enrolls in art and education classes at Johns Hopkins University
Serves as vice principal of Douglass High School in Baltimore
Granted honorary MA from Howard University
Teaches education and psychology at the Miner Normal School in Washington, D.C.
Becomes registrar and professor of education at Howard University
Increases enrollment by one thousand students in the School of Education at Howard
Publishes The Evolution of the Negro College
Heads the graduate school at Howard University
Installed as the sixth president of Morgan College
Dies on September 7

Holmes served four institutions for almost four decades as an educator. He taught at what is now Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland, for fourteen years, chairing the Science Department for eleven years and serving as vice principal for eight years. He left Baltimore in April 1917 to teach psychology and education at the Miner Normal School of Washington, D.C. In 1919, Holmes returned to his alma mater to serve as Howard's registrar and to teach education courses. He was later appointed dean of Howard's College of Education. It was in this capacity that Holmes first began to distinguish himself as a university administrator.

Becomes Morgan State's First Black President

At the time of his appointment to the College of Education, Holmes inherited one of Howard's most challenged programs. During his tenure at this post, however, Holmes developed the College of Education into one of the best programs at the university, enrolling approximately one thousand students in 1928. Six years later, Howard's board of trustees began to organize for the establishment of graduate programs. In 1934 Holmes was appointed the first dean of Howard University's Graduate School. By May 1937, there were almost four hundred students enrolled in graduate study at Howard. It was this success that encouraged the trustees of Morgan College to offer Holmes the presidency by unanimous vote in July 1937. Holmes became the first African American president of Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland.

At the time of his inauguration, Maryland was one of the remaining seventeen states which still maintained a segregated system of public education. A state commission was appointed, did research, and then recommended that the state should assume ownership of Morgan College. Morgan's board of trustees concurred, and in 1939, Morgan State College came into being.

Holmes led Morgan from 1939 to 1975. Under his leadership, Morgan's faculty increased from thirty to eighty-five members, and from four to twenty-five holding the Ph.D. The total annual salary of all faculty members increased from $33,728 to $512,000. Holmes improved working conditions, establishing the first benefit programs to include sabbatical leave; pension, and retirement benefits, and an academic ranking system. The student body grew from 752 to 1,595 students. Three buildings were erected during his presidency and two additional facilities were under construction increasing the value of the physical plant from $858,879 to $3,321,579.

In addition to his successful administrative career, Holmes was an active member of many civic and educational organizations. In Baltimore, Holmes was the first president of the Schoolmaster's Club and served for several years as the president of the Baltimore Education Association. For four years, he was president of Howard University's General Alumni Association. During his tenure at Howard, Holmes represented the university at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars, the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Middle States, and the Association of American Colleges. Holmes was president of the Association of College for Negro Youth and chairman of the Committee on Rating Negro Colleges. It was the latter committee that in 1928 persuaded the United States Bureau of Education to survey and report on Negro colleges. The Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools agreed to take on the rating of Negro colleges as a direct result of the committee's efforts.

Holmes was a member on many boards and commissions, including the following: the National Consultation Committee on Religious Life among the Colleges; the National Advisory Committee on Negro Education under the United States Office of Education; the Division of Corporation and Education in Race Relations of the State Department of Education of North Carolina with Duke University and the University of North Carolina; the Advisory Board of the Educational Outlook among Negroes; and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Negro Education. He held memberships in the National Educational Association, the American Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools for Negroes, the National Society of College Teachers of Education, the Sigma Pi Phi National Graduate Fraternity, the Kappa Mu Honorary Scholarship Fraternity, the Phi Gamma Mu National Social Science Honor Society, and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Holmes was a popular speaker and published many scholarly articles. He is best known for his book The Evolution of the Negro College, which was published in 1934. Holmes died on September 7, 1963.



Morgan State University 1976 Yearbook. Baltimore, Md.: Morgan State University.

Parham, Alice Warner. I Remember Morgan in the Twenties: Reflections of An Alumna. Baltimore, Md.: Morgan State University, 2002.

Wilson, Edward N. A History of Morgan State College: A Century of Purpose in Action, 1867–1967. New York: Vantage Press, 1975.

                                    Edwin T. Johnson

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