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Washington State University
Office of the President Past Presidents

Ernest O. Holland


The longest-serving of WSU’s presidents, Ernest O. Holland played a major role in the growth of the institution, both in academics and student life.

Holland earned his bachelor’s degree at Indiana University and his Ph.D. from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He was superintendent of schools for Louisville, Kentucky, when he was tapped by the Board of Regents on October 15, 1915, to succeed Enoch Bryan. Born in Bennington, Indiana, on February 4, 1874, Holland was 41 as he began his presidency.

On June 12, 1917, President Holland initiated a reorganization of the institution, creating five colleges and four schools, a key step toward eventual university status. The academic colleges were agriculture, home economics, mechanic arts and engineering, sciences and arts, and veterinary science. The schools were education, mines, music and applied design, and pharmacy.

WSU obtained a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and best known national honorary society, in 1929, the same year the University of Southern California received its chapter. This recognized WSC’s commitment to the liberal arts as well as to practical education.

Holland encouraged recruitment of national fraternities and sororities to the Pullman campus, with 22 new Greek chapters established during his presidency. In 1936, he and WSC students signed an agreement easing social rules that students vigorously protested as too restrictive.

In Creating the People’s University: Washington State University, 1890-1990, WSU history professor George A. Frykman wrote of Holland’s sheer length of tenure, “which encompassed America’s entry in World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and . . . World War II.”

The University’s then new central library, completed in 1950, was named Holland Library in his honor. The University’s Museum of Art houses the E. O. Holland Collection, primarily nineteenth and early twentieth century American and European paintings that Holland collected and donated to WSU. The annual Philip C. Holland lecture at WSU is funded through an endowment established by President Holland in honor of his father, a physician in Indiana.

Academic field

English, Ph.D., Columbia University Teacher’s College

Major challenges

Conflict in the legislature regarding duplication of courses at WSC and UW. Although President Holland and President Suzzallo of UW were great friends before moving to Washington, they gradually became bitter rivals

Life after WSU

Stayed in Pullman, died five years after retirement


Holland Library