A TIMELINE

The Impact of President Emeritus William T. “Bill” Higdon

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“He didn’t just float trial balloons; Bill launched airships… I was the beneficiary of a Graceland he helped forge.”

-Barbara Hiles Mesle ’72

 

1965

May: Asked by Board of Trustees to serve as Graceland’s president, and subsequently prepared for the role by enrolling for one year at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at University of Michigan

 

1966

July 1: Became the 19th president

October 1: Inaugurated

 

 

1967

February 5: Introduced “Bear Pit” sessions of open public dialogue with students

 

 

 

1968

April 2: Announced the creation of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program

 

 

1969

Fall: Oversaw the development of Graceland’s nursing campus in Independence, Missouri

 

 

 

1974

June 30: Left Graceland presidency

 

1992

January 1: Returned to Graceland as 15th president (likely the only person who will ever succeed both his wife and father as Graceland’s president)

May, September: Graceland partnered with area junior and community colleges, Indian Hills Community College and North Central Missouri College, to offer bachelor’s degree completion programs in elementary education

 

1995

January: Graceland finalized the $43 million purchase of SkillPath Seminars, which had annual revenues of $60 million and averaged 650 seminars each month in 460 cities

March: Graceland announced a partnership program with American Institute of Business to offer a bachelor’s degree completion program in business administration Summer: Introduction of Graceland’s first master’s degree program (nursing)

 

1996

May 31: Completion of $22.6 million Blueprint For Tomorrow fundraising campaign (1992-1996)

 

 

1997

Spring: Announced plans to retire as president the following spring semester

May 18:  During Graceland’s 100th commencement ceremony, Board of Trustees president Jay Newcom made the surprise announcement that Graceland’s first structure would be known from that day as the Higdon Administration Building, honoring the three Higdons who led the college

 

1966-74 

During Bill Higdon’s first tenure, Graceland expanded considerably, both in terms of size and diversity of student body, academic offerings, and physical presence on “the Hill.”

1992-97

During his second span at the president’s desk, Graceland continued to expand academic programs and finalized the purchase of SkillPath.


 Guiding Principle

When Bill was seven or eight, he wanted a bicycle. But it was the height
of the Depression and his parents made him a deal: if he earned half the money, they would kick in the other half. So Bill went down to the local grocery (which happened to be the precursor of Hy-Vee) and asked the proprietor for a job. The man asked,“Well, William, what can you do?” Bill looked around and saw a worker putting cans on the shelf or sweeping up and replied, “I can do that.” That became the guiding principle of his life — he could do almost anything he set his mind to.