William M. Beardshear


Born in Ohio in 1850, William Miller Beardshear joined the Union Army at the age of 14 and served throughout the Civil War.  He studied for the ministry at Otterbein College and Yale Divinity School. He filled several pastorates before coming to Iowa in 1881 as the President of Western College in Toledo.  In 1889, he was appointed Superintendent of Schools in West Des Moines.

In 1891, Beardshear was appointed President of Iowa State, and during his tenure, ISC truly came of age.  Beardshear developed new agricultural programs and was instrumental in hiring premier faculty members such Anson Marston, Louis B. Spinney, J.B. Weems, Perry G. Holden, and Maria Roberts.  He also expanded the university administration, and the following buildings were added to the campus:  Morrill Hall (1891); the Campanile (1899); Old Botany (now Catt Hall) (1892); and Margaret Hall (1895).

While Beardshear was President, the following events also occurred at Iowa State:  the school colors of cardinal and gold were named, Iowa State became known as the Cyclones (1895), and the first Bomb (the university yearbook) was published in 1893. He died in 1902 of complications following a heart attack.  In his honor, Iowa State named its central administrative building (Central Building) after Beardshear in 1938.

Iowa State Sesquicentennial

Time Line
Cyclone Facts and Trivia
Campus Buildings

Student Life

People of Distinction

William M. Beardshear

Oral Histories


This is a historic exhibit and the information provided within it may be out of date. Please contact the Special Collections and University Archives Department with questions about Iowa State history (archives@iastate.edu).


Resources available online

 William M. Beardshear Papers

RS 2/5
University Archives, Iowa State University Library