Skip to Main Content

Kutztown University Archives: Presidents

Articles, projects and presentations of the student interns in the KU Archives

A Brief History

Kutztown University, founded in 1866, has grown and evolved over the years, thanks in part to the principals and presidents who have been employed here at KU. In the spirit of celebration and remembrance, we here at the Kutztown University Archives are gathering a full biographic summary of the roles of each principal and president to preserve their accomplishments and highlight how the University has come to where it is today. 

Presidents and Principals

Principal John S. Ermentrout: 1866-1871

He was born on September 7th, 1827, and died July 21st, 1881.

Ermentrout earned his education from Marshall College in 1845 where he graduated with honors. Following this, he taught as an assistant professor in Greek and English there. After a time he studied for ministry at the Reformed Theological Seminary where he became an ordained clergyman. For a time he was the pastor of the Reformed Congregation in Norrisville, where he was well-loved. In fact, he had to submit his letter of resignation three times before they would honor it. After leaving the Reformed Congregation in 1862 he was elected to Berks Country superintendent.

While in this position, Reverend Ermentrout went on record as saying that teachers’ salaries were low because the community undervalued common schools. He worked to whip people into shape for bringing their children to school and distributed classroom supplies where and when he could. In 1862 the idea of establishing a state normal school was raised and Ermentrout favored it because it would benefit the community and raise their property values. The Maxatawny Seminary became the focus of a Kutztown joint-stock company and work began to transform it into a place of higher education. Ermentrout laid the cornerstone on September 17th, 1865. The building was still called Maxatawny Seminary until February 10th, 1866 when it became the Keystone Normal School. Ermentrout served as a trustee of this school and a part-time principal and eventually became the full-fledged principal until 1871 when he left to work for religion once more. In 1873 the board of trustees of Keystone State Normal School recalled him and he became the chair of Mental and Moral Science and English Literature until he passed away in 1881.

Principal Rev. Abraham R. Horne: 1872-1876

He was born on March 24th, 1834, and died in 1902.

As a young child, Horne was well known for his reading habits and launching into religious sermons to other children. When he was sixteen he began his work as a teacher near his family home. He worked there for three years before leaving to preside over schools in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania until the fall of 1854. He entered Pennsylvania College in 1858, and while he was a student he acted as Principle of the Bucks County Normal & Classical School at Quakertown. In 1867 he became the City Superintendent of Schools at Williamsport where he stayed until he was called to the Principalship of the Keystone State Normal School in 1872. KSNS experienced a growth of prosperity under his leadership, with over five hundred students sometimes enrolled in a single term. He left in 1877.

In addition to his teaching work, he was a clergyman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church where he served from when he was ordained in 1859. He also published and edited the semi-annual National Educator (1860). In 1857 he married Jemima Emelia and had two daughters and four sons.

Principal Dr. Nathan C. Schaeffer: 1877-1893

He was born on February 3rd, 1849, and died on March 15, 1919.

At the age of eleven years old, Schaeffer attended the Franklin Academy. Starting in 1871, he was a teacher at Keystone State Normal School for two semesters before leaving so that he could enter Mercersburg College. After his graduation in two years, he returned to KSNS and acted as a temporary president. He left for Europe in 1874 to study in locations such as Berlin and Leipzig. In 1877 he returned to KSNS and took over as the full-time principal. During the next sixteen years, he reformed the school through the creation of dormitory and classroom buildings and starting the process of revising and advancing the curriculum. Schaeffer proved that he would do what it took to protect his school and his students, such as when he expelled the son of a trustee who was incriminated in a serious offense.

In 1880 he married Anna Ahlum and fathered seven children. Schaeffer was nominated by Governor Robert E. Pattison in 1893 to fill the vacant office of the state superintendent, which he accepted. There we see him enact what we identify as the modern public school system where we have mandatory attendance until the age of thirteen, freely issued textbooks, required vaccinations, increased all school terms to a minimum of seven months, and a school code that created a list of minimal requirements for all teachers plus a minimum salary for them.

Principal Rev. George B. Hancher: 1893-1899


He was born on November 28th, 1846, and died on November 20th, 1915.

Hancher acted as the vice principal of KSNS from 1882 to 1893 and then was the principal from 1893 to 1899.

He was born in Sullivan County, Tennessee, and attended Jefferson Academy in Blountsville. After graduation in 1879, he then entered King’s College in Bristol, Tennessee before entering the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia. In 1882 was called by the trustees of KSNS to take the position of teacher of higher mathematics and the vice-principalship. Hancher was then elected principal when Schaeffer left. In 1899 he left KSNS to become the supply pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Reading before leaving to serve as pastor in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Mt. Carroll, Illinois.

In 1896 he married May Rankin, who was a member of the KSNS faculty. Together they had a son & daughter.

Amos C. Rothermel 1899-1934

He was born in 1864 and died in 1946.

Rothermel attended KSNS as a student and graduated in 1886. He then went to Franklin & Marshall College where he graduated in only three years and earned his diploma with honors in 1891. He also returned to the Normal School to teach United States history during the spring sessions of 1889 to 1891. Right after his graduation, he was nominated by Schaeffer to become a professor of natural sciences. In 1893, he was nominated as the vice principal. Following Hancher's dismissal, he became the Acting Principal while the trustees searched for a new principal. For two years he held this position until Schaeffer was reappointed as the State Superintendent. His quiet and almost "priestly" nature helped him earn the respect needed for him to be nominated as the Principal of KSNS.

Rothermel was known to be against the employment of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, going so far as to reply in pointed English to any townspeople who spoke in the dialect to him. Following World War I, his "high ideals and lofty aspirations" caused some chafing in the student and faculty body who felt that he was, in essence, somewhat behind the times.

He retired in 1934 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Quincy Alvin W. Rohrbach 1934-1959

He was born on June 6th, 1894, and died in 1988.

He was a graduate of KSNS, Franklin & Marshall College, and the University of Pennsylvania. He taught as a Harrison Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania for ten years before returning to Kutztown. He was a member of the Pinchot Educational Commission during its 1931 to 1933 sessions. Rohrbach urged the Pennsylvania General Assembly to change the names of Pennsylvania teacher’s colleges to “state colleges”, which was accepted in 1959. The Oxford University Press used him as a consultant and he was also a consultant to Carnegie Foundation for the Advancing of Teaching in its Pennsylvania study. He was an active negotiator for several hundred veterans of WW2, helping them gain college admission throughout the country. Because of this, he received the Service medal from the U.S. Congress.

Upon his retirement, a $2 million dollar library was dedicated to his name. He was married to Laura M. Dunkelburg.

Italo L. DeFrancesco 1959-1967

He was born on November 14, 1901, and died on May 25th, 1967.

DeFrancesco was an Italian immigrant from Borello in 1919. A graduate of West Chester State College in 1922, he began his teaching career as a high school art instructor in the Reading's Boys High School from 1922 to 1925 before becoming the head of Reading High School art department from 1927 to 1936. Later he received a Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in education from New York University in 1942. DeFrancesco joined KSC's art department in 1936 and three years later became the director of art education, a position he held for twenty years before he became the President. During his time as the director of art education, he taught romance languages as well. He passed away while in office due to a respiratory illness.

In a memorial penned by his second wife, Ruth Brightbill DeFrancesco, she quoted him saying “Education provided a broader base for mankind reaching its fullest potential.”

Cyrus E. Beekey 1967-1969

He was born March 29th, 1906, and died October 11th, 1974.

Beekey graduated from Myerstown High School in 1923 and in 1927 he graduated from Albright College. Both his master’s and doctorate degrees were earned from Cornell University. At the beginning of his career, Beekey was a math teacher at Southern Junior High School from 1927 to 1929. From 1931 to 1943 he taught biology at the Reading High School. After this, he came to Kutztown as a physics professor. He became a biology professor and assistant dean of instruction in 1944. He became the acting president upon deFrancesco’s death and was inducted on Nov. 18, 1967. He retired on August 1st, 1969.

In October of 1972, the Beekey Education Center was dedicated to him.

Lawrence M. Stratton 1969-1987

He was born on June 12th, 1928 and died October 29th, 1987.

Stratton was born in Duluth, Minnesota. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from Rutgers. He was a biology teacher at Davison High School from 1952 to 1955, a teacher at Princeton High School from 1955 to 1956, assistance registrar at Rutgers in 1957, a research assistance with the New Jersey State Department of Education from 1957 to 1958, and registrar and associate professor of education at Jersey City State College from 1958 to 1959

Stratton had an interest in foreign affairs and led faculty exchanges with Kansai University of Foreign Studies in Japan, correspondence with Malaysia, and an exchange program with Buckinghamshire College of Education in England.

The change from a state college to a university occurred under his Presidency. In addition, his term saw the number of undergraduate programs leap from twelve to fifty and graduate programs from six to thirteen.

David E. McFarland 1987-2002


Upon Stratton’s death, Dr. David McFarland became Interim President until Stratton came off sick leave. He then took over on December 1st, 1988 as the full-time president. He was the co-author of three books on educational and engineering subjects. He has also written fifteen articles for scholarly and professional journals on topics such as academic success and student-athletes, effective teaching, academic advising, and engineering. When he was forty-nine years old, he served as provost & vice president for Academic Affairs at Central Missouri State University. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aeronautical engineering from Wichita State University in Kansas and received a Doctorate of Philosophy in engineering mechanics from the University Of Kansas. From 1981 to 1985 he was the dean and professor of engineering technology at Pittsburgh State University in Kansas.

McFarland currently works as a consultant for Penson Associates, Inc. and lives in Tampa, Florida.

F. Javier Cevallos 2002 - 2014

Cevallos was born in Cuenca, Eduador. He moved to the Caribbean Commonwealth of Puerto Rico where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1976 from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. Following this, he moved to Illinois where he earned his master's degree in 1978 and his doctorate in 1981 from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Following his schooling, Cevallos became an assistant professor of Spanish at the University of Maine. Come 1984 he became a member of the staff at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He took a position as an associate professor there in 1988 and then a full professor in 1992. After becoming a faculty advisor to the provost in 1994 he was chosen as a Fellow by the American Council on Education in 1996 and spent his time with Douglas Bennet at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. After returning to the University of Massachusetts he became chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese followed by becoming the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. He held this position until he became the President of Kutztown University in 2002.

On January 21st, 2014 Cevallos accepted the position of the sixteenth president of Framingham State University in Massachusetts. He ended his term as Kutztown University's President in June of that year.

Kenneth S. Hawkinson 2015 - Present

Kenneth Hawkinson began his tenure as the 12th president of Kutztown University on July 1, 2015. Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson became the seventeenth President of Kutztown University on July 1, 2015. He served in the U.S. Army for three years. He earned a B.A. in History from Western Illinois University, an M.A. in Speech Communication from Western Illinois, and a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University in Speech Communication/Performance Studies. Before accepting his appointment at Kutztown University, he was the Provost at Western Illinois University for three years.