The SafeEstates Blog

The Presidents Who Became POTUS

As our nation begins a new school year, we thank our teachers and administrators who show up every school day to love and enlighten our children. Have you ever thought about the teachers who later became POTUS? There are more who were POTUS first and professor later. How many US Presidents also served as college or university presidents?

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison held both positions in reverse order, serving first as 3rd and 4th POTUS and later as 1st and 2nd Rector of University of Virginia.

As best I can determine, there were four who moved from college president to POTUS. Millard Fillmore was Chancellor of University of Buffalo 1846-74 taking a break to serve as 13th POTUS from 1850-53. James Garfield served as President of Hiram College in Ohio from 1857-60 and served as 20th POTUS in 1881. Woodrow Wilson was President of Princeton University from 1902-10 before he became 28th POTUS from 1913-1921. After his military career, Dwight Eisenhower was President of Columbia University (1948-53) before becoming 34th POTUS (1953-61).

My memories of President Eisenhower’s administration include the Interstate Highway System and the admission of Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower donated their Gettysburg home and farm to the National Park Service in 1967, subject to a life estate reserved to Dwight. He died two years later. Mamie stayed on the farm with government permission until her death in 1979.

So what did these college presidents do as POTUS to promote education? Not as much as you might expect. Although a Department of Education was created in 1867, it was demoted to Office of Education in 1868 because education was seen as a local government function. The US Department of Education was recreated in 1979.

Just as we cannot judge past presidents by 2020 standards, we cannot fairly judge our parents’ and grandparents’ estate plans by 2020 standards. Just because your grandparents did not have a will and it worked out for them does not mean it will work out for you. Your lack of an appropriate estate plan may be a ticking time bomb for your family.

~ Randy Hooper