President John W. Long - 1921-55
By John F. Piper Jr., Ph.D., ’07H
Professor of History and Dean of the College, Emeritus
John W. Long became the president of Williamsport Dickinson Seminary in fall 1921. His formal inauguration took place in June 1922 as one of the events of Commencement Week. No one could have predicted that by the time he retired in 1955, he would lead two transformations of the Seminary, and serve as president of both the institutions: Williamsport Dickson Seminary and Junior College, and Lycoming College. He is remembered as the eighth president of Lycoming and has the record as the longest serving president. His presence endures on campus as the name of the administration building, which was the new library of the college when it was built in 1951.
Like his seven predecessors, he was a Methodist clergyman, a member of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Church. Unlike many of them, he arrived in his new position with substantial experience working with college students. He had become pastor of St. Paul’s Church in State College in 1917, across the street from the rapidly growing Pennsylvania State College, now Penn State University. He quickly realized that the students needed a ministry in addition to what the local church provided. A Methodist church near the campus of the state university in Illinois had just created such a student oriented ministry called the Wesley Foundation. By 1921, Long had organized a Wesley Foundation for Methodist students and located it at St. Paul’s. He left that same summer for Williamsport Dickinson Seminary, taking with him four years of experience working with college-age students.
His contributions to Williamsport Dickinson Seminary and its successors were numerous. Perhaps most important among them was his acceptance of the goal of a Greater Dickinson, a prominent theme he inherited from his predecessors. In his mind, that idea involved advancing the mission of the school to reach students beyond high school age. He took the lead in this effort in 1923, which resulted in the addition of a curriculum for a Junior College in 1929, the first private one in Pennsylvania. After World War II and in light of the educational needs of men and women returning from the war, he led the effort to extend the school’s mission to include a curriculum for four years of college work. The directors approved and created Lycoming College in 1947.
For more information about the history of Lycoming College, consult Lycoming College 1812-2012 written by John F. Piper Jr., and the college’s Digital Archives: http://www.lycoming.edu/library/archives/.