BY KATIE HERATH
Between 1890 and 1893, Reverend Thomas H. Herdman served as president of McKendree College, serving one of the shortest terms for a president in McKendree’s history. So What makes this president interesting, and why did he only hold this position for three years?
Thomas Herdman attended three different colleges, the last being McKendree, where he received his A.M. and D.D. (Associates and Doctorate in Divinity). While serving as a pastor in the Southern Illinois Methodist Conference, he pastored the church in Lebanon twice, spending a large portion of his life as a resident of the town.
Shortly after receiving his D.D., he was asked to fill the vacant seat of president of McKendree College, following Isaiah Villar’s sudden departure of the seat. During his administration, Herdman struggled with paying the mortgage debt for the school. Interestingly enough, McKendree faced foreclosure at the time, and Herdman did everything in his power to save money to pay off the mortgage.
One specific incidence was utilizing the Athleteon building (where Wildy is now) for both study hall and chapel services. At that time, chapel was held each morning, and church was held twice each Sunday; students were required to attend them all. Students were also required to spend two hours each night in their own rooms studying. The latter was highly unpopular and was dropped from school records.
Also during his presidency, the vacancy of a Greek and German professor was filled, which was the only major faculty change at the time. This change had a great impact on the future of the college. Morris L Barr was hired for the position and became popular among the students. Students loved him so much they requested for Barr to be McKendree’s president. President Herdman was very humble, giving up his position, as he “was always willing to make any sacrifice which his brethren believed would advance the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.”
McKendree would keep Herdman as Dean of the Post-graduate Theological Departments of McKendree, a position created just for Thomas Herdman. He taught at McKendree for another five years before returning to ministering the churches in the area. Two of Herdman’s relatives would attend McKendree, including his adopted daughter, Minnie Herdman Clemens (1896) and his niece, Etta Herdman Doud (1884). Rev. Herdman died in 1916 and is buried in College Hill Cemetery.
Pieces from the Herdman-Doud collection will be on display in the McKendree History Museum during the month of October. The museum is open from 10 AM to noon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The exhibit is located on the main floor of Bothwell Chapel.
Information on Rev. T. H. Herdman was taken from “Centennial McKendree College History” and the Herdman-Doud collection of the McKendree Archives.