Charles J. McClain

President, 1970-1989

Hailed by many as a legend in higher education in the state of Missouri, Charles J. McClain’s extraordinary vision and leadership as president of Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University), from 1970-1989, helped transform the school into Missouri’s only highly selective, public liberal arts and sciences university.

“Dr. McClain’s imprint on this University and community is unparalleled,” President Troy Paino said. “In short, Truman would not be what it is today without his vision and persistent leadership.”

While serving as president of the University, McClain established a value-added program to track the strengths and weaknesses of Truman students. As a result of his leadership, the University received national recognition for its academic excellence and assessment programs, including the G. Theodore Mitau Award for Innovation and Change in Higher Education, the highest award from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The University was also ranked one of the five most innovative colleges and universities in the country in a U.S. News & World Report survey of college and university presidents.

Although his accomplishments related to Truman alone are impressive, what McClain achieved as an educator away from the University was just as remarkable.

McClain’s career began at the age of 16 when he accepted a teaching position in a one-room school near Sullivan, MO. In 1963, he founded Jefferson College in Hillsboro, MO., where he served as president for seven years. McClain also occupied various roles in education in the capacity of assistant professor, school superintendent, elementary school principal and elementary teacher, assistant professor and assistant dean for the College of Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In 1989, McClain was selected by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education to serve as Missouri’s commissioner of higher education, and he later worked as a consultant for the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, MO. In 2003, McClain received the Des Lee Distinguished Professorship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The following year, he was selected as a member of the Missouri Academy of Squires, an organization limited to 100 Missourians of achievement.

If that were not enough, in 2008, at the age of 77, McClain became the interim president at Fairmont State University in West Virginia.

McClain earned his undergraduate degree from Missouri State University in 1954 and his advanced degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Please Note: This biographical sketch has been compiled from secondary sources and may not be complete or totally accurate; it is therefore subject to update or correction.