19th president, August 1,1986—June 30,1996
A dynamic long-range planner and fundraiser, Daniel Sullivan led the College to expansion of its science structures and use of computers for educational purposes. During his term the College returned to the semester system with Saturday classes abolished. A new liberal arts studies program for the freshman and sophomore years was initiated and progress made on additional athletic and physical fitness facilities.
Born on January 18, 1944, Sullivan grew up in Holley, New York. He graduated from St. Lawrence University Phi Beta Kappa in 1965, with majors in mathematics and English. He next attended Columbia University, receiving a PhD in sociology in 1971. In that year he became assistant professor of sociology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 1979 he was appointed Carleton’s dean of academic development and planning and, two years later, vice president for planning and development. He also served as secretary of the college and on panels and committees of the National Science Foundation, the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, and the College Board. In 1990 he would chair Project Kaleidoscope, a national effort to improve undergraduate education in mathematics and science. An athletic person himself, he found time to be a summer league soccer coach. While at Allegheny he sank ten baskets in a row during a foul shooting contest at halftime at a varsity basketball game.
Sullivan set three priorities for Allegheny: faculty recruitment, student recruitment, and construction of new facilities. In the first area, initial progress resulted from improved salary schedules, an easing of the recruitment market, and vigorous effort. Enrollment reached 1,959 students, and a report labeled “Allegheny 2000” outlined campus needs.
Nationally, alcohol abuse on campuses was a growing problem. Allegheny proved no exception. Steps were taken to improve counseling, and pressure was placed on the Greek system to be a more positive force on campus. Faculty and student calls for divestment of institutional funds invested in South Africa brought a debate with the Board, which by 1990 agreed to begin divestment. A Committee on Racial Issues initiated by students and faculty spurred efforts to improve campus inclusiveness. A series of foundation grants supported a variety of programs.
Change was rapid. Some faculty questioned the legitimacy and the implementation of new guidelines regarding tenure review. Students reacted negatively to new room contracts, alterations in financial aid, and discontinuation of the wrestling team. They protested administrative actions during a key admissions weekend. Only 380 freshmen and just seven transfers registered in fall 1990.
The resulting shortfall in tuition revenue forced cutbacks. Moreover, fundraising did not keep pace with capital expenditures. Borrowing against the endowment was undertaken for a projected three-year period. The size of the faculty fell, and in 1991 a one-year freeze was placed on salaries. Two new science buildings opened (the Doane and Steffee Science Halls), assisting the chemistry and biology departments and the growing environmental science program. Yet faculty remained restive over an aborted proposal to reduce payments to their TIAA–CREF pension funds and what, to many, seemed disproportionate emphasis on Allegheny as a “science college.” Many were also disturbed by the administration’s eagerness to jettison the long-standing teacher education program. Sullivan’s confidence and reliance on his staff and in data at times led him to accept policy recommendations and actions that might have benefitted from further review. He enjoyed creative debate, but others thought discussions tended toward the abrasive. The gap between faculty and administrative salaries raised eyebrows, especially as it became clear that debt problems were rooted in ongoing systemic deficits. Undertones of serious disharmony murmured in the administration.
There were positive signs, as construction of the David V. Wise Sport and Fitness Center proceeded and plans for new housing were implemented. Enrollment was recovering despite the decline of population in the Pittsburgh recruitment pool. Important gender and racial issues on campus were being constructively addressed, and on the national scene Allegheny’s rank was mounting.
In 1996 Sullivan accepted the invitation of his alma mater to serve as its president. While at St. Lawrence he oversaw expansion of the curriculum and faculty and raised substantial sums. The student center was named for him, and he received honorary degrees from Clarkson and St. Lawrence. After thirteen years as the head of the university, he retired in 2009.
*This account is taken with permission nearly completely from J. E. Helmreich, Through All the Years: A History of Allegheny College. Meadville, PA: Allegheny College, 2005.