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The Right Leaders at the Right Time

President Glenn W. Todd (1941-1951)

The college has perservered because of strong leadership from its president, from George Knepper, the college’s first president, through current president J. Anthony (Tony) Fernandez, the college has benefited from leaders who had vision to strengthen the institution.

The college has had 15 presidents in its 125-year existence, including two who served on a one-year interim while a permanent president search was conducted. All had outstanding qualities and had to deal with some type of adversity, some more daunting than others did. Here is a look at what three in particular did for the institution.

When Glenn Todd arrived as president in 1941, he found the role and image of Lewiston State Normal School to be outdated. For too long, he thought, the school was under the thumb of the University of Idaho. The Normal School was restricted to training elementary and junior high teachers, and UI officials argued that only a university could offer the broad curriculum to train high school teachers.

Todd’s determination helped lead to offer a four-year degree for the first time in 1943 that allowed certification to teachers at all grades. He also advocated for and oversaw the name change to North Idaho College of Education in 1947.

With the four-year degree, he led the charge to increase the school’s offerings, including art, English, geography, history, math, biology and music. The classes would not only help teachers specialize in areas, but also help students who wanted to take classes in those basic subjects.

Among his other accomplishments were the first night and weekend classes in 1941 in an outreach to help those who were working; helping the World War II effort as the institution became the largest trainer of naval air cadets; and a steady growth in enrollment. Todd did this despite growing resentment of the school with southern Idaho legislators, who eventually led a charge to close the school in 1951, which ended Todd’s time as president.

Even though the school was closed during 1951-55, Todd’s efforts laid the groundwork for the institution when it re-opened.

President Lee A. Vickers (1978-1994)

Lee Vickers came to the college as a basketball coach and academic dean in 1971, and took over as president in 1978 when there was again talk by the legislature of either consolidating the school or closing it all together. Vickers refused to sit idly by and led the bold charge to make the school more high profile. It was exactly what the college needed.

As former Lewiston Tribune editorial writer Bill Hall wrote in 1977, “What the school needs now is confidence. After so many years of being closed, reopened, financially cheated and kicked from hell to breakfast in every other session of the legislature, it has become a very shy school … Someone forgot to tell [Vickers] he was supposed to feel inferior for his school. Without being president, he has been stimulating a new attitude at the college, prompting it to reach out toward its community, daring it to adopt the manner of someone who has every right to exist … The shrinking violet should have never been the official flower of LCSC. And .. Vickers will pull that wretched defeatist weed up by its roots.”

Vickers brought sweeping changes to the college. A key was the merging of courses in academics and vocation areas. Previously, each had their own English and math courses, but Vickers made LCSC a true multipurpose college. He expanded LC’s outreach to major industry in the community as well. LC maintained a big facility inside Lewiston’s biggest employer Potlatch Corp. that included 15 computers and a full-time staff providing constant training and retraining for work. He grew the outreach by bringing back night and weekend classes and teamed up with junior colleges to offer baccalaureate programs. He, along with his wife Deanna, became advocates of art and culture and LCSC soon had a Center for Arts & History.

Vickers made allies in the governor’s office to fight off attempts to curtail the college. He helped the college grow fiscally and with enrollment numbers that continued to set records.

Vickers best summed up his leadership style during the college’s centennial celebration in 1993.  “The future belongs to those daring enough to take risks. Two distinct groups will emerge – the courageous who will lead, and the passive who will struggle.”

President Dene K. Thomas (2001-2010)

Dene K. Thomas came to LCSC from neighboring UI in 2001, knowing she would have some challenges, but even she didn’t know how daunting those challenge would be.

After Vickers left, the college fell back into the mode of “they can’t hurt us if they don’t know about us.” Thomas saw LCSC had an image problem, especially outside of the region, and went to work to immediately address it. She adopted aggressive recruitment tactics and soon LCSC was not only going after students in Boise and southern Idaho, but pushing for LCSC’s footprint to move into Washington and Oregon. The result was extensive growth in the student population.

Thomas led this charge despite going through some budget challenges. When she arrived, she quickly made it known that the college would get the most out of every penny and budgets were tightened. She endured two state economic downturns that slashed the college’s budget, but each decision she made was based on strengthening the college and moving it forward.

Her attitude and charm quickly won over both the legislature and the state board, which helped the college receive a new Activity Center as well as a new nursing and health sciences facility, Sacajawea Hall. She also brought the community spotlight back to LCSC, similar to Vickers, and was able to rally community support for the college. When she left, the college was back to being a thriving and healthy institution.


George Knepper

Lewis-Clark Normal School


George H. Black

Lewis-Clark Normal School


Oliver M. Elliott

Lewis-Clark Normal School


John E. Turner

Lewis-Clark Normal School


Glenn W. Todd

Lewis-Clark Normal School/
Northern Idaho College of Education


College was closed


Dr. H. Walter Steffens

Lewis-Clark Normal School


Dr. Cleon C. Caldwell

Lewis-Clark Normal School


Dr. Wayne Sims

Lewis-Clark Normal School


Dr. Jerold O. Dugger

Lewis-Clark Normal School/
Lewis-Clark State College


Dr. Lee A. Vickers

Lewis-Clark State College


Dr. Michael Glenn

Lewis-Clark State College


Dr. James W. Hottois

Lewis-Clark State College


Dr. Niel T. Zimmerman

Lewis-Clark State College


Dr. Dene K. Thomas

Lewis-Clark State College


Dr. J. Anthony Fernández

Lewis-Clark State College


Dr. Cynthia Pemberton

Lewis-Clark State College