John Q. Imholte

John Q. Imholte

John (Jack) Q. Imholte served as Provost and then Chancellor of UMN Morris from 1970 to 1990. Hired in 1960 to teach history and economics, Imholte was one of the original thirteen faculty members. He became assistant dean in 1967, and then three years later after Rodney Briggs stepped down, Imholte was named Provost. In 1985 after the provost title was renamed he assumed the role of chancellor. Under Imholte's watch the campus saw growth in enrollment and significant progress in the development of its physical plant. It also faced a major challenge in the early 1980s when the president of the University, C. Peter Magrath, announced during a state budget crisis that Morris could possibly be closed. Imholte successfully and creatively saw UMN Morris through that crisis. Imholte’s longer record boasts of other significant contributions as he oversaw the maturation of the college as an institution with successful, fully developed programs, a national reputation for academic excellence and a clear sense of purpose and mission.


born in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 8

received his B.A. in economics from Washington & Lee University

served in the Army in the Korean War until 1954

married Lucy Gibbs and began graduate work in history at the University of Minnesota

received his M.A. in history from the University of Minnesota

hired at UMN Morris to teach history

received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Minnesota


named Chair of the Division of Social Sciences

promoted to Associate Professor

promoted from Lecturer to Assistant Professor

became the UMN Morris Assistant Dean

promoted from Assistant Dean to Academic Dean[1]

promoted to Professor in the History Discipline


named as acting Provost in 1969 [2] and took the provost position full-time in 1970[3]

announced his resignation as chancellor[4]

retired and moved back to St. Paul, Minnesota

honored by the naming of John Q. Imholte Hall

died in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 20

Personal Life

Jack Imholte was born in St. Paul, Minnesota to parents Lucille and Herbert Imholte. He graduated in 1948 from Cretin High School in St. Paul. For his undergraduate career, he first attended Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin before transferring to Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia where he majored in economics. After graduation, he served as an artillery spotter in the Korean War (June 1952-January 1954) and then worked at Dun and Bradstreet until 1955. He later recalled that he quit Dun and Bradstreet on a Friday in 1955, was married the next day and then started graduate school the following Monday.[5] He came back to Minnesota to earn his Master and Doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota in history.[6] His dissertation, titled “The First Minnesota Infantry Regiment, 1861-1864,” was completed in 1961.[7]

Jack and Lucy Gibbs Imholte raised seven children. Imholte was a passionate rower and his morning routine, weather permitting, often involved taking a shell to one of the local lakes.


Research and Teaching

In 1963, Imholte published his first book, titled The First Volunteers: History of the First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment, 1861-1865, a work based on his dissertation.[8] His interests eventually evolved to include peace studies, and in 1966 Imholte accepted a quarter leave to do research at the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College.[9] This work investigated the international connections within 19th century peace movements, and he continued this work--with a new focus on Alfred Henry Love and the Universal Peace Union--after he left the UMN Morris Chancellor's office.

Imholte developed and taught a wide-range of courses at UMN Morris, including: American Pacifism, American Military History, and History of Strategy and Tactics from the Greeks to the Gulf. He also taught a course on Minnesota history and historical research.[10] His interest in Minnesota history was reflected in the assistance he lent Theodore Blegen in his monumental 1963 history of the state.

Campus Contributions

Jack Imholte came to UMN Morris as a lecturer in history in 1960, though he quickly was promoted to assistant professor in 1961 and then associate professor in 1963. He served as the chair of the Division of Social Sciences between 1962 and 1967,  was then promoted to Assistant Dean in 1967, and then Academic Dean in 1968.  He was not long in that position; he was elevated to acting provost in 1969 when Rodney Briggs departed UMN Morris and then moved officially into the provost position (later renamed chancellor) in 1970.[11]

Imholte, with his twenty years at the helm of UMN Morris, was easily the longest serving chief administrator in the history of the college. He took over leadership when student outrage over the war in Vietnam was at its peak and he successfully steered the campus through those and other challenging times over the next two decades. Beginning in 1969 he spearheaded the move to create a more diverse campus and the choice of William (Bill) Stewart as head of the Multi-Ethnic Resource Center in 1973 signaled a new commitment to recruiting students of color. By 1989 fully seven percent of Morris students were members of racial minority groups, and this figure was second in the system, trailing only the Twin Cities campus, and representing twice the percentage for Duluth and three times that of Crookston.[12] Likewise, the gender ratio among students had reversed itself, and by 1989 55 percent of Morris students were women.[13] Moreover, students were increasingly taught by female faculty, whose percentage among all faculty had grown from 17 to 25 percent in the two decades. Imholte oversaw the successful implementation of Title IX and the Rajender Consent Decree,[14] and by the end of his administration the salaries of UMN Morris's female faculty were roughly on par with their male colleagues. The decision to hire Elizabeth (Bettina) Blake in 1979 as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean was a clear sign of the campus's commitment to gender equity.

The growth and development of the campus were not without problems. Enrollment had grown to almost the 1800 mark by 1972 but then declined during the remainder of the decade. Although figures would rebound in the 1980s, this slow decline in combination with a significant state budget crisis in 1981-82 prompted UMN President, C. Peter Magrath, to advise St. Paul that cuts to the University budget could result in the closure of coordinate campuses.[15] Imholte's calm and steady leadership helped resolve the crisis, and when the President's office requested $270,000 in Morris budget cuts, Imholte was able to raise the necessary funds by appealing to the local business community and thus avoid layoffs to faculty and staff.[16]

Imholte’s solution to declining enrollment in the 1970s was to institute a modern and aggressive system for recruiting new students while also reaffirming the campus’s commitment to the liberal arts.[17] This was accompanied, after a dip in the early 1980s, with an increase in test scores and a growing number of students ranking in the top twenty percent of their high school graduating class. Morris could boast at the time of Imholte's retirement that 82 percent of the incoming class was ranked in the top 20 percent of their high school class.[18] These accomplishments were recognized nationally, and UMN Morris was now seen as an affordable, high quality, public liberal arts college. The school’s reputation for excellence was already well established in the 1990s and was in large part due to the groundwork accomplished under the Imholte administration.[19]

Much of the UMN Morris initial building boom was concluded during the first years of the Imholte administration. The Physical Education Center was completed in 1970, as was Independence Hall and the campus Heating Plant. The Food Service Building came on-line the next year, and the Campus Apartments were finished at the same time. In 1973 the second phase of Briggs Library was finished and in that same year Ralph Rapson's Humanities and Fine Arts Building was added to the campus landscape. Construction, however, ground to a halt in the 1970s and 1980s as the Minnesota State Legislature grew more cautious in response to the state-wide decline in student enrollment.[20]  Although some important campus needs, such as a Student Center and the planned HFA auditorium, remained unmet, the built environment of a central campus square surrounded by a mix of new and historic buildings, assumed its present form during Imholte's tenure as chancellor.

Intercollegiate athletics at UMN Morris came into its own during Imholte's chancellorship. Title IX, otherwise known as the "Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act," was passed in 1972, and over the course of the next decade and a half the Cougars, under the leadership of Willis Kelly, were able to expand their offerings in women’s sports to include women's track and field, tennis, softball and golf. Women's basketball had already come into existence in 1970. The men's program continued to grow and develop, and both football and men's basketball recorded numerous conference championships during these years. Imholte in his oversight of intercollegiate athletics sought to balance the practical need of maintaining a vibrant sports program while remaining committed to the school's liberal arts mission. He loved to welcome alumni back to campus on homecoming weekends and the parties he and Lucy hosted on those Saturdays became legendary.

In September 1989 Imholte, arguing that a twenty-year term as a chancellor was more than long enough, announced his plans to resign from the chancellorship and to return to the classroom.[21] With the exception of a year’s leave spent as an administrator at the Minneapolis campus, Imholte spent the remainder of his career teaching history at UMN Morris. He retired in 2000 and moved back to St. Paul.

After UMN Morris

In his retirement, Imholte continued reading, traveling, and spending time with his family and friends. He loved going to the symphony, ballets, theater productions, and sporting events. He also served as a volunteer with the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad and often participated at graveside ceremonies at veterans’ funerals.[22] In 2005 UMN Morris honored Imholte and recognized his many contributions to the campus by renaming the Social Science Building John Q. Imholte Hall.[23] Jack Imholte died at the age of 84 on April 20, 2014.[24]

Lauren Solkowski
Stephen Gross (Editor)
Naomi Skulan (Editor)


[1] “Dr. Imholte appointed dean of students,Vanguard (Morris, MN), Oct. 6, 1967. 
[2] “Imholte inherits interim,Vanguard (Morris, MN), April 16, 1969. 
[3] “’U’ selects Imholte as provost at Morris,” Minneapolis Star (Minneapolis, MN), Jan. 10, 1970. 
[4] In 1985, the university changed the title of provost to chancellor 
[5] John Q. Imholte, interview by Clarke A. Chambers, Aug. 20, 1984, transcript, University Digital Conservancy, Minneapolis, MN.
[6] Chuck Brunette, “Interview with Dr. John Q. Imholte,” Aug. 19, 1976.
[7] “Dr. Imholte Writes Book,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), April 22, 1963.
[8] “Dr. Imholte Writes Book,” April 22, 1963
[9]Imholte investigates international unity,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), April 7, 1966.  
[10] John Imholte, “Curriculum Vitae,” March 1999.
[11] John Imholte, “Curriculum Vitae,” March 1999.
[12] University of Minnesota Morris. Institutional Data Book, 1989-90 (Morris, MN: University of Minnesota Morris, 1990), 15.
[13] University of Minnesota Morris. Institutional Data Book, 1989-90, 28-29.
[14] The Rajender Consent Decree refers to the class action lawsuit against the University of Minnesota for employment discrimination on the basis of sex. The suit was settled in 1980 with a consent decree that covered “hiring, promotion, tenure, and salary procedures” and required the “formation of an equal employment opportunity committee for women” to rectify employment discrimination based on sex at the University of Minnesota. For more information about this lawsuit and decree, see: Judith Glazer-Raymo. Shattering the Myths: Women in Academe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 94.
[15]  Bonnie Miller Rubin, “‘U’ regents say cuts of 8 to 12 pct. can’t be made,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Oct. 27, 1981.
[16] Elizabeth Blake, interview by Ann M. Pflaum, March 26, 2001, transcript, University Digital Conservancy, Minneapolis, MN. For examples of news stories having to do with the threat of closure, see Marta Coursey, “The final plan for UMM,” Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), Jan. 27, 1982, and David Kuball, “President Magrath visits Morris,” Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), Feb. 3, 1982.
[17] John Q. Imholte, interview by Clarke A. Chambers
[18] University of Minnesota Morris. Institutional Data Book, 1989-90, 11
[19] University of Minnesota Morris, Institutional Data Book, 1989-90; University of Minnesota Morris Alumni Association, “UMM to You: Winter 1989,
[20] Stephen Granger and Susan Granger, New Buildings Constructed for the University of Minnesota, Morris from 1965 to 2002 (Morris, MN: University of Minnesota Morris, 2002)
[21] “Chancellor at Minnesota-Morris will resign,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Sept. 27, 1989.
[22] “John Q. Imholte,” O’Halloran & Murphy Funeral Home, April 23, 2014.
[23] University Relations. “Renaming of Social Science building symbolically recognizes Imholte legacy,” Oct. 10, 2005
[24] “John Q. Imholte,” O’Halloran & Murphy Funeral Home, April 23, 2014.

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