The great grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the College’s namesake and a founder of the Lutheran Church in America, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg envisioned a college where rigorous academics would be combined with “the education of [the] conscience and the cultivation of [the] heart” to produce dedicated leaders of good character. A lifelong educator, Muhlenberg was committed to the ideal that a broad classical education—with an intensive focus on the study of Latin, Greek, and mathematics—served as the best foundation for further inquiry and professional life.
J. P. Benjamin Sadtler, a Lutheran minister, aimed to preserve the religious and cultural traditions of the Lutheran Church and its ties to Germany during his tenure. He promoted a generalized education for those enrolled at the College, while upholding the standards of a classical education.
Theodore Lorenzo Seip led Muhlenberg through several early changes, notably the movement of the campus from Trout Hall to its current location at the west end of Allentown. His aim in relocating the College was to provide better facilities to aid in learning and draw higher enrollments. S.E. Ochsenford, Class of 1876, in Muhlenberg College: A Quarter-Centennial Memorial Volume wrote of Seip that he “stood by the institution at times when its friends were few and its prospects were by no means encouraging.”
As the longest serving president of Muhlenberg College, John A. W. Haas desired to make great changes upon his inauguration. He started first by instituting an athletics program and hiring its first athletics director. Haas also contributed to the early growth of pre-professional courses in pre-law and pre-medicine.
Levering Tyson led Muhlenberg College through the Great Depression and WWII. Under Tyson’s leadership, the college proved resilient in those trying times: enrollment grew during his tenure, as did faculty and course offerings. Tyson implemented a social sciences department and expanded the natural sciences curriculum. During the early years of his presidency, Muhlenberg gained a reputation for having one of the best premedical programs in the country.
Under the leadership of J. Conrad Seegers, Muhlenberg College became a co-educational institution, finally admitting women as regular students of the college in 1957. During Seegers' time as president, enrollment nearly doubled. Seegers led several successful fundraisers, which resulted in an elimination of debt, increased salaries for faculty and staff, and greater financial aid for students. Seegers presided over campus improvements such as a new physical education center, new dormitories, and a student center, which would later be named in his honor.
Erling N. Jensen's presidency marked a starting point for the College's rise to national academic distinction. Jensen’s goal as president was to achieve "excellence in all areas." Phi Beta Kappa, the most distinguished honor society in the nation, established a chapter on campus during his tenure. Jensen worked to strengthen the College's connection to the Lutheran Church, as well as its academic program, deemphasizing rigidity and instituting honors programs.
1969 - 1984
Throughout his time as president, John H. Morey made several important improvements to Muhlenberg College. In the early days of his presidency, he strengthened relations with the greater Allentown community, encouraging outreach among faculty and staff. Morey enriched student life, expanding inter-collegiate athletics and protecting students' rights to invite speakers and entertainers to campus, no matter how controversial. He oversaw major curriculum reform, emphasizing interdisciplinary studies.
Jonathan C. Messerli accomplished much in his eight-year presidency at Muhlenberg College. Messerli made use of long-range strategic planning and comprehensive marketing, both of which strengthened student recruitment and led to higher enrollment rates, before these practices were widely used amongst higher education institutions. Messerli’s time at Muhlenberg saw the development of Trexler Library and the renovation of some of the College's oldest buildings. He also oversaw the successful completion of Muhlenberg's first $1 million annual fund campaign.
1992 - 2002
Arthur R. Taylor served Muhlenberg for ten years, and in that time, he led the College to almost triple its endowment and almost halve its debt. Under Taylor's leadership, the College’s national reputation for its caring community and student excellence grew. During his time as president, the College became regarded as one of the finest small liberal arts colleges in the country, noted specifically for its selectivity and acceptance rates. Taylor presided over the construction of the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance and the Forrest G. Moyer M.D. '35 Hall.
2003 - 2015
Peyton R. Helm worked throughout his twelve-year tenure to improve the College in a diverse range of ways. The College saw extensive campus renovations under his leadership, including a new science building, a new life sports center, and renovations to residence halls and to Seegers Union. Helm increased the College's endowment from $70 million to $247 million. During Helm's years as president, Muhlenberg strengthened sustainability practices, expanded faculty positions and broadened student internship and research opportunities. Helm focused on strengthening the shared governance of the College, ensuring that faculty, staff and students have a part in shaping Muhlenberg’s present and future