A History of Leadership: Pfeiffer’s Past Presidents
Strong leaders have influenced Pfeiffer’s success over the years, taking the university from its original status as a day school through its years as a junior college and college, before becoming the multi-campus university it is today. They are:
Dr. Wick Shafter Sharp
President of Pfeiffer Junior College 1933-43
Achievements: Construction of the President’s Home; Cline, Goode, Merner and Rowe Halls (1935); Jane Freeman Hall (1937); Washington Hall and Henry Pfeiffer Chapel (1942); named Stanly County Man of the Year (1936).
Mr. Chi Waggoner
President of Pfeiffer Junior College 1943-53
Achievements: Construction of Mitchell Gym; significant endowment growth, curricular improvements for transfer and terminal programs for liberal, commercial, and industrial arts and home economics.
Dr. J. Lem Stokes II
President of Pfeiffer Junior College 1953-55; President of Pfeiffer College 1955-68
Achievements: Presided over the first commencement after Pfeiffer became a four-year institution. Construction of Harris Science Building; Stokes Student Center; G.A. Pfeiffer Library; Kluftinger, Foote, Plyler, Vaughn and Ervin Halls and James Apartments. Pfeiffer recognized as one of the fastest-growing private colleges in the country (1955-58); second college to receive accreditation on its first application from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (1957); voted by University Senate of the Methodist Church to membership (1960). Stokes resigned in Oct. 1968 to lead the 1968-72 Quadrennial Emphasis of the United Methodist Church: A New Church in a New World.
Dr. Jack J. Early
President of Pfeiffer College 1968-71
Achievements: Construction of Merner Health and Physical Education Center.
Dr. Douglas R. Sasser
President of Pfeiffer College 1971-78
Achievements: Grew endowment to $2.3 million; led the Circle of Faith campaign, which generated $7.5 million for scholarships, faculty development and on-campus programs; established three endowed chairmanships. Charlotte campus opened with undergraduate studies in criminal justice. Following his time at Pfeiffer, Dr. Sasser was named the first layman president of Scarritt College (1978).
Dr. Cameron West
President of Pfeiffer College 1978-88
Achievements: Professor of Education at Pfeiffer 1956-60 and Academic Dean 1960-66; served as president of North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and helped found the National Association of Independent Colleges; Grace and Cameron West Art Gallery/Misenheimer Campus named in his honor; named honorary member of the Pfeiffer class of 1966, honorary alumnus and awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Pfeiffer. After retiring from Pfeiffer, served as interim president of Brevard College; was instrumental in the creation of the North Carolina Legislative Tuition Grant, which has enabled hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians to afford higher education at the state's independent colleges and universities.
Dr. Zane Eargle
President of Pfeiffer University1988-98
Achievements: Led the transition in Pfeiffer’s status from college to university and the related extension of programs to surrounding areas, most notably, Charlotte. Created with Richard Petty and served as honorary campaign chairman for the Legacy of Tomorrow campaign. Other accomplishments include serving as superintendent of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system and as associate dean, School of Education, UNC Chapel-Hill.
Dr. Charles Ambrose
President of Pfeiffer University 1998-2010
Achievements: Led the 21st Century Transformation Plan, designed to improve the Misenheimer campus; renovation of Mitchell Gym (now Knapp Center), Jane Freeman Hall, Henry Pfeiffer Chapel, Stokes Student Center, Administration Building, Cline and Washington Halls; construction of Harris Science Annex and New Hall. Strengthen ties between Pfeiffer and the United Methodist Church, with a focus for Pfeiffer to be recognized as “the model church-related institution preparing servant leaders for lifelong learning”. Opened Francis Center for Servant Leadership (2000); created connections with AmeriCorps; established Bonner Leaders program.
- Compiled by Jonathan Hutchinson, university archivist