By: Allen W. Croessmann
They were an unlikely pair. One was a Missouri farm boy, a selfmade man, who sold metal strapping for boxes, turned that in a successful Chicago manufacturing business and spent the last quarter of his life engaged in philanthropy and world travel. The other, 21 years younger, grew up just outside New York City into a cultured, well-established family. After a brief stint in the insurance business, he became a successful minister and then turned to academia. For 18 years, from 1925 when Clarence P. McClelland, the New Yorker, was named president of Illinois Woman's College until 1943 when James E. MacMurray, the Chicago industrialist and the college's board president and chief benefactor, died, these two men of Scottish ancestry forged a remarkable partnership that ushered in a period of unprecedented expansion at the institution, renamed MacMurrary College for Women in 1930.
Their vision was audacious: It was to build the greatest college for women west of the Allegheny Mountains. During the MacMurray-McClelland years enrollment more than doubled, the campus burgeoned with the construction of five major buildings, gross annual income tripled, total assets climbed five-fold, the number and quality of the faculty improved, and the college's reputation as one of the finest women's schools in the country was established.