Columbians Ahead of Their Time
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower "Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage."

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969)
U.S. President
University President 1948–1953

Eisenhower rose to world prominence through his leadership of the Allied forces during World War II. As commanding general of American forces in Europe, he conducted successful campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. As supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, he directed the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, and the subsequent military campaign—one of the most complex such operations in history—that culminated in victory over Nazism. He became America's 34th president in 1952 and was easily reelected the nation's chief executive in 1956. During his presidency, the United States brokered the truce that ended the Korean War, introduced atomic weapons to the armed forces, sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce the desegregation of its public schools, launched the first U.S. space satellite, created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and sent the first U.S. military advisers to Vietnam.

Eisenhower succeeded Nicholas Murray Butler as president of Columbia, but did not take up the duties until nearly three years after Butler had resigned. He served as the University's thirteenth president from May 1948 until January 1953. "The principal purpose of education," he said the year he became the University's president, "is to prepare the student for effective personal and social life in a free society. From the school at the crossroads to a university as great as Columbia, general education for citizenship must be the common and first purpose of them all."

At Columbia, Eisenhower took a moderate position in the face of the Red Scare: He accepted a gift from the Communist government of Poland to establish a chair in Polish studies but also defended the dismissal of a left-wing member from Teachers College and served on a national commission that published a handbook declaring that communists should be excluded from employment as teachers. On another front, he prevented legendary football coach Lou Little from leaving for Yale, and regularly attended the Lions' contests at Baker Field. Never the most engaged of presidents, in December 1950 he took a leave of absence from Columbia to become the first supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He retired from active duty in 1952, but not from the Columbia presidency, to campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.  Once in the White House, his dealings with Columbia were infrequent.

Read more about Eisenhower in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Columbia University provost Alan Brinkley discusses Dwight D. Eisenhower's enormous popularity in the 1950s.

View a biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In this audio slide show, Columbia University provost Alan Brinkley discusses how the political climate in America began to change in the 1950s.

The mastermind behind Columbia's academic and geographic expansion, he engineered the move to Morningside Heights.
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Columbians Ahead of Their Time

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