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McKean, Hugh F. Presidential Records

 Collection
Identifier: McKean

Scope and Contents

The records of Hugh F. McKean, 10th president of Rollins College (1951-1969), include general college affairs, correspondence, work with faculty, students, staff, alumni and the Board of Trustees, buildings, Rollins centennial celebration, his involvement with educational organizations and community service over his tenure of 18 years from 1951 to 1969. As these materials were periodically transferred by the Office of the President, information on a single topic may be found in multiple boxes. Although President McKean was a student and professor of art, his administration brought significant advances and general strengthening of the College programs in business administration, economics, and the sciences. During his administration, the College developed the Honors Degree program for exceptionally well-prepared and qualified students. He also established graduate programs in education and business, and the Hamilton Holt School and Brevard Campus.The Hugh McKean Presidential Records are arranged in four series: Personal Files, Policy Files, General College Affairs, and Chancellorship.

Dates

  • Created: 1951-1969

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Open access unless otherwise noted.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished records are protected by copyright. Permission to publish or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical or Historical Information

Throughout nearly three-quarters of the twentieth century, Hugh Ferguson McKean—10th President of Rollins College, artist, educator, museum director, collector, writer, philanthropist, and lover of nature—significantly shaped Rollins College and the City of Winter Park. Together with his wife Jeannette Genius McKean (1909 – 1989), McKean helped establish an enduring ethos and legacy of philanthropy, arts, and culture in Winter Park and beyond. Hugh F. McKean, son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur McKean, was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, on July 28, 1908. He grew up in College Hill, Pennsylvania, moved to Central Florida with his family in 1920, and graduated from Orlando High School. McKean earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, in 1930 and, in 1940, a Master of Arts degree from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Art Students League in New York City, L’Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Fontainebleau, France, and Harvard University. McKean began teaching at Rollins College as a lecturer in Art in 1932, eventually ascending the ranks in the Art Department. In 1945 he married Jeannette Morse Genius, granddaughter of Charles Hosmer Morse, the Chicago industrialist who, in the early part of the twentieth century, came to Florida and focused on restoring Winter Park’s economy, preserving the aesthetic beauty of the town, and developing its educational and cultural resources. Morse is remembered as the founder of the Winter Park Land Company, a Rollins College Trustee, and one of the greatest benefactors of the college in his day. It was in memory of her grandfather that Jeannette McKean built and donated The Morse Gallery of Art in 1942 on the Rollins campus. Hugh McKean became its director in 1945, a position he held until his death, just months short of the opening of The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, the Morse museum’s relocated home on Park Avenue North in Winter Park. In 1951, McKean assumed the presidency of Rollins, an appointment he accepted because of his devotion to the College and one he held until 1969, at which time he became Chairman of the Board of Trustees and, through 1973, Chancellor of the College. Hugh McKean’s creative leadership mid-century onward is perhaps best highlighted by understanding something about his lifelong endeavors as an artist and art collector, as a lover of nature and champion of ecology, and as a teacher-scholar with indefatigable faith in young people. These facets of his life and accomplishments in particular are integrally tied to McKean’s civic, educational, cultural, and philanthropic contributions. Throughout his life McKean was a painter, often inspired by the landscapes and people of Central Florida. His early realistically stylized portraiture eventually gave way to more Impressionistic work and, finally, to his maturity as a painter with a strong personal vision. During his lifetime McKean’s works were exhibited locally and nationally. Always active in art circles, he also served as trustee of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, and of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation in New York. A love of nature connected Hugh McKean to Louis Comfort Tiffany and his achievements in painting, décor, and, most prominently, in glass works of art. In the early 1900s, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 – 1933), a practicing decorative artist, built Laurelton Hall, his dream home in Oyster Bay, New York. In an article in The Little Sentinel, December 18, 1981, Hugh McKean described the sprawling estate as a “three-dimensional work of art, fabricated of marble, wood, plaster, winds, glass, copper, rains, light, sound, sunlight, flower gardens, running water, terraces, woods, hills.” More than a mere residence for Tiffany, Laurelton Hall became a place where invited aspiring artists could live and create artworks for periods of up to two months, enabled by a foundation Tiffany established to further help young artists. In 1930, when Tiffany was 82, Hugh McKean visited Laurelton Hall as one such burgeoning art student. In a piece in the Sunday, April 15, 1979 Florida Magazine, McKean recalled that Tiffany “talked about the importance of beauty…. I thought he was wonderful.” He added, “Jeannette liked his work and I liked the man.” To the McKeans, Tiffany stood for a world of sensitivity and beauty—values the couple apparently greatly admired and emulated. In 1955, the McKeans presented the first contemporary exhibit of Tiffany’s art at the Morse Gallery of Art, yet by this time Tiffany’s Art Nouveau creations were considered so passé that the couple was able to pick up inexpensive examples of Tiffany’s work at antique shops in Manhattan. Then, in 1957, after Laurelton Hall was destroyed by fire, the McKeans were invited to the Long Island mansion by the artist’s daughter—who knew of Hugh’s long-time admiration and knowledge of her late father—to salvage what was left of the estate. The McKeans accepted at once and purchased, for a modest price, everything that was salvageable. By the 1980s, Hugh and Jeannette had amassed a 4,000 piece- collection of 19th- and 20th-century glass, paintings, prints, pottery, and decorative arts valued conservatively in 1987 at $6 million. Their Tiffany collection, much of it housed at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, remains the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany’s work anywhere in the world. Ensuring access to the collection was always a concern for the McKeans. Beginning in 1976, McKean became the President of the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation, set up in the 1950s to fund the museum; the foundation controls the collection of Tiffany Art Glass and American paintings collected by the McKeans. And while Hugh McKean did not live to see the opening of the museum space on Park Avenue, he was integrally involved in its design and concept: “To enrich the cultural life of the community and thereby carry into the future the legacy Charles Hosmer Morse and his granddaughter Jeannette Genius McKean left to Winter Park.” As if by extension of the values of Morse, McKean carried into the future his own unique legacy. Following his retirement from the Rollins College Board of Trustees in 1975, McKean, still committed in the art world, began writing prolifically about Tiffany the man, his art, and his period. In 1980, Doubleday & Company, Inc., published McKean’s The “Lost” Treasures of Louis Comfort: Tiffany. Additional works by McKean about Tiffany followed, including: The Treasures of Tiffany: A Special Exhibition Presented by the Chicago Tribune at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from the Collection of the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation by Louis Comfort Tiffany (Designer), Hugh F. McKean (Author), published by the Chicago Review Press (1982); Louis Comfort Tiffany by Hugh F. McKean, published by Weingarten (1988); and, in 2001, Lost Treasures was republished by Schiffer Publishing. These works offer McKean’s reflections on various artistic works, such as Tiffany’s windows, paintings, decorative arts, and more. McKean’s musings on the importance of art and beauty, The Lovely Riddle Reflections on Art, was published by The Morse Museum of American Art in 1997. Hugh McKean was an early proponent for preserving the Florida’s natural beauty and advocating for the state’s sound planning. Together with his artistic and creative written expressions, Hugh McKean’s love of beauty was paralleled at his residence, Wind Song—a lakefront Mediterranean-style home set in a natural Florida oak hammock in Winter Park. Beginning with C.H. Morse’s land purchase on the shores of Lakes Mizell, Barry, and Virginia in 1920 and the construction of Wind Song in 1936 by Richard M. and Arthur E. Genius, Jeannette’s father and uncle, the environmental interests of Morse were continued throughout the adult lives of Hugh and Jeannette during their residence and stewardship of the flora and fauna at Wind Song from 1951 until their deaths in last decades of the 20th century. Wind Song remains preserved through The Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation, named for Jeannette’s mother, which governs the McKeans’ real estate holdings. The McKeans’ commitment to beauty, and bringing beauty to everyday life and, significantly, to Rollins, was often made tangible on the campus of Rollins—on its grounds and in its buildings and their furnishings, many selected by the McKeans themselves.  The commitment for a beautiful and better community, however, was not all surface. During his presidency, Hugh McKean tirelessly advocated for a “community of learning rather than a seat of mass education.” He wrote several treatises on the freedoms of American education, education in responsibility, and about the importance of student citizenship and values. In many ways, McKean thus represented an era. Hugh McKean “sat in the president’s chair for 18 years, and could claim a balanced budget, an endowment that had more than quadrupled, an enrollment that had grown from 600 to 1,000, nine new major buildings, and significant changes in the educational complexion of the College.” Described in turns by colleagues, students, friends, and business associates as soft-spoken, caring, humble, humorous, approachable, visionary, and dedicated to freedom in inquiry, Hugh McKean was also a man of broad intellectual interests, an avid supporter of technology and education, a story-teller, a naturalist, an unorthodox educator, and an optimistic leader. On Saturday, May 6, 1995, Hugh McKean, the “spirited gray Fox of campus story and song,” died of cancer. He is buried in Chicago beside his wife, Jeannette.

Note written by Denise K. Cummings

Extent

63.00 Linear Feet

63.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

President Hugh Ferguson McKean '30 (1951-1969) continued President Holt's tradition of close relationships with students and, as a former professor, was a strong advocate for assembling a quality faculty. An immensely popular president, he once wrote that a Rollins education "begins with a deep interest in and respect for the individual." Under President McKean's leadership, the College developed the Honors Degree Program for exceptionally well-prepared and qualified students; graduate programs in education and business, including the founding of the Crummer School in 1965; and the Hamilton Holt School, which provides evening education programs for nearly 1,700 adults annually. President McKean also introduced Fox Day, which has become a popular annual ritual whereby classes are cancelled by the president so that students, faculty and staff can come together "to celebrate a beautiful spring day."

Method of Acquisition

The materials were transferred to the College Archives by the Office of the President during and at the end of Prresident McKean's administration.

Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Related Materials

Some photos are available in the Rollins Digital Archives; and additional information can be found in the photographic and AV collections housed in the department.
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Repository Details

Part of the Rollins College Archives & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Rollins College Box 2768
1000 Holt Avenue
Winter Park 32789-4499 US