University Presidents

A biographical guide the principals and presidents of Eastern Michigan University (previously named the Michigan State Normal School, Michigan State Normal College, and Eastern Michigan College)

James Brickley, 1974-1978

James H. Brickley was born November 15, 1928 in Flint, Michigan and received both his bachelors and law degrees from the University of Detroit, and master's degree from the University of New York. 

Brickley served as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and as Lieutenant Governor of Michigan from 1971-1974 and again from 1979 to 1982. Brickley was appointed University President at EMU in 1975 and held the position until 1979. In 1982 Brickley was appointed to replace retiring justice Mary S. Coleman on the Michigan Supreme Court and remained on the bench until 1999 when he was replaced by US Attorney Stephen Markman. 

James Brickley died in 2001. His daughter Kathleen Brickley, also an attorney, was appointed in 2011 circuit court judge in Van Buren County by Governor Rick Snyder.  

John W. Porter, 1979-1989

John W. Porter was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on August 13, 1931. He was the youngest son of James R. of Tennessee and Ola Mae of North Carolina. Porter graduated from Central High School in 1949 earning National Honor Society Recognition and all sport honors. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Albion College (1953), a Master of Arts degree in Counseling and Guidance (1957) and a Ph.D. in Higher Education (1962) both from Michigan State University. Porter and his wife Lois raised nine children, five boys and four girls. 

Dr. Porter began his professional career as a teacher in the Albion and Lansing school systems before joining the Michigan Department of Education. At 26, he was the youngest person and the first black professional employed in the Michigan Department of Education. In 1969 at the age of 38, Porter was unanimously elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction by the Michigan State Board of Education and became the first black State School Superintendent in the United States, since reconstruction.

In 1979, Dr. Porter was appointed the seventeenth President of Eastern Michigan University. During his first year of administration, Dr. Porter unveiled an ambitious plan entitled "A Decade of Advancement", a phrase which has come to describe Dr. Porter's legacy to Eastern. Accomplishments include establishing the College of Technology, record growth in enrollment, strengthening of academics, construction of Olds Student Recreation Center and the creation and construction of the College of Business in downtown Ypsilanti. Porter also presided over a resurgence in college athletics at EMU. In 1987, the football team won the Mid American Conference championship and the California Bowl. Porter also create the University's first doctorate, in educational leadership.

Porter retired from the University in 1989, and joined the newly created national Board for Professional Teaching Standards and shortly thereafter agreed to become the general Superintendent of the Detroit Schools. The Detroit Quality Education Plan was developed, two millage campaigns were launched in an effort to stabilize and improve the urban school system over a two-year period. In 1991, Dr. Porter formed the Center for Educational Improvement as an adjunct to the Urban Education Alliance, Inc. In 1992, Dr. Porter was inducted into the Michigan Educational Hall of Fame with the following tribute "Advocate of world class standards, spokesperson for National educational goals, champion of urban education, pacesetter in school improvement and student achievement, supporter of vocational rehabilitation, standard-setter in staff retraining, innovator in accountability, legendary in higher learning, and unparalleled in state and national education".

In 1999, the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education was endowed for over $1.5M at Eastern Michigan University. In October, 1999, the University named and dedicated the new John W. Porter College of Education Building as a lasting tribute to Dr. Porter's many contributions to the field of education. In September, 2001, Dr. Porter was inducted into the Albion College Athletic Hall of Fame. In October 2006, Dr. Porter released the publication of his most recent book entitled, Educational Leadership for the 21st Century. During that same month, Dr. Porter became the recipient of the first-ever Detroit Public Television John W. Porter Leadership Award. 

John W. Porter died at age 80, June 2012.

William E. Shelton, 1989-2000

William E. Shelton was born in Tennessee and earned his bachelor and master degrees from the University of Memphis. His doctorate in Higher Education was conferred from the University of Mississippi. He worked at Henderson State University as Vice President for University Services, and at Kent State University as Vice President for Institutional Advancement. 

Shelton served as the President of Eastern Michigan University for over 10 years from 1989-2000. He resigned at the March 16, 1999 Board of Regents meeting stating, "I believe it is now time to begin the transition process to new leadership at Eastern Michigan University." During his time tenure, the University gained financial stability; added to the facilities on campus including Halle Library, Pond and Lake House, Physical Plant,
Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology building, and the Everett L. Marshall building; and put in place plans for continued development. 

After departing from EMU in June 2000, Shelton went on to hold leadership positions at East Carolina University and the Ironwood Consulting Group.