H. Sherman Oberly - 1949 to 1963
Sherman Oberly was the first Roanoke College president to hail from north of the Mason-Dixon line and to have an earned doctorate. Oberly’s first task was to turn around enrollment which had plummeted after the immediate post-war boom. As a former Dean of Admissions, Oberly introduced "College Day" to attract local students and reactivated alumni chapters to encourage alumni children to attend. The program, coupled with increased recruiting efforts, was successful. From a low of 364 in 1951, enrollment passed 800 by Oberly’s retirement in 1963.
Oberly oversaw the largest campus expansion program since that of 1910. Older buildings were renovated and improved. Bartlett and Fox dormitories were added with plans in the works for Crawford Hall. The Commons addition more than doubled seating. The College acquired the adjoining Methodist church properties: the church, the Sunday School Building (which became Chalmers dorm and offices) and the parsonage (The Deanery). The prime accomplishment was the new Library, completed in 1962, with all 30,000 books being moved in two hours and thirteen minutes in "Operation Bookswitch."
Additionally, Oberly gave the College administration its modern management style and recruited the men who would run the College for years to come. The expanded faculty were the first to enjoy a benefits package, including life insurance, Social Security and retirement. The College initiated its largest fundraising campaign—"The Living Challenge," two million dollars to be raised by 1967, its 125th anniversary. Oberly had indeed guided Roanoke, enabling it to face the challenges of the second half of the twentieth century.