Clifton & Dolores Wharton
Our years as part of the MSU community were first a turning point and afterwards a touchstone.
–Clifton R. Wharton Jr.
Clifton R. Wharton
Michigan State University’s fourteenth President, Clifton R. Wharton, was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 13, 1926. Wharton’s father served as a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service for forty years.
At the age of sixteen, Wharton entered Harvard University and graduated in 1947 with a BA in history. He received a Masters Degree in the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in 1948. After working five years at the American Institute of International Social Development, Wharton earned MA and PhD degrees in economics from the University of Chicago. In 1957, he joined the Agricultural Development Council, a Rockefeller Family Foundation. As a council associate stationed in Malaysia, Wharton directed programs in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. He also taught and conducted research as a visiting professor at the Universities of Malaysia and Singapore. Wharton later became Vice President of the Council, a position he held until his accession the presidency of MSU in January 1970.
His term of office was often a turbulent one, featuring student demonstrations in 1970 and 1972 as well as a National Collegiate Athletic Association investigation of the MSU football program. Fiscal problems resulting from budget cuts remained a constant problem throughout Wharton’s tenure. His major achievements were his successful efforts to maintain the quality of MSU’s academic programs despite budget reductions, his commitment to the education of the economically and educationally disadvantaged, and the integration of the School of Osteopathic Medicine with the other medical schools. Major innovations implemented under Wharton’s tenure included the Presidential Commission on Admissions and Student Body Composition to study future enrollment policies and a Presidential Fellows Program to allow selected students and junior faculty members to gain experience in university administration. Wharton’s most lasting contribution to the University was the completion of a new center for the performing arts. The building, dedicated in 1982, was named in honor of Wharton and his wife Dolores, in recognition of the strong support, which they gave the project.
Wharton resigned from Michigan State University in December 1977 to accept the Chancellorship of the State University of New York. He subsequently took a position as Chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF from 1987- 1993 and served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton in 1993.
We are still a part of your lives, and you are a part of ours.
Dolores Wharton left an indelible mark as first lady. She made the president’s residence an important part of campus and a venue to display works of accomplished faculty artists. She brought the Juilliard String Quartet for an “artists-in-residence” program at MSU, a relationship that flourished for 10 years. As first lady, she was not only a partner to her husband, but a true representative of the university.