H. O. Pippin

MR. H. O. PIPPIN.tif


H. O. Pippin

Biographical Text

The lure of homesteading brought Harrison Otto Pippin to North Dakota in 1911. Born in Potoka, Illinois, in 1889, he attended grade school there, after which he graduated from high school in Centralia, Illinois.

H. O.'s brother, H. M. Pippin, had come to North Dakota in 1909 and proved up on a homestead in Stark County. He also taught at a rural school near his homestead. It was he who persuaded H. O. Pippin to come west. The homestead shack was home to the two young men for three years.

H. O. Pippin also found employment at a nearby school, and H. M. Pippin soon became superintendent of the school in Gladstone. Mr. Fred Rust was the president of the school board in Gladstone, and was evidently very kind to the men. He loaned them a horse and buggy, which served as their transportation to and from their homestead near Gladstone.

H. O. Pippin followed H. M. as superintendent of the Gladstone school. It was here that he met and married one of the school's teachers, Inis Cameron. He taught at the school and served as the superintendent until the retirement of the Stark County Superintendent of Schools, when he was appointed County Superintendent, on January 1, 1921. Mr. Pippin was serving in this capacity when he was appointed president of Dickinson State Teachers College on September 1, 1936.

In the 25 years in which Mr. Pippin had been in Stark County and associated with education in that area, he had established himself as a popular figure in the Slope area. He had enrolled at Dickinson State Normal School in 1919 and, in 1921, completed the two-year curriculum. He was an active member of the Dickinson State Normal Alumni Association, was president of the Dickinson Rotary Club, a Patron of the Order of the Eastern Star, and Master of the Masonic Lodge. A note in Belsheim's files says "His work in the Grand Lodge was outstanding and he left the year before he would have been Grand Master."

Pippin was regarded as an excellent baseball player and had a fine singing voice, as well as a talent for dynamic and persuasive speaking. In 1931, when the college began giving courses which led to the granting of the bachelor's degree, Pippin began taking the courses he could fit into his schedule, as well as extension and correspondence work. In August of 1934, he was awarded the Bachelor of Arts in Education degree from Dickinson State Teachers College. On March 17, 1936, he was appointed to the position of president of Dickinson State Teachers College.

Pippin had a reputation as a good administrator, and public perception seemed to be that his administration would be one which would heal wounds and foster an academic atmosphere of harmony, but such was not the case. Pippin had been appointed with few misgivings by Board members. There is no evidence that anyone else was considered for the position, and all but one member of the Board approved his appointment. That member did say, however, that he would support Pippin if he (Pippin) were appointed.

Pippin's lack of an advanced degree, the animosity felt toward him by some faculty members, the record of the shortage of funds in the county superintendent's office, the State Bonding Department's refusal to bond him, and the hinted at, but never articulated, hostility of a prominent area businessman, all worked to create a difficult, if not impossible, environment in which Pippin could not sustain his presidency. He became an ex-president in September, 1938.

After he left Dickinson, Pippin continued his education. His M.A. degree was earned from the University of Arizona, and the Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. Pippin taught for three years at Leland Stanford University in Pasadena, California, and then became head of Mount Lowe Military academy in Pasadena where he remained until his death in 1955.

It may well be that Mr. Pippin's experiences added the proverbial straw to the difficulties which were created by the actions of the Board of Administration. That Board's actions in Largo during the 30s, its high-handed performance in regard to the state prison and the state training school in Mandan, and its obvious obeisance to Danger when he was governor, all brought into existence the desire by North Dakota's citizens that its institutions of higher learning be as free from governmental influence as possible. H. O. Pippin was probably, and unwittingly, the poster child for a new era of institutional governance.

A career as president of Dickinson State Teachers College came to a sad end when this man of good will, obvious capability, and dedication to education left the position. His tenure at "The College on The Hill," though, served to stimulate academic growth in the state as the college progressed through the 1930s.



“ H. O. Pippin ,” Dickinson State University Archive, accessed June 19, 2024, https://dsuarchive.com/items/show/29.