The Main Library’s fifth floor is home for the Presidential Portrait Gallery, featuring artists’ original portraits of the University of Iowa’s past presidents.

Most of the portraits were commissioned during each president’s lifetime. Visitors will see a variety of portraiture styles done in various media, including oil, drawing, and photograph. The portraits are displayed with an overview of each leader’s tenure and accompanying images showing the campus during that time period.

These portraits depict leaders who guided the University of Iowa from its humble beginnings to its prominence today as an institution that excels and innovates in scholarship, teaching, and service. In the first Report of the Faculty to the Board of Trustees, submitted on July 6, 1858, there was much optimism.

“We regard it as no small honor to have been the first laborers—the first working faculty organized in an institution which we believe is destined, at no distant day, to take a high and noble stand among similar institutions in our land.”

The Presidential Portrait Gallery is dedicated to those laborers who strived—and are striving today—in pursuit of academic excellence.

To accompany this exhibition, UI librarians have created a curricular resource, available for use in any classroom to engage students on the history of the university, reflect about the history of its leaders, and to prompt thinking and action toward creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership in the future.

This guide will change over time, as students, faculty, and librarians collaborate to add compelling content.

By offering this subject guide about the UI Presidential Portrait Gallery, the Libraries encourages all students to:

  • learn more about the history of the UI presidents, their leadership, and the historical contexts of their times.
  • envision a diverse leadership at Iowa and other institutions of higher education.
  • imagine how they could, one day, become president of this academic institution.


VIDEO — David McCartney, University Archivist at the University of Iowa Libraries, gave an overview of the new Presidential Portrait Gallery on Tuesday, July 30, 2019.


Support for the Presidential Portrait Gallery is made possible by the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, the Office of the President, and the University of Iowa Libraries.