Elvis Jacob Stahr Jr.

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Elvis Stahr
Stahr by CJ Fox (Irving Resnikoff)
12th President of the Indiana University
In office
Preceded byHerman B Wells
Succeeded byJoseph Sutton
6th United States Secretary of the Army
In office
January 24, 1961 – June 30, 1962
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byWilber M. Brucker
Succeeded byCyrus Vance
14th President of the West Virginia University
In office
Preceded byIrvin Stewart
Succeeded byPaul A. Miller
Personal details
Elvis Jacob Stahr Jr.

(1916-03-09)March 9, 1916
Hickman, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedNovember 11, 1998(1998-11-11) (aged 82)
Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseDorothy Berkfield
EducationUniversity of Kentucky (BA)
Merton College, Oxford (BA, BCL)
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of serviceWorld War II
RankLieutenant Colonel
Academic work

Elvis Jacob Stahr Jr. (March 9, 1916 – November 11, 1998) was an American government official and college president and administrator. After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1936 as a member of Sigma Chi and Pershing Rifles, he attended Merton College at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. He served as lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army during World War II. He returned to the University of Kentucky and became a professor and then dean of the College of Law, before becoming president of West Virginia University. He served as the United States Secretary of the Army between 1961 and 1962[1] and served as president of Indiana University from 1962 to 1968. He was the president of the National Audubon Society from 1968 until 1981.[2]

Early life[edit]

Stahr was born in 1916 in Hickman, Kentucky, to Hon. Elvis Stahr, a Fulton County, Kentucky judge and his wife Mary McDaniel Stahr. At age 16, he entered the University of Kentucky, where he achieved the highest academic average in the history of the university.[3] He graduated Omicron Delta Kappa in 1936, and was a member of Sigma Chi and the National Society of Pershing Rifles, a Reserve Officer Training Corps fraternal organization. He attended Merton College, Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship where he studied law.[4] He was known at Oxford as "the Colonel" and resisted assuming British affectations. He practiced law in New York, then received a diploma in Chinese from Yale University.[4] He served in combat units in China during World War II as a United States Army lieutenant colonel.[4]

Early career[edit]

Stahr practiced law in New York after the war, and in 1946 married Dorothy Howland Berkfield, a New York City debutante.[4][5] In 1947 he became a law professor at the University of Kentucky.[4] He was named dean of the University of Kentucky College of Law and served until 1956.[4] With University President and Justice Thurgood Marshall, he helped desegregate the law school.[5] During the Korean War, he took a 16-month leave of absence to serve as special assistant to Secretary of the Army Frank Pace Jr. In 1956, Stahr was staff director of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Commission on Education Beyond High School. He was vice chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh in 1957 and 1958, and then was president of West Virginia University until nominated as Secretary of the Army by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.[4]

Secretary of the Army and President of Indiana University[edit]

Stahr served as Secretary of the Army in 1961 and 1962,[4] during the Berlin crisis and the Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion, aimed at ousting Fidel Castro from power. A major reorganization plan was launched; combat division structure was reorganized, special warfare forces community relations (Civic Action) were expanded, and the Army was strengthened during the Berlin Crisis. Stahr also mobilized the Alabama National Guard in 1961, when the Kennedy Administration undertook desegregating of the University of Alabama.[5] In 1962 Stahr resigned to become President of Indiana University.[4] He was the university's twelfth president. The Gary and Calumet campuses were combined to form IU Northwest, the joint IU-Purdue University campus was established in Fort Wayne, the School of Library and Information Science was founded, and the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis was affiliated with Indiana University.[6]

Later career and life[edit]

Stahr retired from Indiana University in 1968, accepting the presidency of the National Audubon Society. Under Stahr's leadership, the Audubon Society undertook a campaign to increase its influence and membership, which in 10 years more than quadrupled to almost 400,000. As president of the Audubon Society, Stahr led efforts to preserve the Florida Everglades from commercial and industrial development, fought for accords on international whaling practices and campaigned successfully to liberalize U.S. tax laws to allow charitable organizations to lobby on public policy issues. He retired from Audubon in 1981. In the years following, he practiced law in Washington, D.C., and New York, lobbying for environmental issues. He had served on several corporate boards of directors, including Chase Manhattan Corp. and Acadia Mutual Life Insurance Co. In his life he earned more than 27 honorary degrees from various colleges and universities. He was also awarded Omicron Delta Kappa's highest honor in 1984, the Laurel Crowned Circle Award. He died of cancer in his Greenwich, Connecticut, home on Veterans Day, November 11, 1998.[5] Stahr and his wife Dorothy (1918–2005) are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[7]


  1. ^ Bell, William Gardner (1992). ""Elvis Jacob Stahr Jr."". Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army: Portraits and Biographical Sketches. United States Army Center of Military History. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2007.
  2. ^ "2008-09 IU Factbook" (PDF). Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
  3. ^ "Education: Heavyweight Champion". Time. May 11, 1962. Archived from the original on December 7, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 278.
  5. ^ a b c d "The Honorable Elvis J. Stahr, Jr" (PDF). United States Army. 1 March 1999. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 July 2022. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  6. ^ "Past Presidents: Indiana University". Archived from the original on 2003-08-27.
  7. ^ Burial Detail: Stahr, Elvis Jacob – ANC Explorer

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of the Army
January 1961 – June 1962
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by
Irvin Stewart
President of West Virginia University
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Indiana University
Succeeded by