Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Morris Purdy Shawkey


Morris Purdy Shawkey (February 19, 1868-February 6, 1941) is remembered as the father of secondary education in West Virginia. He was born in Pennsylvania. He entered business college in 1885 and later received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Ohio Wesleyan University, including a doctorate of pedagogy. In 1895, Shawkey came to West Virginia as professor of education at West Virginia Wesleyan College. He served the public schools in West Virginia for the next 40 years.

Shawkey became superintendent of Kanawha County schools in 1906. In 1908, he was elected state superintendent of free schools. He served three terms from 1909 until 1921. It was during this period that he rendered his greatest service to West Virginia. Shawkey launched a program for building new high schools and new junior high schools, creating school libraries in each school, consolidating schools, busing students to schools, and upgrading teacher standards. Under his leadership between 1909 and 1921, 125 new high schools were built, the standardized course of study was established, and the number of first-class high schools increased from six in 1909 to 116 in 1920.

In 1921, Shawkey became superintendent of Beaver Pond School District of Bluefield. In July 1923, he was appointed president of Marshall College, where he served until July 1, 1935. During Shawkey’s years, Marshall was accredited by the Southern Accreditation Association and by the North Central Association. Marshall’s College of Arts and Sciences became a member of the American Association of Colleges and the Pre-Medical program met the standards set by the American Medical Association. The campus was expanded, the student body grew rapidly, and a new library, student union, and other buildings were constructed.

Written by Marshall Buckalew