John Ackerman was born in Warren, Ohio, on November 7, 1854. Educated at the State Normal School of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Ackerman was a committed proponent of education, particularly rural schools. After completion of his studies, Ackerman moved to Portland, Oregon, where he was Principal of the Holiday School and, later, the Harrison School. In 1896, Ackerman was promoted to Superintendent of Multnomah County Schools and served until he assumed the office of State Superintendent of Schools in 1899.
As State Superintendent, Ackerman worked hard to increase school standards in Oregon. Among the changes he implemented were increases in the length of the rural school year and teacher salaries, improvements to the physical conditions of schools, and the establishment of a uniform curriculum. Oregon school standards were considered among the best in the country because of his efforts
In 1911, Ackerman tackled the task of reopening the Oregon State Normal School (OSNS) in Monmouth, which closed in 1909 due to lack of state funding. Ackerman reopened the school and served as President of the newly renamed Oregon Normal School (ONS). As president, Ackerman oversaw construction of many new buildings on campus, including the school’s first dormitory, later named Todd Hall, and the gymnasium, now know as Maple Hall. In 1920, Ackerman fought for the passage of a millage bill to establish adequate and stable funding for the ONS. He was also a supporter of tax measures designed to improve the conditions of rural schools which saw substantial improvement during his tenure.
Ackerman remained ONS president until he died of a sudden stroke in 1921. Ackerman’s passing was a shock, as he was in good health. John Ackerman left behind a legacy of family, friends and students who greatly admired him and his work to improve educational standards and quality in Oregon.
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