Dr. Willis Everett Pratt served 21 years as president of the college in Indiana, shepherding it from its role as a state teachers college to its status as a university, poised to become one of the five largest institutions in the state.
Pratt was born Nov. 26, 1906, in Pittsburgh, and graduated from Westinghouse High School. He completed undergraduate studies at Allegheny College in 1927, then earned his masters in 1932 and doctorate in 1940 at the University of Pittsburgh. He taught school and served as superintendent of Erie County Schools from 1938 to 1941, then was president of Mansfield State Teachers College from 1941 to 1943.
In World War II, Pratt served in the U.S. Army and later the British Army in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. As part of the occupation forces in Italy, Pratt directed the democratization of the schools and the reopening of 11 universities. He was named a Knight Officer of the Crown.
Pratt left active military service in late 1945 and became chairman of the Department of Education at Penn State.
He was appointed president of Indiana State Teachers College in 1948 when the school had just over 1,400 students and 105 teachers, and managed the next two decades of unparalleled growth for the school.
ISTC became Indiana State College and evolved to Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1965. Pratt, who remained in the Army Reserve following the war, was instrumental in starting the ROTC program in Indiana in 1957.
Pratt retired as president of IUP in late 1968, and the university named a new student union building in his honor the next year. After the Hadley Union Building was constructed, IUP continued to operate student services offices and classrooms in Pratt Hall.
He worked many years in service to the Indiana community, as a board member of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce, Grace United Methodist Church, S&T Bank, the United Way, The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Masons and the Shakespeare Club. Pratt returned to service at IUP in 1978 as co-chairman of the campaign to restore John Sutton Hall.
Dr. Pratt passed away in 1992 in Indiana at age 85, after having served longer than any other president in IUP history, a record still unmatched. He was honored while in Indiana with a life membership in the IUP General Alumni Association; the U.S. Army “Outstanding Civilian Service Medal,” for establishment of the ROTC; the army’s “Certificate of Exceptional Service in Support of National Defense;” the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce “Distinguished Service Award;” and Pittsburgh National Bank’s “College President of the Year” award for 1965.
Pratt also was named president emeritus at the university.
Above all, Pratt is still regarded as arguably the most influential president of IUP.