Dr. Pressley C. McCoy

Dear University Community,

With the heaviest of hearts, I write to share the sad news of the passing of our dear friend, Dr. Pressley C. McCoy, the first Chancellor of Johnston College, now known as the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies. Affectionally known as Press, he built his legacy on the belief that one radical idea could change everything.

Press grew up in the Midwest, the son of a minister. He attended Denison University and obtained his Ph.D. in Political Science and Communications from Northwestern University. He then returned to his alma mater, Denison, to teach. Prior to his tenure at Johnston, he held administrative roles with the Danforth Foundation and served as President of the Central States College Association, a 12-campus university system.

Known for his belief that “education should honor both the head and the heart,” Press assumed the role of Chancellor of Johnston College in September of 1968, a full year ahead of its opening. A month later, he outlined his plan for the curriculum’s interpersonal, intercultural, and international focus, and to quote Trustee Larry Burgess in With Unbounded Confidence, “Sixty Septembers after the University of Redlands first opened its doors to students, Johnston College received its first class.”

Press strongly advocated for community-based learning, believing it to be the cornerstone of personal growth and social fulfillment. When recruiting the inaugural faculty of Johnston, Press stated, “I looked for flexibility and willingness to interact with the kids, not preach at them.”

His dedication was not without its challenges. Press often found himself at odds with then-President George Armacost due to his steadfast commitment to Johnston’s unique vision. Despite this, Press remained resolute in his plans for the college.

His tenure at the University of Redlands concluded in 1971, and upon departing, he reflected, “This has been a wonderful learning experience for me at Johnston College, probably the greatest of my life.”

In the years that followed, Press continued to maintain his ties with Johnston, frequently attending events and remaining engaged with its faculty and staff.

Fifty-five years later, Johnston remains a signature program that continues to evolve and inspire, none of which would have been possible without Dr. Pressley McCoy’s courage, vision, and unwavering determination.


Krista L. Newkirk