In 1887, George Augustus Gates was inaugurated as the second president of Iowa College, following a three-year search to replace George Magoun. Like Magoun, Gates was a Congregational minister, but there the similarity ended. Gates was relatively young (36) and theologically progressive, having been initially denied ordination for his support of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Believing that the message of Jesus was one of justice, Gates became a national leader of the Social Gospel movement through his addresses and particularly through the publication he edited, The Kingdom.
Gates incorporated his ideals into the administration of Iowa College. He transformed the college: he supported a greater role for faculty in the curricular affairs of the college; he hired new faculty to teach in the developing areas of the sciences and modern foreign languages; he championed women faculty and students; he believed students should take responsibility for their lives and decisions (self-governance); and he encouraged the growth of athletics as a central part of college life. His inaugural address is still worth reading for its statement of the value of a liberal arts education.
Gates’ weekly journal, The Kingdom, published between 1894 and 1899, served as a voice for progressive Social Gospel proponents. At its height its circulation reached nearly 20,000. It was forced to cease publication when Gates was sued by the American Book Company for his essay attacking the company’s pricing policies. Although the Kingdom won the lawsuit, it could no longer afford to keep publishing.
Gates resigned as President of Iowa College in 1900, but later served as President at Pomona College and Fisk University.