Charles Edward Diehl, A.M., D.D.
1917-1925, Southwestern Presbyterian University; 1925-1945, Southwestern, the College of the Mississippi Valley; 1945-1949, Southwestern At Memphis
Born in West Virginia in 1875, Dr. Diehl graduated from Johns Hopkins University (1896) and received a Doctor of Divinity from Princeton in 1900. After graduation, he pastored several churches and was called to First Presbyterian Church in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1907. He became President of Southwestern Presbyterian University in 1917 as a venture of faith.
Dr. Diehl shepherded the school through the difficult times of World War I and brought women students in to the college on an equal basis with men. He struggled with the question of the college’s future in Clarksville and in 1919 agreed with those who wanted to move it to a larger city. He administered the college, taught a Bible course, and supervised every detail in the building of the new Memphis campus, selecting the location, the architects, and the design style—Collegiate Gothic—as well as negotiating contracts and hiring the new faculty.
The college opened in 1925 in Memphis as Southwestern, the College of the Mississippi Valley. In 1930, Dr. Diehl was charged by some Memphis ministers with heresy and financial recklessness in the management and building of the college, but a hearing before the Board of Directors cleared him of all charges. In 1949, he was inducted to Phi Beta Kappa as an honorary member. That same year, President Diehl retired after serving the college for 32 years and died on February 27, 1964 ,in his eighty-ninth year.