John W. Lederle played a large role in shaping the UMass Amherst campus as it looks today. He led the charge for UMass Amherst becoming a nationally respected research university, a "great public center for excellence in higher education."
Under the leadership of Lederle, the Amherst campus enjoyed its greatest period of growth. From 1960 to 1970, student enrollment more than tripled and faculty salaries nearly doubled. Lederle won freedom from state hiring regulations, and the number of faculty grew from 366 to 1157. The academic program expanded greatly, particularly at the graduate level, and several centers were formed, including the Research Computing Center, the Polymer Research Institute, and the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory. Other innovations included the university press, a public radio station, and collaborative arrangements between the local colleges. The University's first endowed professorship was established. Attracting federal research dollars, the institutional budget grew by 700 percent to over $100 million. Many new buildings were completed or initiated, with work begun on the graduate research tower, the library, and the campus center.
The University system also evolved in the Lederle years, with the establishment of the UMass Medical School in Worcester in 1962 and the UMass Boston campus in 1964.
Born in Royal Oak, Michigan, Lederle received his Ph.D. in 1942 from the University of Michigan. He was admitted to the Michigan Bar in 1936, working with a Detroit law firm from 1936 to 1940. Lederle worked at Brown University from 1941 to 1944, serving as a professor of political science and assistant dean. He returned to the University of Michigan in 1944, filling a number of professional roles. Lederle remained at the University of Michigan until 1960, when the University of Massachusetts elected him president of the University.
After his retirement in 1970, Lederle was honored with an appointment to the Joseph B. Ely Chair in Government at the University.