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Hepner, Walter R. (1891-1976) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Hepner, Walter R. (1891-1976)
Fuller Form: Walter Ray Hepner

Historical Note:

Walter Ray Hepner was born in Covina California, October 30, 1891. The son of a major orange grower, Hepner received his A.B. (1913), A.M. (1916) and Ed.D (1937) from the University of Southern California. He also completed two years of graduate study in Sociology and Education at the University of Chicago from 1917-1919. Hepner married Frances Hepner in 1919 and they had one son, Walter Ray Hepner, Jr.

Hepner's administrative career in public education began in 1919 with a position as principal of Polytechnic Evening High School in Long Beach, California. From 1920 to 1926, he worked for Fresno city schools, eventually becoming Superintendent of Schools. In 1928 Hepner became Superintendent of Schools for the city of San Diego. In 1934 he was appointed Chief of the Division of Secondary Education in the California State Department of Education, and moved to Sacramento. The following year, 1935, Hepner returned to San Diego as President of San Diego Sate College (SDSC), where he remained until his retirement in 1952. He was SDSC's third president, following Samuel T. Black and Edward L. Hardy.

During Hepner's tenure at SDSC, the college broadened its academic programs in business, technical and liberal arts, and education. The college acquired eight new buildings, the open air theatre, four building extensions, and 167 acres which more than doubled the original land base. Enrollment increased from 1,250 to 4,000, course offerings from 404 to 1,431, and faculty from 63 to 222.

In March of 1947, Hepner was selected by the War Department to serve with a small group of educational leaders on an advisory commission to the U.S. Office of Military Government in Berlin. He also spent ten summers teaching at San Jose State (1924), Stanford (1927 and 1934), Claremont (1930), U.C.L.A. (1935 and 1942), and U.S.C. (1938, 1940, 1941, and 1948). He was appointed to two state committees by Governor Earl Warren; one on juvenile justice and the other on mental hygiene. Hepner had a devout interest in community service, participating in over twenty local, state, and national councils and commissions devoted to educational, cultural, and civic causes such as the San Diego Army and Navy YMCA Board of Directors, San Diego Council Boy Scouts of America, California Society of Secondary Education, and the San Diego Rotary Club.

Along with numerous articles in educational magazines, Hepner published three text books: The Good Citizen (1924), Junior Citizens in Action (1928), and Laboratory Textbook in Civics (n.d.). Each of these was co-written by his wife Frances and published by Houghton & Mifflin. Hepner also wrote Junior College Survey of Northern San Diego County with Walter Morgan in 1935 and Factors Underlying Unpredicted Scholastic Achievement of College Freshmen in 1937. In 1971, San Diego State University published Hepner's The San Diego State College: the Third Regime, 1935-1952, which consists mainly of excerpts from "The Presidents Corner" in the campus newspaper, The Aztec.

As President emeritus, Dr. and Mrs. Hepner vacationed around the world, and traveled to some International Rotary Club conventions. Their trips took them to the Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East. With his 35mm camera Hepner documented many of their travels. In 1974 Hepner and his wife moved to Baltimore, Maryland to be near their son. Hepner passed away on January 13, 1976. Mrs. Hepner gathered the contents of this collection, which was stored at home, and donated it to the San Diego State University on February 17, 1977.


"Dr. Hepner dies at 84: San Diego State ex-president." (1976, January 15). San Diego Union: B1, B2.

This Week, Feb. 2-8, 1976.

"Walter R. Hepner," Who's Who in California, vol. 1, 1942-1943. (1944). Los Angeles: Who's Who Publications Co.

Walter Ray Hepner, Sr., Educator, 1891-1976. Memoriam.

Note Author: Matthew Nye

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