Laurence Gould

Laurence McKinley “Larry” Gould was the fourth president of Carleton College. A professor of Geology, he attained fame for his explorations of the Antarctic before, during, and after his presidency. During his administration from 1945 to 1962, the number of faculty more than doubled, the endowment more than quadrupled, and student scholarships and loans increased tenfold. Although this was partly due to the return of World War II veterans and the G.I. Bill, his leadership was undoubtedly critical in increasing Carleton’s standing to that of a “little Harvard,” as the Chicago Daily Tribune labeled it in 1961.

Laurence McKinley Gould on taking office, 1945
Laurence McKinley Gould on taking office, 1945

Early life

Gould was born in Lacota, Michigan on August 22, 1896. He served in World War I, and graduated from the University of Michigan magna cum laude two years after his return, with a degree in Geology. He began teaching there, but took some time off in 1926 to go an an expedition in Greenland. The party named a lake after him there. In 1927, he explored the coast of Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada.

Byrd expedition

In 1928, Gould met Commander Richard Evelyn Byrd, who hired him for an expedition to Antarctica as geologist and geographer. He was later made Second in Command. This expedition was extraordinary, as it made him the first geologist to reach the interior of the Antarctic continent. Although the party’s main role was to make way for Byrd to make his famous flight to the South Pole and back, Gould was also able to obtain geological samples during this time. Most crucially, he found rock formations that confirmed his suspicions that Antarctica had once been linked to the other continents.

Upon his return in 1930, he won several awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal. He went on a lecture circuit to tell the tale of his journey. In 1931, Gould wrote a book about the adventure entitled Cold. A [new edition of Cold] was published by Carleton 2010.

At Carleton

In 1932, Carleton College decided to expand its then-scant offerings in Geology. It therefore offered Gould not only full professorship, but also the chair of the Geology Department. At that time, the department was housed in Leighton Hall.

He served in World War II in a scientific capacity. While he was away, President Cowling announced his intent to retire after the 1944-1945 academic year. Gould returned in 1944 and was formally asked in 1945 to serve as president. The Board of Trustees confirmed him on May 15, 1945.

Twice in 1957, once in January and once in December, Gould made trips to Antarctica, both times in a government capacity related to the International Geophysical Year (IGY) research program. He also testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of the Antarctic Treaty, which reserved the continent “to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Gould retired from the presidency in 1962. He would visit Antarctica one last time in 1969.

Effect on Carleton today

According to the June 25, 1962 issue of Newsweek: Under Gould, Carleton was transformed “from a little-known Congregational institution into one of the finest liberal-arts colleges in the nation.”

The most obvious reminder of Gould’s life is the college’s library, which was renamed the Laurence McKinley Gould Library on Oct. 13, 1995, just a few months after his death. A small glass-encased exhibit in his honor, featuring Oscar, the stuffed Emperor penguin, is located near the library’s entrance.

Carleton published A Beacon So Bright: The Life of Laurence McKinley Gould by archivist Eric Hillemann in December 2012.


“Best damned advice I ever had!” – On a physician telling him to give up smoking and start drinking.
“I feel best in weather that makes me shiver.” – On moving to Minnesota.
“I’ve decided that teaching is my vocation; exploring is just an avocation.”
“If I had my life to live over again, I could not invest it with greater satisfaction to myself than I have done at Carleton College.”


Gould was famous for preferring a bright red tie, or a red shirt and other bright tie. Under his presidency, students dressed up in all-red during a day in Spring Term that was dubbed “Larry Gould Day.”
Gould grew a mustache to express his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey in 1948.
Although a life-long Republican, Gould switched to the Democratic Party in 1965 in order to oppose Barry Goldwater, who, among other things, opposed the Antarctic Treaty.


Gould Exhibit – A photo-essay on the life of Laurence Gould created by college archivist Eric Hillemann
History of the President’s Office – From the Office of the President
“Carleton Called ‘Little Harvard'” – Scan of the Chicago Daily Tribune

Archived articles

Gould President of Carleton. The Carletonian. May 19, 1945: Page 1.

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