The role of provost at Washington University in St. Louis has its roots in its antecedent, the dean of faculties. With the intention of delegating the expansive and growing duties and responsibilities of the chancellor and establishing an efficient administrative organization, the position was established after a university-wide review during the final years of the chancellorship of Ethan A. H. Shepley.

George E. Pake became the first provost, appointed by Chancellor Thomas H. Eliot in 1962. Eliot envisioned the provost’s role as the “alter ego” of the chancellor. The job combined the functions previously held by the dean of faculties and the vice chancellor. Pake, former chair of the Department of Physics, returned from Stanford University to fill the new position. In 1969, Pake left Washington University, and Carl A. Dauten, previously associate provost and now executive vice chancellor, fulfilled the primary duties of the provost without carrying the title. He held the post until his death in 1976.

Merle Kling, formerly the dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences, succeeded Dauten and assumed the role and title of provost and executive vice chancellor. Ralph E. Morrow, the next dean of Arts & Sciences, took over the role of provost in 1983. W. Maxwell Cowan, a former member of the faculty of the School of Medicine, held the positions of provost and executive vice chancellor from 1986 to 1987 and was followed, in 1988, by Edward S. Macias, who had been chair of the chemistry department.

Macias held the role of provost until 1995, when he became executive vice chancellor and dean of Arts & Sciences. Through 2008, Macias continued to fulfill the primary duties of provost, but the role was formally acknowledged again with his resumption of the provost title in 2009.

Prior to the inception of the title, many of the primary functions of the provost had been developed in the role of the dean of faculties, which Chancellor Arthur Holly Compton established following the Second World War for the supervision of academic affairs. A major task in the first years of the office was the creation of the university’s formal tenure policy – a process which spanned the terms of several deans.

Succession of the Dean of Faculties:
Joyce C. Stearns, 1946-1948
Edward K. Graham, 1948-1950
Leslie J. Buchan, 1950-1953
Carl Tolman, 1953-1961
Thomas H. Eliot, 1961-1962

Succession of the Provost:
George E. Pake, 1962-1969
Merle Kling, 1976-1983
Ralph E. Morrow, 1983-1986; 1988
W. Maxwell Cowan, 1986-1987
Edward S. Macias, 1988-1995, 2009-2013
Holden Thorp, 2013-2019
Marion G. Crain, 2019-2020 (Interim)
Beverly R. Wendland, 2020-

Executive Vice Chancellors in Lieu of Provost:
Carl A. Dauten, 1969-1976
Edward S. Macias, 1995-2008

Sources: Washington University Archives and Morrow, Ralph, Washington University in St. Louis: A History. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1996.