Alexander Grant Ruthven was born in 1882 in Hull, Iowa. He graduated from Morningside College in 1903. In 1906, he received a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Michigan. He worked as a professor, director of the University Museum, and Dean. He became the President in 1929. As such, he promoted a corporate administrative structure. He also approved of police raids against bootleggers at fraternities. He retired in 1951, and died in 1971. He is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery which is adjacent to the university.