David Morton Edwards served as president from 1917-29.
Edwards was born in Earlham, Iowa, and was the first president since the founding of the College who was not an alumnus. He graduated instead from Penn College in 1896, followed by graduate work at the University of Chicago and Boston University. He was the first president with an earned doctorate. Prior to coming to Earlham, Edwards was the president of Penn College. He came from an old Quaker family and was, like past presidents, a recorded minister.
Edwards was president during the "heresy trial" of 1920-21, in which some Friends decried modernist teaching on campus. Following the controversy, Earlham continued squarely down the path of liberal Quakerism. Edwards encouraged Clarence Cunningham, Earlham's first black graduate, to enroll. Edwards also brought black speakers to campus and signed a public declaration against the Ku Klux Klan in 1924.