Dr. McAllister served as a professor of physics and mathematics for forty nine years and was also the head of the Department of Physics. In October of 2012, Dr. McAllister was awarded the honor of having the science building named in his honor.


Early Life

Lawrence McAllister was born in 1892, on a farm in eastern Ohio. He went to Oberlin College, where his tuition was only one hundred dollars. While there, he majored in mathematics and graduated with honors in physics. In September of 1916, he began attending the University of Chicago for graduate school. However, in 1917, he received a draft notice and had to go to war. He was quickly promoted to corporal and given charge of three squads, each containing eight men. Soon after that, he was promoted to sergeant and given charge of three corporals, each with their own three squads. Three months after being promoted to sergeant, Lawrence McAllister was sent to Astoria, Long Island on a secret mission. There, he worked in a government laboratory where he tested charcoal on the different poison gases used at war front. All of the other operators at the lab were chemists. Being the only physicist, it was his job to prepare all of the samples for the machine (McAllister).

When the war was over, the laboratory was dismantled and all the operators went home. Once home, McAllister married his high school sweetheart, Verna, and had a son named Kenneth. He got a job delivering milk bottles in his town, but after a year and a half, he and his family moved to Chicago so that he could eventually receive his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago (McAllister).

Career at Shorter

After college, McAllister received an offer to teach at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia; he accepted, and taught there for ten years. At the time, Shorter was an all girls college, and the introduction of a physics teacher was heavily questioned because it was believed that girls were not supposed to study such a subject. However, he later built a department with a full major in the subject. Soon after, Shorter College was severely hit by the stock market crash in 1929, and as a result, Shorter decided to do away with the physics department in 1931 and no longer had a position for Dr. McAllister (McAllister).

Career at Berry

As soon as he discovered that there would no longer be a physics department at Shorter, Dr. McAllister applied for a position at Berry, and soon became head of the Physics Department. While he was teaching at Berry, McAllister noted that on Saturday mornings at 10:30, all students had to meet in the big chapel where a guest speaker would normally address the school. If Miss Berry herself was not introducing the speaker, then another faculty member would. Dr. McAllister often had trouble hearing this introduction when he sat at the back of the chapel. When he approached the property manager about possibly installing an amplifier, Mr. Skinner firmly said no. So, with the help of his lab assistant, Dr. McAllister secretly installed microphones in the pulpit, covering them with wooden crosses. When McAllister finally came clean about the installation, Martha Berry herself asked how much it had cost. When McAllister informed her that it had cost seventy-five dollars, she promptly paid him for it. Thirty years after McAllister's installation, the school upgraded to a three-thousand dollar larger commercial system.

In 1941, Dr. McAllister's wife, Verna, lost her three-year battle with cancer. After her death, the students of Berry College assembled in Recitation Hall for a memorial service for her. It was spontaneously given entirely by the students (McAllister).

For many years Dr. McAllister was the sole physics professor at Berry College. President Briggs, currently the president of Berry College, stated that McAllister had an amazing ability to identify talented students and to persuade them into becoming physics majors before sending them onto graduate schools and research careers. His former students described him as a gentle, kind, and unflappable man who was sensitive to the students' needs. In addition to this, McAllister also often worked secretly to help students receive unexpected graduate assistantships, as well as drive his students to interviews in Atlanta, Georgia and Huntsville, Alabama. Not only did Dr. McAllister counsel his students in academics, he also advised them on matters of religion, morality, and on how to conduct a professional career. As a result of his teachings, more than eighty percent of his physic major students went on to earn advanced degrees (Briggs).


In 1944, when Berry trained a group of Air Force cadets, he taught their Physics course (McAllister).

In 1935, Dr. McAllister decided that Berry ought to have a school annual. The first edition of this yearbook was called Cabin Log (McAllister).

In 1961, he was selected by the committee on improving instruction as a superior teacher and nominated to take part in a special seminar (McAllister).

In 1971, after announcing his retirement, a luncheon was held for him where he was honored by the staff and students of Berry. He was presented with a citation that honored him for “Thirty-nine inspiring years as teacher, mentor, and above all, friend of Physics students at Berry College.”(McAllister).

McAllister was honored by the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society for “outstanding achievement in the teaching of physics.” They also awarded him with the George B. Pegram medal, of which he was the first recipient (McAllister).

In 2012, the science building was renamed McAllister Hall in honor of him.

After his retirement , a former student of his, and a member of Berry’s Department of English and Speech wrote a poem, the first stanza of which portrayed the appeal and influence of Dr. McAllister:
“…he never seems to change at all.
But goes forever in his pleasant way.
So little outward change, and yet we know
The inner man has never ceased to grow.” (McAllister).

Works Cited

Briggs, Dr. Stephen R. "A high calling". Berry Magazine. Fall 2012: 11. Print.

McAllister of Berry College. Ed. Alexander Whitaker III. Mount Berry: Berry College, 1975. Print

McAllister, Dr. Lawrence E. “Dr. Mac” A Brief Autobiography of Dr. Lawrence E. Print.