In 1894, Andrew Sloan Draper became the first to lead the University of Illinois with the title of president rather than regent. The trustees had visited Draper in Cleveland where he was then Superintendent of Public Instruction. He was advised that the faculty had unanimously requested his election and that, if he were to accept, the Board would also be unanimous. Draper was a powerful asset to the University with his distinguished career in both law and education. He had served in various capacities as a lawyer, legislator, judge and as State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Ohio and in New York.
A house for the University president was built for the first time and located at the northeast corner of Wright and Green streets, at the site of what is now Everitt Laboratory. Further expansion under Draper's administration included the addition of Engineering Hall, the Woman's Building (now called Bevier Hall), Library Building (currently Altgeld Hall), Agriculture Building (now Davenport Hall) and Noyes Lab. The colleges of medicine, dentistry, commerce, and law were established. Modern improvements included a system of clocks and bells synchronized and controlled by electricity in all buildings, a water plant, an automatic university phone system, and the installation of a central heating, lighting and power plant. Draper officially named orange and blue as the school colors.
Draper modified the institution's administrative organization during his term. His changes stood the test of time for 30 years and became a model for other institutions. He decentralized control, giving individual colleges control of their faculties. To better address and oversee the university's investments and general management, rules were adopted in 1896 that detailed the duties, functions, and procedures of the treasurer, business manager, and the secretary. Draper also established relationships with the state legislature to ensure adequate appropriations.
These changes proved invaluable to the University when it was discovered that Treasurer Charles W. Spalding had embezzled from trust funds and operating funds from legislative appropriations. Draper's proactive work with the state officials addressed and offset the losses to the university.
In 1904, Draper tendered his resignation in order to become the first Commissioner of Education in New York.