President McFarland served Iowa Wesleyan from 1884 to 1891. McFarland had been a student of the preparatory department of Iowa Wesleyan, but later transferred to Simpson College and received his degree there in 1872. After graduation from Boston University School of Theology, he served churches in Iowa and Illinois. In 1884, Rev. John Thomas McFarland was elected president and brought scholarship, administrative ability, and fresh ideas, which resulted in a stimulating program. He proposed several projects in finances, building construction, and academic improvement throughout his term.