Robert Lincoln Marquis, teacher and college president, son of Alexander and Emma (Webster) Marquis, was born on January 4, 1880, in Goliad, Texas. After graduating from Texas Christian University with a B.A. degree in 1901, he attended the University of Texas, where he received the B.S. degree in 1902. The next year he received an M.S. from the University of Chicago. In 1903 he began his teaching career at Thorp Spring Christian College, Thorp Spring, Texas, as an instructor in science. From 1904 to 1908 he taught science at John Tarleton Agricultural College (now Tarleton State University). He spent 1909 teaching biology at Sam Houston State Teachers College (now Sam Houston State University). In 1910 he began an eight-year association with West Texas State Teachers College (now West Texas A&M University) as a biology instructor. From 1918 to 1920 Marquis was professor of biology at North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas). In 1920 he became president of Sul Ross State Teachers College (now Sul Ross State University) in Alpine. Three years later, at the age of forty-three, he returned to North Texas to become the college's sixth president.
During his eleven years in this post, Marquis succeeded in increasing the size and reputation of the college. In 1925, through his lobbying efforts, North Texas received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. By the end of the decade, as a result of Marquis's demand for more teachers with graduate degrees, North Texas had more faculty members with Ph.D.'s than any other teachers' college in the state. In 1933 the State Board of Education rated the school the best teachers' college in Texas. As the college's reputation grew, so did its enrollment. By 1934 North Texas was the largest teachers' college in the state. Marquis also helped establish the Lone Star Conference, to which North Texas belonged from the conference's first year of operation, 1931, until 1945.
In 1925 Austin College awarded him an honorary LL.D. degree. The same year Marquis was mentioned as a candidate for the presidency of Texas A&M. In 1929 the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools elected him president. In 1931 he was offered the position of superintendent of the San Antonio public schools. Although the position would have meant a substantial increase in salary, Marquis declined the offer, saying that teacher training was his first love and that Denton had become his home. Together with his family-his wife, Lula Mae (Parkey) of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, and his twin sons-Marquis was active in Denton community affairs. He was a member of the Disciples of Christ and a Mason, Rotarian, and Democrat. After 1926 his involvement in the community declined as his health deteriorated. Beginning that year, a series of illnesses resulted in his request for a leave of absence on at least two occasions. On April 12, 1934, he suffered a heart attack; he died three days later, at the age of fifty-four.