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History of Knox College

1900 to present

Prepared by By Hermann Muelder, Knox College Historian (through 1963) and the Office of Communications


Thomas McClelland, previously head of Pacific University, becomes eighth President. His administration is particularly characterized by great increases in the material equipment and endowment of the College.


Cyrus Avery, industrialist and Knox Trustee, builds a large house at 640 N. Prairie, which, some 45 years later, would become the official residence for the President of the College.

Knox College adopts a seal (right) with the motto "Veritas."


A new gymnasium is dedicated on Founders' Day. The 50th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate is celebrated with President William Howard Taft as principal speaker.


Dr. John Van Ness Standish, a former faculty member and president of Lombard College, donates to Knox property valued at $100,000. Standish also offered to supervise "beautifying the [Knox] campus at no charge." Adjacent to the campus, he donated land to the City of Galesburg for Standish Park. A fund-raising campaign brings $260,000 to the College from the Carnegie Foundation, the General Education Board, alumni, trustees, and friends.


The Academy, a pre-college preparatory school, is discontinued.


George Davis Science Hall is completed.


Seventy-fifth anniversary. The library has 10,000 volumes. The Harvard Exchange Professorship is inaugurated with Albert Bushnell Hart, noted historian, as exchange professor.


Phi Beta Kappa installs a chapter at Knox; it is the first at a liberal arts college in Illinois. Over 650 Knox alumni and students enter the World War. The first issue of The Knox Alumnus is published in October.


James Lukens McConaughy becomes ninth President.


Lyman Kay Seymour Hall is completed, serving as a residence hall and later as the Student Union.


Albert Britt, an Illinois native and 1898 Knox graduate, is elected tenth President.


Henry M. Seymour Library is completed. The Honnold Lectureship is established.


Knox receives the alumni records of Lombard College, which had been forced to close due to economic problems resulting from The Great Depression. Lombard students are allowed to complete their degrees at Knox.


May 16, Friends of Knox College Library is organized.


A restoration of the exterior of Old Main is completed, thanks in large part to the initiative of Janet Greig Post. Poet Carl Sandburg, a Galesburg native, speaks at the rededication ceremony. Old Main is named a National Historic Landmark, one of the first sites to receive the designation from the Department of the Interior.


Carter Davidson begins his presidency. At Homecoming, a bell turret commemorating the union of Knox and Lombard traditions is dedicated. December, reconstruction of the interior of Old Main is begun.


The Centenary of Knox is celebrated. In this era of live radio, the festivities include nationwide broadcast of a pageant about the founding of Knox and Galesburg.


The Faculty, by establishing as a general requirement for all freshmen a course on the Middle West, makes the first of a series of extensive revisions of the curriculum. This particular innovation, as it turned out, was interrupted by world events less parochial in character than the culture of a particular region of the United States.


The establishment of a Civil Aeronautics Program anticipates the adjustment of the curriculum to war conditions.


An Air Corps unit is established at Knox and a large part of the College staff and physical facilities is converted to an Air Force training program. One of the "Victory Ships" that transported war materials to Europe is named after Knox.

The Knox-Lombard Fifty Year Club is organized.


A special postwar planning committee of the faculty is appointed to pick up the threads of curricular revision which had been interrupted by the War and to begin deliberations leading to the establishment of a new general education program.


The College moves to accommodate large numbers of returning veterans. In December President Carter Davidson resigns and his administrative duties are assumed by Acting President Harold Way, who has had a leading role in effecting the adjustments of the College to the wartime activities.


Lyndon O. Brown assumes the presidency of Knox College. An economist and marketing expert (in this regard perhaps 50 years ahead of his time in higher education), Brown also comes into conflict with the faculty and resigns after 18 months.


Kellogg McClelland, for many years a trustee, college treasurer and business manager, assumes the acting presidency of the College.


Sharvy G. Umbeck becomes President and at his first Knox faculty meeting announces plans for the new Memorial Gymnasium and the Frank M. Lay Natatorium, the first construction in a very extensive program for rebuilding the College during the next decade. This physical transformation of the College is to include a considerable expansion of the campus land area and the closing of many streets through campus, as well as the erection of many new buildings.


Dean of the College, a new position as chief academic officer, is created and filled by the appointment of Charles Peake.


With the encouragement of faculty and administration, the students of Knox establish an Honor System for academic activities. Among the features of the system, faculty do not proctor examinations and the Honor Code is enforced by a student-led Honor Board.


Men students, during the fall, take residence in new dormitory units that are the first in a considerable expansion of the living quarters for men and women during this period.


Following a tragic automobile crash in which several students are killed, the College restricts automobiles for all but a few students. Knox becomes widely known for its ban on student cars, which continues in force for several decades, though is gradually loosened.


A grant of $274,000 from the Ford Foundation assists a program of increasing faculty salaries and indicates the increasing extent to which the activities of the College are influenced by philanthropic foundations of this kind.


As part of a policy to encourage more independent studies, the faculty institutes a greatly-strengthened Honors Program for individual study of an intensive character by selected students.


The College and the community celebrate the centennial of the Lincoln-Douglas debate with a pageant and with symposium attended by many distinguished American historians.


The colleges which for years had comprised the Midwest Athletic Conference now establish a formal educational academic consortium called the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, the programs of which greatly enrich and enlarge the educational opportunities of faculty and students.


The new Student Union together with dining halls for both men and women are put into operation.


The Janet Greig Post Residence for Women is completed, the first women's dormitory to be constructed at Knox since before the Civil War.


Seymour Library, which had been reconstructed and enlarged in 1957-58, adds the 100,000th volume to its collection.


The Eleanor Abbott Ford Center for the Fine Arts is completed, giving Knox superb facilities for art, music and theatre. The theatre facilities are rated among the best at any school in Illinois. The project resulted in another "best" -- the dirt excavated during construction was used to form the Knox Bowl, arguably the best small college football stadium in the nation.


A wind storm damages a large part of the roof of Old Main and bell tower.


Protesting the war in Vietnam, students occupy Old Main.


Science Mathematics Center is opened. After the death of Knox president Sharvy Umbeck in 1974, the building is named in his memory.


Inman Fox, a scholar of Spanish from Vassar College, is named President of the College.


George Davis Hall is renovated for use by the departments of economics, education, modern languages and political science. Alumni Hall, no longer required for classes, is closed. Whiting Hall is no longer needed for residences and is sold to a developer and converted to apartments for senior citizens.


John McCall is named President of the College. A noted scholar of Chaucer, McCall was provost at the University of Cincinnati before coming to Knox.


Knox marks its 150th anniversary with a series of Sesquicentennial Symposia, and inaugurates a major capital campaign.


The Sesquicentennial Capital Development Campaign raises $25 million for a number of capital projects, including the renovation of Seymour Library and construction of T. Fleming Fieldhouse. Exterior renovation is done at Alumni Hall.


Rick Nahm is named President upon the retirement of John McCall. McCall -- selected a "Person of the Week" by ABC TV News with Peter Jennings -- subsequently joins the Peace Corps. McCall and his wife Mary-Berenice McCall spend two years teaching in Turkmenistan before retiring in the US.

Capital improvements are completed across campus, including installation of a fiber-optic computer network and personal computers in all faculty and administrative offices, renovation of the exterior of Old Main, and construction of a new 52-bed residence hall. During a span of four years, enrollment increases from 900 to 1,200 and the size of the faculty increases from 80 to 100.


C-SPAN broadcasts nationally a re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debate (photo, right).


The College launches KnoxNow! a $125-million campaign. Prior to announcing the public phase of the campaign, Knox raises $67 million. Goals include increased endowment, student scholarships, faculty support, academic programs and campus enhancements.

Rick Nahm accepts the senior vice presidency of Colonial Williamsburg. He is succeeded by Richard S. Millman, former provost of Whittier College.


The president's house is formally dedicated as The Ingersoll House, in honor of the Ingersoll family, 20 members of whom have attended Knox, three serving as Trustees of the College.

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka speaks at Knox and discusses the performance of his play, "Death and the King's Horseman."


Joint admission program with Carl Sandburg College is created.


Alumni Hall renovation proposal is announced.

President Millman announces that he would step down effective September 1, 2001. Roger Taylor, chair of the board of trustees, is named interim president.

Old Main tower and bell are removed for repairs. A time capsule is found inside the tower, dating to the 1969 repairs.


Knox receives Illinois First grant to begin restoration of Alumni Hall.

Roger Taylor is named 18th president of Knox College, filling the post he had held on an interim basis.


Knox receives a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the implementation of an innovative curriculum redesign that combines the breadth of a classic liberal arts education with the depth of skill and knowledge needed for success in the 21st Century.


A grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is used to create a new major and faculty position in neuroscience, enhance science courses and laboratories, and initiate new science programs for junior high school girls and secondary science teachers.

Knox College is designated a "Freedom Station" by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.


Knox becomes the first national liberal arts college in Illinois -- and one of just three in the Midwest -- to eliminate standardized test scores as a requirement for admission.

United States Senator Barack Obama delivers the Commencement address.

Galesburg joins Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, a consortium of Illinois communities that share the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, where Old Main is recognized as the site of the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate.


The new E. & L. Andrew Fitness Center is dedicated

More than $10 million is received from the estate of Walter Blair Hobbs '25, the largest single gift in College history.

Knox receives a record-breaking number of applications due to the positive experiences of current students, impressive scholarship and teaching of Knox faculty, and public recognition of a liberal arts education as excellent preparation for career success.