Test: 3

Knox Magazine

Spring 2022


C. Andrew McGadney

20th President of Knox and a Historic Moment for the College

In the mid-morning hours of a Saturday last February, then-presidential candidate Andy McGadney answered questions from members of the Executive Committee of the Knox Board of Trustees on his final Zoom interview for the position of president of Knox College. He knew the end of the interview process was near, and the weight of the moment loomed. While Andy waited to rejoin the Zoom session, he and his wife, Camille, attempted to make small talk.

Then the moment arrived: The Board of Trustees voted to appoint McGadney the 20th president of Knox College. Andy and Camille listened to current and former Board members share words of congratulations, inspiration, and they shared their excitement and hope for the future.

Knox Magazine writers recently interviewed President McGadney to explore his path to Knox and his vision and plans to move Knox forward.

Photo by Kent Kriegshauser

Where did you grow up, and what experiences did you have growing up that fostered your love of education?

I am a Northeasterner with deep Southern roots; I grew up in Bloomfield, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford.

My parents are from the Mobile, Alabama, area. They understood that opportunity and education were the keys to a successful life. They both had college degrees from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and yet, for many years, my dad could not find a well-paying, professional job in the South. Eventually, with the support from family, my parents ventured to Bloomfield, where my dad worked as a highway draftsman with the State of Connecticut for more than 30 years.

My love of education comes from my mom, who was a first grade teacher in the Hartford public school system. I have warm memories of many of my mother’s former students telling me about the incredible impact she had on their lives. These stories were life changing, and I saw the positive impact one could make on someone’s life through education, and that inspired me to choose this path.

What was your first job out of college, and what did you learn from it?

I was an account representative for Otis Elevator. It was a wonderful experience, one in which I learned many lessons. I got the job through INROADS, an organization that provides entry into leadership roles in corporate America for talented young professionals of color.

The most powerful lesson I learned was that respect and the ability to operate successfully in any field are earned through building strong relationships.

When I worked at Otis in the early 1990s there was a sense of division between the office staff and the mechanics. I realized early on that the mechanics were the heart of the company. They were talented, hardworking people who had long-term client relationships, were the first to see changes and challenges, and were problem solvers. I learned so much from them and I had a deep respect for their skills and dedication.

I have been focused on listening and learning—hearing where people are coming from, and ensuring I understand the various differences in perspectives.

Tell us about your higher education career after Otis Elevator and before Knox.

A position opened at my alma mater—Wesleyan University—to be part of the annual fund team; this was my pivot into higher education.

After many years in several different positions at Wesleyan, I joined two excellent institutions in leadership roles—Clark University, followed by Colby College.

Along the way, I got a master’s degree in public administration and policy from Columbia University, and a doctorate in higher education from University of Pennsylvania. The executive doctorate program at UPenn was life changing and deeply immersive; I especially enjoyed the almost daily thought-provoking conversations with some of the most innovative and influential leaders in higher education.

When I was named as president of Knox, a former supervisor and now good friend mentioned to me that when I was a student at Wesleyan, I told him I wanted to be a college president. The role of president is the fulfillment of all of my higher education passions: Fundraising to support inspiring initiatives for students and the innovative work of faculty, engaging with all members of a diverse community, and leading innovation to put a college on the map in even bigger ways.

What do you most appreciate about small liberal arts colleges?

Small liberal arts colleges are the sweet spot of what our world needs today—places where students are taught the importance of engaging in meaningful research, understanding all sides of issues, and having difficult dialogues in respectful ways about those issues.

These colleges, and specifically Knox, work hard to create an environment where differing opinions can still come together. Small liberal arts colleges have the obligation to ensure young minds are developed so they are open and willing to have difficult dialogues about differing viewpoints.

Camille and Andy McGadney Photo by Kent Kriegshauser

What appealed to you about the opportunity to lead Knox College?

I saw an opportunity to help make a great institution even better. The Knox community has a deep passion and commitment to the College; there is a strong institutional history built over the last 184 years here in Galesburg. I felt an instant connection to the people and the mission, and our community is ready to take bold steps to ensure success for future generations.

What has been your focus during the first months of your presidency?

I have been focused on listening and learning—hearing where people are coming from, and ensuring I understand the various differences in perspectives. I am meeting with students, faculty, staff, Galesburg leaders, and as many alumni as I safely can in person and virtually since I started in this role.

While listening and learning, I am simultaneously working with the Board of Trustees and the senior leadership team on goal setting, and short- and long-term planning. Later this year, in partnership with the Board of Trustees, I will recommend an innovative strategic planning framework that will address several priorities that  will be key to our future success, including growing our applications and enrollment, identifying and creating distinctive student programs and experiences, and planning for a comprehensive fundraising campaign, among others.

I have also been working hard on building a highly collaborative and experienced senior leadership team to help develop and carry out our shared vision for the future. Over the last several months, we welcomed to campus Vice President for Student Development MarQuita Barker and Vice President for Advancement Monica Keith; moved oversight of our information technology function under Vice President for Communications and Information Technology Services Lisa Van Riper; created a position focused primarily on strategic initiatives held by Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Heather Bumps; and we are currently in the midst of a national search for a new vice president for administration and chief financial officer.

And while the trustees, senior team, and I have been planning for the future, we have also been working through the continuing challenges caused by the pandemic. Knox has a great team of committed faculty and staff who are constantly collaborating on new and creative ways to continue to offer the unique Knox experience during the pandemic. The Knox campus community is learning to be nimble and flexible—characteristics not usually attributed to institutions of higher education. Our faculty and staff—and especially our students—continue to impress me with their resilience.

I want to ensure that I am bringing our community together with a shared sense of pride and aspiration for what Knox can be for future generations.

What do you see as the areas of greatest opportunity to move Knox forward?

The areas that surfaced most often during my listening and learning efforts are priorities that will be addressed in the strategic framework I just mentioned. These priorities include a focus on increasing admission and enrollment, elevating Knox’s reputation and expanding its reach, and identifying and creating distinctive student programs and experiences.

I also see our people as one of our greatest opportunities. Our on-campus community, as well as our thousands of alumni, parents, and friends are extremely passionate about Knox. Whether parents of an incoming student, an employee who has worked in dining services for decades, or an alumna who graduated 50 years ago, the passion for Knox is sincere. I want to ensure that I am bringing our community together with a shared sense of pride and aspiration for what Knox can be for future generations.

The College’s place and responsibility within the Galesburg community is another opportunity I’m excited to begin addressing. Knox and Galesburg have been dependent on each other since our founding and that is still true today. There have been many successes over the last decade in Galesburg, and I’m committed to continuing to find new ways to partner with the local community. There is a lot of energy around what is possible in the future in Galesburg and we are committed to being an active partner in creating that future.

Kyle, Camille, Naomi, Andy, and Max McGadney Photo by SÉAN ALONZO HARRIS PHOTOGRAPHY

What can our community expect from you next?

Delivering results as I move forward with bold goals and strategic priorities, and a consistent, relentless focus on moving Knox forward. I will continue to listen and engage in meaningful conversations with students, alumni and community members. 

What is one of the greatest lessons that you have learned from your mentors that you can share with our readers?

The little things aren’t little. Pay close attention and think through the impact everyday decisions and actions have on others. This is one of the areas where my own liberal arts education continues to serve me well. I try to look at every decision and issue from many different perspectives and understand the impact on others.

Test: 3

Knox Magazine

Spring 2022


Farm Term 50th Reunion

Reflections on Rural Life

by Maeve Reilly

In March 1971, a group of idealistic Knox College students and two hardworking professors headed to the driftless region of Wisconsin for Farm Term, one of Knox’s first immersive learning experiences—similar to the current Green Oaks Term. The Knox professors wanted the students to appreciate how farms form the backbone of the nation, and, along the way, educate them about impending ecological changes.

Farm Term was a life-changing experience for those involved. This past July, 11 of the 15 original student participants gathered for a 50th reunion of Farm Term on the Robin Metz Farm in Crawford County, Wisconsin, while two others joined virtually. They shared stories, laughs, and many warm memories. Here are some of their stories.

Imagining a “Satellite Curriculum”

The 1960s and early 1970s brought rapid societal changes, but, at the time, some recently hired Knox faculty members felt that the College was stuck in an earlier decade.

“Younger faculty wanted to make trouble,” recalled Doug Wilson, a recently hired English professor, and currently George A. Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center. “There were a number of restrictive social rules we wanted to change; for example, women had to be in the dorms at eight o’clock in the evening.

“We also wanted to make the curriculum more interesting, provocative and challenging,” he said. One concept was providing a “satellite curriculum,” a precursor to the immersive experiences that Knox continues to this day.

Wilson and his wife, Sharon, enamored with the driftless region in Crawford County, Wisconsin, had purchased a farm there. Bypassed by glaciers, the area is geographically and geologically significant, with a rugged landscape bordered by the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers.

Knox colleagues Dewey Moore, professor of geology, and Robin Metz, Philip Sidney Post Professor of English and co-founder of Knox’s Program in Creative Writing, also relished the thought of owning land there, and both purchased property near the Wilsons’ farm. Spurred by the significance of the region, the three colleagues developed Knox’s first immersive experience, creating a satellite program called Farm Term that could educate mostly urban students about rural life through a literal on-the-ground experience.

Knox faculty loved the idea of providing such an experience for students, so Farm Term easily passed the curriculum committee. At least 30 students applied for the program and 15 students were accepted. Soon after, nine women and six men set off for the 10-week term, which ran March 21 through May 26, 1971. Only a couple of the Farm Term students had been on a farm prior to this immersive experience.

While the nine female students lived at the Metz farm, Robin Metz remained at Knox. Male students lived at the Moore farm, where the rest of the Moore family lived, including two of the Moore children, who attended local schools. Farm Term was co-taught by Doug Wilson and Dewey Moore.

Field Trips, Food and Fiber, and a “Mangy” Goat

Every morning, the students met at the Metz Farm. Guest speakers provided their expertise on farming, local history, botany, poetry, and farm life to the students.

County Agent Virgil Buttress gave a talk on “food and fiber,” and a local writer, Pearl Swiggum, talked about the rural community. Organized activities included field trips to various locations, including conservationist Aldo Leopold’s shack near Baraboo, Wisconsin, and trips to examine geology along the Mississippi with Moore. The students worked on independent projects that focused on the domestic and the natural landscape, varying from identifying edible plants and wool spinning to working with local farmers to milk cows and grade eggs.

Students Marla Rybka Biss ’73 and Sandy Lamprech Heggeness ’73 bought a horse that they cared for and rode around the area; Judy O’Keefe Van der Linden ’73 raised chickens, and Kevin Corrado ’72 raised a “mangy” goat named Billy. 

Rural Life Lessons

Living on a farm for 10 weeks had challenges. The male students, who bunked in a not-well-insulated attic room at the Moore farm, were ferried daily to the Metz farm. Because the farms used septic systems, students showered once a week, and the flush toilet was used sparingly so an outhouse was constructed. Doug’s wife, Sharon, and Dewey’s wife, Ruthie, were a big part of the experience as they did the shopping and cooked meals for the students.

Evening entertainment was strumming guitars and singing around a bonfire. Students could come and go as they pleased on the weekends by walking or hitchhiking. Kevin Corrado bought a bike to ride to the two rural schools that he was researching for his project. Students also had to find their own way to the Friday night dinners at the diner in Ferryville, a nearby town, which gave them more access to locals and also gave Sharon and Ruthie a much needed break.

Romance on the Farm

Dan Reckase ’72 and Mary Mundt ’73 knew one another through mutual friends on campus, and Mary was interested in getting to know Dan better. At Farm Term they became a couple. They married in 1978 and settled in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, not far from Crawford County.

Developing a Deep Appreciation for the Land and Farmers

The Farm Termers gained a deep appreciation for the land and farmers, though with differing perspectives. Marla Rybka Biss worked in a regulatory role for a pesticide company and respects how pesticides have changed the world for the better. Karen Claus ’73 only eats free-range eggs. Some became vegetarians, others are active gardeners and hikers. A few considered becoming farmers but realized how difficult the work is. Some left Knox, taking time off and transferring to other institutions. The professors were exhausted, and Doug Wilson lost 15 pounds during Farm Term. On the whole, however, the participants agreed that they discovered a lot about the region, farming, one another, and, perhaps most importantly, themselves.

Farm Term was not repeated, though Moore continued to lead field trips in geology around the country every spring. Later, Wilson, Moore, and Rodney Davis, Szold Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History and co-founder of the Lincoln Studies Center, developed a Great Rivers course, which was also offered as an Elderhostel course. Eventually, Knox created the Green Oaks Term, building on experiences and suggestions for a rural immersion opportunity that is housed closer to the Knox campus.

Life Unplugged

Memories have faded over the years, but the sense of connection that they have with one another has deepened. Mary Mundt Reckase attributes it to the fact that the participants were “self selected” by applying. “Maybe the people who respond to this type of immersive experience just naturally got along and easily fell into having a pleasant time together.” She also believes that the group melded together because they didn’t have distractions like cell phones. “We were each other’s focus, environment, and entertainment. We were unplugged before there was a plug.”

Front Row, left to right: Dan Reckase, Dewey Moore, Doug Wilson, Jan Novak Dressel. Back Row: Mary Mundt Reckase, Rick Yerkes, Kevin Corrado, Jane Wolff, Sandra Lamprech Heggeness, Karen Claus, Judy O’Keefe van der Linden, Lenny Greene, Kadi Finlayson Meyer. Photo by Dan Barron
Farm Termers presented the professors with Farm Term Remembered books of memories and certificates from a donation made in their honor to the Mississippi Valley Conservancy. Pictured are Kadi Finlayson Meyer, Dewey Moore, Doug Wilson, and Lenny Greene. Photo by Shelley Moore

Test: 3

Knox Magazine

Spring 2022


Back on Track

by Matt Wheaton ’10

Baseball was the first sport played on Knox College’s campus, but in the institution’s first 100 years of existence, it’s not the only one that caught students’ attention. “As late as October 1893 and October 1894, Knox sent to the Illinois Inter-Collegiate Oratorical contests not only an orator, but also teams for football, baseball, tennis, and track and field events.”1

Thirty-six Knox grads who are in the Knox-Lombard Athletic Hall of Fame (HOF) participated in track and field. The first HOF class was inducted in 1987, and four of the 10 members were listed on track rosters for the College. Many played other sports, as well.

In recent years, Knox track and field athletes have put the College on the map for the program’s strength. In the program’s history, 17 NCAA qualifying performances have taken place, with four athletes garnering All-American status. Most recently, Derrick Jackson ’22 recorded two All-American performances in the 2021 season. Since the program’s inception, there has also been one national champion—Mike Pankey ’89 who claimed the 400-meter dash title in 1989. While the women’s outdoor track and field team is still seeking their first Midwest Conference title, the men’s outdoor track and field team has won the Midwest Conference Championship six times—1922, 1928, 1929, 1937, 1952, and 1987.

In recent years, Knox student-athletes have had a lot of success in men’s and women’s track and field. Jackson will be competing in the 2022 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships. The Miami Gardens, Florida, native is ranked 20th in the nation in the 60-meter dash with a qualifying time of 6.85. Last May, he also took part in the championship, finishing fifth in the 100-meter dash finals and sixth in the 200-meter dash finals.

You want to see everyone get better. That’s how you make sure everyone is having a great experience.

Evander Wells, Prairie Fire head track and field coach

Wells makes immediate impact

Jackson is convinced he wouldn’t be where he is without Prairie Fire head track and field coach Evander Wells, who was hired in May 2019.

Wells had a successful sprinting career at the University of Tennessee and graduated from that institution in 2010. He was a four-year member of the Vols and a nine-time All-American, as well as an 18-time Southeastern Conference finalist. What he says resonates.

“Coach Wells has played a huge part when it comes to on the track or off the track,” said Jackson, who is also on Knox’s football team. “We put in twice as much work as we usually would have because of what happened with the whole COVID-19 situation. Our outdoor season was an example of what’s to come with a full season.

“It was a pretty decent season. It was my statement year, but I still feel like I didn’t hit my highest points when I should have. I’m slowly getting better,” Jackson added. “My block starts got better towards the end of the season. I could have been more explosive at the beginning, but we worked every day, and as long as I got a percent better every day that’s all that really mattered.”

Wells sits on Tennessee’s top 10 all-time list in the 60 meter, 100 meter, and 200 meter dashes, and since he’s arrived on Knox’s campus, almost every member of the track and field program has set personal record (PR) times.

“You want to see everyone get better. That’s how you make sure everyone is having a great experience,” Wells said. “Of course, you’re going to have standouts. You’re going to have some athletes win conference and do some great things, but if everyone isn’t getting better, they’re not going to have a great experience.

“We highlight everyone after each meet who has a PR. We just want to make sure everyone gets recognition for what they’re doing. We’re all putting in the same work and it’s great to see it pays off for everyone,” Wells added. “We see a lot of PRs on a regular basis. My first year here, I think we had 33 athletes and 30 of them ran PRs at some point during the season. 2020 was an interesting year because the first half was cut, but we still had the second half and I think just about everyone had a PR at some point in the season. The vast majority of the team gets PRs in their events and that’s just fun to see.”

Evander Wells, Knox’s track and field coach, focuses on form and technique as he guides the Prairie Fire to success. Photo by Kent Kriegshauser
Kristin Herndon ’23 clears the bar during the 2021 Van Steckelberg Invite. Photo by Robert Nguyen ’21

Form, technique tweaks help

From the start, Wells has helped Knox’s tracksters improve their form and technique, and with tweaks have come faster times.

“There are always technical parts for every sport and it’s just the technique of running and how can each athlete be more efficient,” Wells said.

“His number one things are form and technique. Without those you can’t run fast,” Jackson said. “Coach Wells has taken this program and done a whole 180, and I say 180 over 360 because if you do a 360 you’re back in the same spot.

“In one week, we had something like 32 PRs. Everybody has gotten better.”

Like Jackson, Lydia Mitchell ’22 and Tyrell Pierce ’24 are multiple sport athletes at Knox, and the pair agree with his assessment of Wells.

“When I was in high school, I was running a 51 (seconds) in the 400 meter and that was because I didn’t really have a good form, and I didn’t know how to breathe,” said Pierce, a sophomore, who also hits the gridiron for the Prairie Fire. “Coach Wells really taught me how to change my running form, how to breathe and how to be more relaxed. Now, I’m running a 48 (seconds).

“It starts with the mindset,” added the Auburn, Alabama, native. “Coach Wells really helped me focus better and on the small little things that help me become faster in track and field.”

Mitchell, a senior, focuses on the 200 meter and 400 meter when she has her track spikes on. The Maryville, Missouri, native also hits the pitch for Knox’s women’s soccer team. Wells isn’t the only track coach Mitchell’s had while donning Prairie Fire gear, but he’s had the biggest impact on her.

“I ran cross country in high school because soccer and track are the same season, so I chose soccer in high school,” Mitchell said. “Coming in, a lot of my teammates had high school coaches who knew how to run and to sprint properly, and I never had any of that. I had the endurance from soccer, but I didn’t know how to actually run. Coach Wells taught me how to run properly, how to be explosive. It has really helped with my short sprints and my endurance.

“Wells is genuinely invested in us and what we each want to achieve, and he knows my goals aren’t the same as Tyrell’s or Derrick’s,” Mitchell added. “Coach has different goals for all of us and makes plans so we can achieve those things.”

Room to grow

Knox’s track and field athletes have achieved their goals with Wells’ help, but there’s not much depth. It’s one area Daniella Irle, the College’s director of athletics, and Wells have focused heavily on. Wells has been hitting the recruiting trail hard, as there’s something to say about strength in numbers.

“Numbers is one of the biggest things. We had some conference champs in specific events last year but after that you’ll have someone else with a third, fourth and fifth place finisher, so even though we may have the winner in the event they still outscore us,” Wells said. “We have to have more depth for each event and bring in more athletes who can score points. We have to continue to bring in good athletes and that’s the biggest thing. If we bring in good student-athletes, they’re going to do well. The great thing about Knox is we’ve got everything here to help our student-athletes get better in what they do. We just have to get that right student-athlete here.”

“We’ve been coming at it from a couple of different angles, quality coaches, equipment, and students,” Irle said. “We feel like we are another class or two from 40 or 60 instead of 20. We want to grow the size of our program, so we have more depth at events. It helps the College and it helps the other talent.”

And what should a prospective Knox student and track athlete know?

“I would tell them that our team is a family, and Coach Wells cares about all of us so much. Just because we have good vibes, it doesn’t mean that we don’t work really really hard. It’s a good environment and you will learn,” Mitchell said. “Wells focuses on those little details that you can learn to make habits that will make you successful.”

Derrick Jackson ’22 recorded two All-American performances in the 2021 season. Photo by Steve Davis

Multiple sport athletes help

Since the College was founded, students have participated in multiple sports, and Wells welcomes those individuals with open arms.

“A lot of it naturally happens especially with a new coach coming in—one of the good things to see was Knox has great athletes in other sports as well so I can take someone who plays basketball. They jump a lot and you can do a jumping event and you should do well. In volleyball you jump, so we can put you in a jumping event and you should do well,” he said. “Volleyball is a fall sport. They do get a spring season but it’s relatively short, so if I can have a volleyball player come out and compete in track and field, then hopefully they go back to volleyball a better athlete but in the process they help me as well.

“I think one of the great things about DIII athletics is you can come here and make this your experience,” Wells added. “If you want to do a fall sport, a winter sport and a spring sport, it’s possible. At the Division I level, you’re kind of at the mercy of the program that gives you a scholarship.”

“We have some really good studentathletes in house and they want to participate in track. They feel it is a program on the rise, and it’s fun to be part of a program that is improving and getting better,” Irle said. “They’re all getting faster, learning, and improving, and that is fun.”

Hermann R. Muelder, Missionaries and Muckrakers: The First Hundred Years of Knox College (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984) 106