Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Even Earlier College Days

Just after North Central celebrates their 150th birthday, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois will be celebrating their 175th starting in January. Like North Central College, Knox was built on a religious foundation, in this case Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

George Washington Gale of New York graduated from Union College and was later ordained in the St. Laurence Presbytery, He started as a preacher, but became increasingly interested in higher education. Gale experimented with manual labor training by offering to educate young men in exchange for their labor. The experiment was such a success that he incorporated the Oneida Institute in 1827.

The manual labor training plan was expanded and by 1836, Gale released his "Circular and Plan" for a "prairie college" in Illinois. His town, Galesburg, was built around the college and by 1837, Knox Manual Labor College was admitting its first students.

Sylvanus Ferris was a close friend of Gale and a great supporter of his educational vision, helping to make the college a reality. Syrvanus' grandson, George Washington Gale Ferris, was obviously named after this friend of the family, although he moved from Galesburg by the time he was five years old. George Ferris became pretty well-known himself in later years, debuting an invention of his at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition called the Ferris Wheel.

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