Knox College (Illinois)

Last updated
Knox College
Knox College logo.png
Motto Latin: Veritas
Motto in English
Type Private
EstablishedFebruary 15, 1837;183 years ago (1837-02-15)
Endowment $170.2 million (2019) [1]
President Teresa Amott
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States
CampusSmall city
Colors Purple and gold
Athletics20 varsity teams
NCAA Division III
Midwest Conference
MascotPrairie Fire (nickname), Blaze (mascot)

Knox College is a private liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois. Knox College was founded in 1837 and offers more than 60 courses of study.



George Washington Gale (1789-1861), founding father of Knox College George Washington Gale.jpg
George Washington Gale (1789–1861), founding father of Knox College
Old Main, the oldest building on the campus of Knox College Old Main Knox College.jpg
Old Main, the oldest building on the campus of Knox College

Knox College was founded as Knox Manual Labor College in 1837 by a group of Presbyterians and Congregationalists organized by George Washington Gale. Gale was Galesburg's and Knox's "founding father". [2] He believed in the manual labor system of education, and had previously implemented it at America's first such college, the short-lived Oneida Institute, near Utica, New York.

Many of the founders, including the Reverend Samuel Wright, actively supported the Underground Railroad.

Knox has been known by its present name since 1857.[ citation needed ] The name came about as a compromise among its founders. Though founded by a colony of Presbyterians and Congregationalists, the county where the college stands was already named Knox County, after Henry Knox, the first United States Secretary of War. Arguments have also been made that the college was named for Calvinist leader John Knox. It is not certain for which Knox it was named (if not both). George Candee Gale, a great-great-grandson of two of the founders, explains that

Contrary to general belief, Knox was not named for either General Knox or the Scottish Presbyterian Knox, according to my father.... Some wanted the college named for one Knox, some for the other; so they compromised on KNOX. Certainly most of them were pious enough to want the churchman and fighters enough to want the soldier as well. [3]

Jonathan Blanchard's presidency led the school out of debt, but ignited a controversy about whether the school was loyal to the Congregational church or the Presbyterians. Gale and Blanchard were forced out of the school as a result. [4] Knox was the site of the fifth debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. The Old Main building is the only extant site of the debates. Two years after the debates, during his presidential campaign, Lincoln was awarded Knox College's first honorary doctorate—a Doctor of Laws degree, announced at the commencement exercises of 5 July 1860. [5]


Knox employs a 3–3 academic calendar rather than a traditional semester-based approach. In each of the three 10-week terms, students take three courses. Faculty members teach two courses each term, giving them more time for one-on-one mentoring. [6]

All courses of study at Knox contain common elements, including an educational plan that students design. [7]

The college introduced the school's honor code in 1951. [8] All students are held responsible for the integrity of their work, and students are required to abide by the code. Because of this policy, tests are not proctored, and in many cases students may take their exams in any open, public place in the same building. Any cases of students caught disobeying the system are evaluated by their peers through the Honor Board, a committee consisting of three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, and three faculty members.

With the implementation of Renewed Knox, the 2003 curriculum overhaul, the school expanded its academic offerings to meet the needs of a 21st-century liberal arts education. In 2003, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded the school $1 million to create a new major in neuroscience; in 2005, the college signed agreements with The George Washington University to create an early admission program into the university's medical school, [9] and with the University of Rochester to create a direct admissions program into the university's Simon School of Business's MBA program; [10] in 2007 the Peace Corps launched a new program at Knox, establishing the Peace Corps Preparatory Program, the first of its kind in the country; [11] Chinese language instruction, Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, and Film Studies were all added; [12] and new abroad studies programs have been created: the Japan Term, [13] and Knox in New York. [14]

Knox is also known for its Green Oaks term, an interdisciplinary program at the 700-acre (2.8 km2; 1.1 sq mi) Green Oaks Biological Field Station, during which students and faculty spend an entire term conducting research and creative projects and participating in courses in biology, anthropology-sociology, and English, as well as workshops in outdoor skills, first aid, and photography. [15] The Green Field Station began in 1955 under the guidance of zoologists Paul Shepard and George Ward. [16]

Knox also promotes undergraduate research, annually awarding students more than $250,000 in grants to support research and creative projects. Among the programs are the Ford Foundation Research Fellows Program, which funds the scientific, scholarly, and creative projects of 20 students each year, and the summer research program at Knox's Lincoln Studies Center. More than 10 percent of Knox students receive support for independent research and study from the Richter Memorial Foundation Program and the Pew Research Fellowships, which offers Knox students support for off-campus research in science and mathematics. In addition, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund supports student research in ecology and environmental studies and the AAAS/Merck Grant funds interdisciplinary scientific research. [17]

Knox has many distinctive academic programs. The Honors Program is a year-long, in-depth independent research program in which one in seven seniors participates. It culminates in a major thesis or creative portfolio that is presented to and defended before an honors committee that includes Knox faculty and a specialist from outside the college. [18] In 2007, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Knox a $228,750 grant to create a new Center for Research and Advanced Studies to "coordinate Knox's numerous existing programs that support advanced work in the natural and social sciences, humanities, and creative and performing arts." [19] Knox provides a number of combined programs (3 years at Knox, 2–3 years at partnering institutions) to offer a few specialized degrees outside of the core liberal arts disciplines. These include engineering (Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Washington University in St. Louis), environmental management (Duke University), forestry (Duke University), occupational therapy (Washington University in St. Louis), and law (University of Chicago, Columbia University).

Almost half of Knox students take advantage of the opportunities for off-campus learning, studying theatre in London, history in Barcelona, French immersion in Besançon, mathematics in Hungary, social development in Tanzania, language and culture in Japan, political science in Washington, D.C., and a host of other subjects in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States [20]


The Knox College faculty is made up of 120 professors, 95% of whom have a Ph.D. or equivalent degree. The student-faculty ratio is 11:1, while the average class size is 14. Prominent faculty members include Tim Kasser, Middle East expert Robert Seibert, Latin American Expert Karen Kampwirth, Evolutionary Psychologist Frank McAndrew, noted expert on 20th-century American art and director of The National Center for Midwest Art and Design Gregory Gilbert, fiction writer Chad Simpson (author) and co-chairs of the Knox-based Lincoln Studies Center Rodney Davis and Douglas L. Wilson.

Lincoln Studies Center

Davis and Wilson established the Lincoln Studies Center in 1998. The center deals with issues relating to Lincoln's life and legacy by fostering new research, publishing monographs, hosting annual lectures and occasional symposia. Students are often employed as assistants in the various projects at the center. In August 2009, the National Endowment for the Humanities "We the People" initiative awarded Knox $850,000, "a grant that will provide the base of a permanent endowment for the Center." [21]


According to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, Knox is considered a more selective institution, with a lower rate of transfer-in students. [22] In the fall of 2018, 2,738 students applied, 2,500 students were admitted, and 345 chose to enroll. [23] Of the class of 2017, 34% of students were in the top tenth of their class and 66% in the top quarter. The ACT composite Mid-50% range was 24–30 and the SAT mid-50% Range 1190–1380. [24]

Student body

1,258 students were enrolled at Knox in September 2019. They came from 45 states and territories and 49 countries. Forty percent of U.S. students are of color and 19% are international students. Women make up 57% of the student body, men 43%. [24]

Financial aid

Knox says it is "committed to ensuring cost is not a barrier to [an] education." Over the past seven years, the annual increase in the comprehensive fee has ranged from 3.3 to 5.9%. [25] A variety of merit-based scholarships (up to full tuition) and need-based financial aid packages are offered. As recently as 2019,Kiplinger's Personal Finance named Knox a "Best Value" liberal arts college. [26]

The comprehensive cost (tuition, room, board and fees) of an academic year at Knox was $60,144 in 2019-20. [25] U.S. citizens are eligible for a wide array of need- and merit-based scholarships, as well as various federal and private loan programs. [27] There are numerous avenues for on-campus employment during the academic year. The college offers scholarships to qualified international students who wish to take full advantage of an American liberal arts education. [28] International students are also eligible for on-campus jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the median federal debt of Knox College graduates who received student loans was $27,000. In addition, only 53% of students who attended Knox earned, on average, more than those with only a high school diploma. [29]

Student life

Greek organizations

Knox College is home to nine Greek-letter organizations, the oldest of which has been on campus since 1855. Providing a network of alumni to enhance job and life connections, fraternity (men's) and sorority (women's) chapters provide Knox students with living, organizational and learning opportunities. Through their respective inter-Greek governance organizations, chapters conduct a formal recruitment process during each winter term to ensure first-year students have a chance to adjust to college life and classes before joining. Most offer residential housing for members. Some chapters formerly present have closed; of these, alumni members are often still active with the college's alumni association, and recolonization of dormant chapters remains an opportunity for potential new founders.


These organizations are governed by Knox's Panhellenic Council.


These organizations are governed by Knox's Interfraternity Council .


Pumphandle is an annual tradition dating back to 1885 during which new members of the community are welcomed to Knox. On the afternoon before the start of the academic year, all members of the Knox community gather on the south lawn outside Old Main. The president of the college "leads the welcoming line, shaking each person's hand in turn. Everyone shakes the hands of those who have gone before, and the line grows, snaking around the campus." [30]

Flunk Day is an annual spring carnival that allows students, staff, and faculty to mingle and have fun. Classes are canceled for the day as the student body turns its attention to a joke issue of the student newspaper, live music, inflatable bounce rooms, petting zoos, a mud pit, a paint fight, and a seniors vs faculty softball game. The date of Flunk Day changes every year and is a secret until the entire student body is awakened at around 5am on the day. [30] Flunk Day is of particular significance since Knox College does not close for reasons other than winter break and spring break. Flunk Day is a time that students, staff, and faculty can all come together.

Student media

The Knox Student has won numerous awards as one of the best college newspapers in the state of the Illinois, including numerous first-place category awards and general excellence awards from the Illinois College Press Association. [31]

Knox's radio station is WVKC. It is on the fourth floor of George Davis Hall, a former science building that now houses the social science and language departments. Its frequency in Galesburg is 90.7. The Princeton Review ranked it #7 in the nation for "great college radio station" in its 2011 Best 368 Colleges. [32]


A Knox baseball player at bat in a 1908 game versus DePaul University Knox baseball.jpg
A Knox baseball player at bat in a 1908 game versus DePaul University

The Knox College mascot is the Prairie Fire, a name it adopted in 1993 due to controversy surrounding the former mascot, the Old Siwash. The word Siwash is rooted in the language of the Chinook Indians of the Pacific Coast of Canada. It was a derogatory term used by European traders to refer to the indigenous people. [33] The term Old Siwash was popularized by George Helgesen Fitch [34] (Knox Class of 1897) in his book At Good Old Siwash, and was soon adopted as the school's mascot; in 1992 a college publication urged the school to reconsider the name given its pejorative and derogatory implications. [35] The Prairie Fire refers to the annual spring burning of the prairie lands at Green Oaks. First conducted in the 1950s by Knox professor Paul Shepard, the burn protects prairie grasses from intrusions of woodland scrub and competition with "exotic" species that have been introduced to Illinois from other regions or countries to the detriment of organisms that have evolved over millions of years in delicate balance with the environment and each other. [36]

Knox is a member of the Midwest Conference of the NCAA at the Division III level. The school offers 21 men's and women's varsity sports, as well as 11 club sports, including water polo, fencing, and ultimate frisbee. Recent athletic highlights include the 2016, 2017, & 2018 Conference Champion women's soccer teams that participated in the NCAA Division III National Tournament and the 2018 men's soccer team that did the same. All-American baseball player Drake Sykes had an outstanding 2016 season, two-time All-American wrestler Jaran Rutledge placed in the NCAA Division III National Tournament in 2007 (3rd) and 2008 (8th), and All-American high-jumper Austin Rauch finished sixth at the 2019 NCAA Division III Indoor track national championships.

Knox College and Monmouth College have the sixth-longest college football rivalry in the United States. The Bronze Turkey trophy, awarded annually to the victor of their game, was created in 1928 and is the brainchild of Knox football alumnus Bill Collins. [37] ESPN named the Bronze Turkey the fifth "most bizarre college football rivalry trophy". [38]


Seymour Library Knox College Seymour Library 2007.jpg
Seymour Library

Knox College has 45 academic and residential buildings on its 82-acre (330,000 m2) campus. [24] It has electron microscopes, a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, a Celestron telescope, access to the Inter University Consortium for Political & Social Research, the Strong Collection of 18th- and 19th-century maps and photographs, the Hughes Collection of manuscripts and first editions from Hemingway and his "Lost Generation" contemporaries, and a 700-acre (2.8 km2) natural prairie reserve, the Green Oaks Field Station. [39] In 2018, a phased plan to renovate the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center (SMC) was announced with classes being taught in the renovated space beginning with the winter term of 2020, with additional phases of renovations to follow. [40] In 2006, the new E. & L. Andrew Fitness Center was dedicated. The 13,000-square-foot (1,200 m2), $2.4-million facility features state-of-the-art equipment, and is significantly larger than the former fitness center, Memorial Gymnasium. [41]

The centerpiece of campus is Old Main, "the oldest building on its campus, and the best preserved site of one of the 1858 senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas", a National Historic Landmark and part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1928, the Seymour Library was ranked 3rd "Best Library" in the nation by the Princeton Review in 2001. Inside its leaded glass windows and oak-paneled reading rooms, the library houses 350,000 books and more than 14,000 periodicals. [24] Its special collections include the Finley Collection of Midwest History, the Strong Collection of 18th- and 19th-century maps and photographs, the Hughes Collection of manuscripts and first editions of Faulkner, Hemingway and his "Lost Generation" contemporaries, and an original Diderot Encyclopédie. [42]

Famous professor and newspaperman Christopher Morley delivered a three-week series of lectures on "Literature as Companionship" at Knox in 1938. In one of these lectures, "Lonely Fun", he describes the Standish Alcove in the library as modeled after a "gentleman's library," and praises the opportunities the library offered for solitary leisure.[ citation needed ] In addition, Knox offers the Kresge Science & Math Library, which houses the college's scientific and technical collections, [43] [ failed verification ] and the Center for the Fine Arts Music Library (CFA), which has collections of compact discs, vinyl record albums, printed music scores, and a core reference collection. [44]

Four public computer laboratories are accessible to students, with several more departmental labs available and a dedicated language laboratory. The largest, Founders Laboratory, is in Seymour Hall (the student union), and is open 24 hours a day throughout the school year. Scanning (including film-scanning and optical character recognition) is available freely to student users, and printing and copy services are available for a fee. [45] In a move to become more environmentally friendly, recycled-content paper was phased in for use in all college printers in 2005.

In 2002, a major curriculum revision called "Renewed Knox" was launched. With this revision came the creation of six new academic centers: The Center for Research and Advanced Studies, The Center for Global Studies, The Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development, The Center for Community Service, The Center for Teaching and Learning, and The Center for Intercultural Life. [46]

Students established the Knox College Community Garden in 2007 as an independent study project. [47] It continues to be tended by student volunteers, and produces a variety of annual and perennial vegetables and flowers. [48]

U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 18% of students who started college at Knox College later transferred to another school. [49] 16% of the entering class did not return after their first year. [49] Although African Americans make up 13.4% of the U.S. population, they are 8% of the Knox College student body. [49] Knox College graduates typically earn between $18,300 and $33,100, significantly less than the average starting salary paid to college graduates, about $50,000. [49]


Knox College has over 16,000 living alumni on six continents. The alumni giving rate was 24.5% in the 2019-20 giving year, with nearly 7,000 individuals contributing to the college. [50] According to the 2009 Institutional Self-Study, Knox prepares its graduates well for life after graduation. 80 percent of those wishing to attend medical school were accepted (the national average was 50%), while 90% of students who worked with the pre-law advisor were admitted to one or more law schools. [51] Knox is also in the top 3% of schools whose graduates attain a Ph.D. [52] Since 2000, 30 Knox alumni were awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for foreign study. [51]

Notable alumni

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Coordinates: 40°56′35″N90°22′16″W / 40.942953°N 90.370982°W / 40.942953; -90.370982