Principia College

Last updated
Principia College
MottoAs The Sowing, The Reaping
Type Private liberal arts college
Established1912;109 years ago (1912)
Religious affiliation
Church of Christ, Scientist
Endowment $696.2 million (2020) [1]
President John Williams
Administrative staff
Location, ,
United States

38°56′56″N90°20′56″W / 38.949°N 90.349°W / 38.949; -90.349 Coordinates: 38°56′56″N90°20′56″W / 38.949°N 90.349°W / 38.949; -90.349
Campus Rural, 2,500 acres (10 km2)
Mascot Panther, Thunder Chicken (Rugby)
Colors Blue and Gold
Principia College wordmark.jpg

Principia College (Principia or Prin) is a private liberal arts college in Elsah, Illinois. It was founded in 1912 by Mary Kimball Morgan with the purpose of "serving the Cause of Christian Science." [2] Although the college says that it has no formal affiliation with the Church of Christ, Scientist, it also claims that "the practice of Christian Science is the cornerstone of campus life" [3] and "Christian Science [is] in action everywhere on campus". [4]


Principia sits on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River between Alton and Grafton in the Metro East region of Southern Illinois, thirty miles north of St. Louis. A portion of the school's 2,500-acre (1,000 ha) campus is a designated National Historic Landmark District, for its many buildings and design by architect Bernard Maybeck.


Although Principia College was born out of The Principia, founded by Mary Kimball Morgan in 1898, the name Principia was not adopted until the year 1898. [5] As Morgan's school grew, the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, approved The Principia's reference as a Christian Science school. [5] Emerging from the Principia Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools founded between 1898 and 1906, Principia College was established with a purpose of "serving the Cause of Christian Science through appropriate channels open to it as an educational institution." [6] [7] The college, however, has no official affiliation with the Christian Science Church and Christian Science is not taught as a subject, but its principles form the basis of community life at Principia. [8] The first Upper School class graduated in 1906 and it is from this class that a junior college was established, whose first alumni graduated in 1917. Principia College has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1923. [9]

Principia's campus sits on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Principia from air.jpg
Principia's campus sits on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River

Following this time period, architect Bernard Maybeck was commissioned to design a new college campus in Elsah, Illinois and by 1931 ground was broken on what would become Maybeck's largest commission. [10] [11]

In 1934, Principia College graduated its first class as a full four-year institution and in 1935 the college was officially moved to its present-day location in Elsah. On April 19, 1993, about 300 acres (120 ha) of the campus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior. The year 1998 marked centennial celebrations by the school. The Principia College campus was once considered as the site for the United States Air Force Academy though ultimately the Air Force chose a location in Colorado Springs, Colorado, instead.

A Measles outbreak at Principia in 1985 sickened more than 100 students and resulted in three deaths. [12] Another outbreak in 1989 also sickened more than 100 students. [12]

In the 21st century, the school's enrollment size has declined due to the dwindling number of Christian Scientists. [13] A 2014 sexual assault scandal involving the football team and a 2015 child sex scandal involving a college employee damaged the school's reputation. [13]


Principia College Chapel Principia-chapel-LARGE2.jpg
Principia College Chapel

Housing and student life facilities

Buck House Buck House.jpg
Buck House
Mistake House Mistake House.jpg
Mistake House

There are ten student dormitories on campus: Anderson Hall, Rackham Court, Howard House, Sylvester House, Buck House, Brooks House, Ferguson House, Joe McNabb, Lowrey House, and Clara McNabb. The first six mentioned were designed by former University of California, Berkeley professor and AIA Gold Medal winner Bernard Maybeck in 1935, as was the campus' chapel. [14] Maybeck attempted to use different architectural styles and building techniques for each of these dormitories and for the chapel. In an effort to ensure success with his designs and materials, he experimented with them through the creation of a small building known affectionately by Principians as the "Mistake House."[ citation needed ] In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, the Principia College Campus was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places [15] by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois).

Organization and administration

Principia has an endowment of $696.2 million as of June 2020, [16] giving it one of the highest endowments of any U.S. institution. [17] The endowment size declined by more than $100 million in the decade prior to 2018. [13]


Principia College offers twenty-seven majors in the liberal arts and sciences. The college does not currently offer a graduate program. The most popular majors include mass communication, biology, sociology, anthropology, studio and fine art, and business administration. [18] [19]

Principia offers various Study Abroad & Field Programs, International Student Programs, Conferences, and International Student Experiences. [20] [21]

In their 2019 rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Principia #83 (up from #139 in 2014) among all National Liberal Arts Colleges, and #5 in the category of "Best Value Schools". As of 2019, Principia College's annual tuition costs were $29,470, with additional costs of $11,610 for room and board (99% of freshmen lived on campus in 2018-19). In 2017, the school had an acceptance rate above 90%. [22]

Student life

Principia College has a diverse student composition and amount of organizations given its size. 20% of its students are international and represent thirty countries on six of the world's seven continents. [23] [ failed verification ] The college has forty student clubs and organizations, among these the Euphrates and Leadership institutes. [23] [24] The Public Affairs Conference at the college is one of oldest student-led conferences in America and has been held annually since 1939. [25] The Principia College Speaker Series is a group of past, present, and future events that has featured United States President Barack Obama, American statesmen and retired four-star general Colin Powell, former United States president George H.W. Bush, former United States president Jimmy Carter, American author and poet Maya Angelou, David McCullough, Elie Wiesel, American actor and director Robert Duvall, Val Kilmer, Coretta Scott King, and Margaret Thatcher among others. [26] In addition to the Public Affairs Conference Principia College holds an International Perspectives Conference with a focus on global issues such as human rights in Africa. [27]


Of the technological programs present at Principia College, most prevalent and distinguished is its study in solar energy. The college has competed in solar car world events since 1995 and finished second in the North American Solar Challenge of 2008 and seventh in the World Solar Challenge of 2009. [28]


Principia College teams participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC). The Principia Panther is the official mascot of Principia College and has been since its change from the Indian in 1984. [5] There are sixteen varsity athletic teams at Principia College of which men's sports are baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, and rugby; and women's sports include basketball, cross country, beach volleyball, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and volleyball. [23]

In 1983, the women's tennis team won the NCAA Division III national championship. [5]

In 2013, the men's rugby team won the first ever Open Division USA Rugby 7s Collegiate National Championship, beating the University of Wisconsin-Stout 27-12 in the championship match. [29]


Notable Principia College alumni include:

See also

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Butler Stevens Sturtevant was an American landscape architect.

Principia College Historic District United States historic place

The Principia College Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District encompassing the central portion of the campus of Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. The campus master plan, as well as eleven of its buildings, are important late designs of architect Bernard Maybeck, best known for his influential architecture in the American West. The Principia was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993., and was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places that same year.


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