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Knox College
Official Seal of Knox College, adopted in 1903
Motto Veritas (Truth)
Established February 15, 1837
Type Private
Endowment US $56 million [1]
President Roger Taylor
Faculty 133
Students 1,382
Location Galesburg, IL, USA
Campus Small city
Colors Purple and gold
Mascot Prairie Fire
Athletics 21 varsity teams
NCAA Division III
Midwest Conference

Knox College is a four-year coeducational private liberal arts college located in Galesburg, Illinois. Knox is classified as a more selective institution by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and is currently ranked 80th among liberal arts colleges by U.S.News and World Report.[2] It is one of 40 schools featured in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives.



Knox College was founded in 1837 by anti-slavery social reformers, led by George Washington Gale. One founder, the Rev. Samuel Wright, actively supported the Underground Railroad. The original name for the school was "Knox Manual Labor College," but it has been known by its present name since 1857.

The naming of the college is a curious story. Though founded by a colony of Presbyterians and Congregationalists, the county in which the college is located was already named Knox County, after Henry Knox, the US' first Secretary of War. Arguments have been made that the college was named for Calvinist leader John Knox, but 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]

Knox is also proud of its past as the inspiration for the rambunctious and lively college immortalized in Knox alumnus George H. Fitch’s humorous stories about "Good Old Siwash," which were hugely popular in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Fitch, a Knox graduate of 1897, published his stories in the Saturday Evening Post, fondly depicting a college of high-spirited young men and women making the most out of the extracurricular, athletic and social aspects of a residential college. Knox students were delighted to find themselves parodied in stories that grew into several books and eventually a Hollywood movie (Those Were the Days, starring William Holden, filmed on the Knox campus in 1940). "Old Siwash" became a popular nickname for Knox College, and was for many years the name of the mascot as well. (It was changed to the "Prairie Fire" in 1993.)

Knox was the site of the fifth debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. The Old Main building is the only site from the debates that still exists today. Two years after the debates, and during his presidential campaign, Lincoln received the first honorary doctorate ever conferred by Knox College—a Doctor of Laws degree, announced at the commencement exercises of 5 July 1860. [4]



According to current U.S. News and World Report rankings, Knox is the 80th best liberal arts college in the United States. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Knox the 16th best liberal arts college, [5] and the 46th best college overall [6] from among over 500 public and private colleges and universities in the United States. Forbes' first ever rankings for academic institutions uses a ranking system based on evaluations, notable alumni, student debt, percentage of students graduating in four years, and the number of students or faculty receiving prestigious awards. The Princeton Review consistently cites Knox on its "Best of" lists, most recently in 2008 as one of the Best 368 Schools,[7] and one of the Best Midwestern Colleges.[8] Kiplinger has placed Knox 43rd [9] on its list of the top 50 values in private liberal arts colleges, measuring academic quality and affordability. And in 2007 the Washington Monthly named Knox the 36th best liberal arts college,[10] calling their list "a guide not just to what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country." [11] Knox College is also one of 40 schools featured in Loren Pope's highly influential book, Colleges That Change Lives.

Academic program

Knox employs a 3-3 academic calendar to provide depth and flexibility to academic pursuits. In each of the three 10-week terms, students take only three courses, giving students time and energy for a deeper level of study than they might have with a heavier course load. Each course is the equivalent of a semester's worth of work. Faculty members teach only two courses each term, giving them more time for one-on-one mentoring. The long break between the fall and winter terms lets students engage in career and graduate school exploration, pursue an independent research project, or take advantage of an internship or one of the school's off-campus study opportunities.[12]

No matter what course of study students decide to pursue, education at Knox contains three common elements: an educational plan that students design, a selection of courses that ensures a broad foundation in the liberal arts, and a chance for students to apply what they learn through internships, independent research and other "experiential learning" opportunities.[13]

Knox College introduced the school's honor code in 1951. All students are held responsible for the integrity of their own 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 within 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 2002 curriculum overhaul, the school has expanded its academic offerings to meet the needs of a liberal arts education in the 21st century. In 2003, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded the school a $1 million grant to create a new major in neuroscience; in 2005, it signed agreements with The George Washington University to create an early admission program into the university's medical school,[14] and with the University of Rochester to create a direct admissions program into the university's Simon School of Business's MBA program;[15] in 2007 the Peace Corps launched a new partnership with Knox establishing the Peace Corps Preparatory Program, the first of its kind in the country;[16] Chinese language instruction, Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, and Film Studies were all added;[17] and new abroad studies programs have been created: the Japan Term,[18] and Knox in New York.[19]

Knox also boasts 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.[20]

Also unique to the school is the 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.[21]

Knox is also a leader in promoting top-notch 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.[22]

And almost 50 percent of Knox students take advantage of the many 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 U.S.[23]


Knox is more selective than many institutions. They receive at least six applications for every space in the entering class. Typically about 50 percent of the applicants come from the top ten percent of their high school classes, 75% from the top quarter. They have taken advantage of all their secondary schools and community colleges have to offer including honors, Advanced Placement.[citation needed] According to The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Knox is considered to be a more selective institution, with a lower rate of transfer-in students.[24]

Student body

Currently, 1,382 students study at Knox. Knox is a very interesting and diverse community with students from 47 states and territories and 48 countries. Eighteen percent of students are students of color (5 percent African American, 7 percent Asian American, 5 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Native American), and 7 percent are international students.[25]


The Knox College faculty is made up of 133 professors, 98 percent of whom hold a Ph.D. or equivalent degree. The student-faculty ratio is 12:1, while the average class size is 18. Prominent faculty members include noted author Robert Hellenga, psychologist of materialistic values Tim Kasser, former Supreme Court Fellow Lane Sunderland and co-chairs of the Knox-based Lincoln Studies Center: Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson.[26]


Knox College has 42 academic and residential buildings on its 82-acre (330,000 m2) campus. Knox boasts 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[27]. 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. [28]

Built in 1928, the handsome Seymour Library is the soul of the campus and 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 more than a quarter of a million books and subscribes to more than 700 periodicals. 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 from Hemingway and his “Lost Generation” contemporaries, and an original Diderot Encyclopédie[29].

Seymour Library in March

Famous professor and newspaperman Christopher Morley delivered a three-week-long series of lectures on "Literature as Companionship" at Knox in March and April 1938. In one of these lectures, entitled "Lonely Fun", he describes the Standish Alcove in the library as modeled after a "gentleman's library," and praised the opportunities the library offered for solitary leisure.[citation needed] In addition, Knox offers the Kresge Science & Math Library, which houses the scientific and technical collections of the college[30], 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[31].

Knox's radio station is WVKC. It is located 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. It is ranked #9 in the nation for "great college radio station" by the Princeton Review in their 2008 Best 368 Colleges rankings.[32]

Four public computer laboratories are accessible to students, with several more departmental labs available and a dedicated language laboratory. The largest, Founders Laboratory (a converted smoking lounge from many years ago), which is located in Seymour Hall (the student union), 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[33]. In a move to become more environmentally friendly beginning fall of 2005 recycled-content paper is being phased in for use in all college printers, addressing the issues of paper waste.[citation needed]

In 2002, a major curriculum revision entitled "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.[34]

Students established the Knox College Community Garden in 2007 as an independent study project[35]. It continues to be tended by student volunteers, and produces a variety of annual and perennial vegetables and flowers[36].

Costs and financial aid

Knox is consistently cited for the value and quality of its education, whether by the Princeton Review, Forbes, or Kiplinger. Knox earned those rankings by offering an outstanding liberal arts education, a nationally recognized faculty, a 12:1 student-faculty ratio that encourages close interaction and personal attention, and a wealth of opportunities for independent research and off-campus study. And the school is committed to ensuring cost is not a barrier to that education. Over the past seven years, the annual increase in the comprehensive fee has ranged from 3.3 to 4.9%.[37] A wide variety of merit-based scholarships and need-based financial aid packages are offered to help students meet their college expenses. As recently as 2004, the Princeton Review named Knox #1 for "Students Happy with Financial Aid" and #7 for "Best Academic Bang for Your Buck."

The comprehensive cost (tuition, room, board and fees) of an academic year at Knox was equal to $40,365 in 2010-2011.[38] Knox is one of a select group of American colleges which have a need-blind admission policy for domestic students. U.S. citizens are eligible for a wide array of need- and merit-based scholarships, as well as various federal and private loan programs.[39] Furthermore, there are numerous avenues for on-campus employment during the academic year. Knox College offers generous scholarships to outstanding international students who wish to take full advantage of what the American liberal arts mode of education has to offer. [40]International students are also eligible for on-campus jobs.

Campus traditions

Pumphandle is an annual tradition that occurs at the beginning of each new school year. Most of the entire campus population - including students, faculty, staff and visiting alumni - gather on the south lawn of Old Main. A line is formed beginning with the President of the College. Everyone else then moves down the line, shaking hands as they go by. In this way, everyone in the line shakes the hand of everyone else.

Flunk Day is an annual spring carnival that allows students, staff, and faculty to mingle and have fun. Planned by a number of senior students and a small number of administrators, the date of Flunk Day is kept secret from the campus. Much speculation occurs among the students as they try to predict when Flunk Day will occur. When Flunk Day occurs, the bell in Old Main rings and a cadre of seniors known as the “Friars” are gathered together (said Friars are normally inebriated). The Friars run across the campus, ringing bells, blowing whistles, and making noise in order to announce the arrival of Flunk Day. All of this occurs between 5:00 and 6:00 A.M. In years past, Friars were taken the evening before Flunk Day for a night of merriment and then they were returned to campus to wake everyone up.

Classes are canceled for the day as the student body turns its attention to a joke issue of the student newspaper, mud-pits, live music, inflatable bounce rooms, petting zoos and a senior-faculty softball game.[41] Flunk Day is of particular significance due to the fact that Knox College does not close for reasons other than Christmas Break and Spring Break. This one day, Flunk Day, is a time that students, staff, and faculty can all come together.



The current 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 local people.[42] The term Old Siwash was popularized by George Finch[43] (Knox Class of 1897) in his book At Good Old Siwash, and was soon adopted as the school's mascot. However, in 1992 a college publication urged the school to reconsider the name given its pejorative and derogatory implications.[44] 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.[45]

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 club sports in such things as water polo, fencing, and ultimate frisbee.

Knox College is part of the sixth-longest college football rivalry in the United States with Monmouth College. The Bronze Turkey trophy, awarded annually to the victor of the football game, was created in 1928 and is the brainchild of Knox football alumnus Bill Collins.[46] The Bronze Turkey was named the fifth "most bizarre college football rivalry trophy" by ESPN. [47]

Recent commencement speakers

Each year since 2005, Knox had had several well-known commencement speakers, including (in chronological order) Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, and Patrick J. Fitzgerald.


Knox College has over 15,000 living alumni on all seven continents. The alumni giving rate was equal to 36.4% (the highest rate among liberal arts colleges in Illinois) in the 2008-2009 giving year, with more than 5,500 individuals contributing to the college.[48] [49]

Notable alumni include:


  1. ^ Knox in the News (
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ (Calkins 1937)
  4. ^ (Muelder 1959)
  5. ^ Forbes Rankings - Knox website
  6. ^ Forbes Rankings
  7. ^ Princeton Review Rankings - the Princeton Review website
  8. ^ Princeton Review Rankings - the Princeton Review website
  9. ^ Kiplinger Rankings - the Kiplinger website
  10. ^ Washington Monthly Rankings - the Washington Monthly website
  11. ^ Washington Monthly Rankings Intro - the Washington Monthly website
  12. ^ Academic Calendar - the Knox College website
  13. ^ Curriculum - the Knox College website
  14. ^ Early Admissions - from Knox College website
  15. ^ Business and Management - from Knox College website
  16. ^ Peace Corps Program - from Knox College website
  17. ^ Courses of Study - from Knox College website
  18. ^ Japan Term - from Knox College website
  19. ^ Art Special Programs - from Knox College website
  20. ^ Honors Program - from Knox College website
  21. ^ Green Oaks Term - from Knox College website
  22. ^ Undergraduate Research - from Knox College website
  23. ^ Off-Campus Study - from Knox College website
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Green Oaks - from The Wiki Fire
  28. ^ Andrews Fitness Center - the Knox College website
  29. ^ Diderot Encyclopédie - from The Wiki Fire
  30. ^ Kresge Science-Mathematics Library - from The Wiki Fire
  31. ^ Music Library - from The Wiki Fire
  32. ^ Best College Radio Station - from The Princeton Review
  33. ^ Founders Computer Lab - from The Wiki Fire
  34. ^ Centers of Learning - from Knox College website
  35. ^ [2] - from The Knox Student
  36. ^ [3] - from school website
  37. ^ Cost and Financial Aid - from Knox College website
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ Flunk Day - The Wiki Fire
  42. ^ Origins of Siwash
  43. ^ Etymology of Siwash -
  44. ^ North American Society for Sport History - Siwash - NASSH Proceedings
  45. ^ Prairie Burn - via
  46. ^ Bronze Turkey Trophy - via
  47. ^ [4] - via
  48. ^ [5]
  49. ^ [6]


  • Knox College 2004-2005 Catalog
  • Knox College Student Handbook 2004-2005
  • a Calkins, Earnest Elmo. (1937) They broke the prairie, University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06094-6
  • b Muelder, Hermann R. (1959) Fighters for freedom, Columbia University Press. ISBN 1-58152-409-9

External links

Coordinates: 40°56′35″N 90°22′16″W / 40.942953°N 90.370982°W / 40.942953; -90.370982

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