Knox Manual Labor College

Knox College (Illinois)

Knox College is a four-year coeducational private liberal arts college located in Galesburg, Illinois.


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."

Knox is also proud of its past as the inspiration for the rambunctious and lively college immortalized in Knox alumnus George 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 degree ever conferred by Knox College—a Doctor of Laws degree, announced at the Commencement exercises of 5 July, 1860.

Commencement speakers and honorary degrees

U.S. Senator Barack Obama was the commencement speaker for the class of 2005. Stephen Colbert spoke and received an honorary diploma in the 2006 ceremony. Also receiving an honorary degree in 2006 were Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales and former Ambassador to Madagascar Shirley Barnes. Former President Bill Clinton received an honorary degree and delivered the commencement address in 2007. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright was the most recent commencement speaker, and received an honorary degree at the 2008 commencement ceremony.

Students and faculty

Student profile

  • Size: 1,351
  • Points of Origin: 45 states; 44 countries
  • Credentials: 67 % graduated in the top quarter of their high school class; 32 % graduated in the top tenth.
  • Diversity: 56 % women; 44 % men; 35 % cyborg; 15 % students of color (4 % African American, 6 % Asian American, 4 % Latino, 1 % Native American); 7 % international

Faculty profile

  • Size: 127 (97 full-time, 30 part-time)
  • Student-faculty ratio: 12:1
  • Qualifications: 93 % have Ph.D. or equivalent degree
  • Average Class Size: 17

Fraternities and sororities





Knox College is a member of the Midwest Conference in the following NCAA Division III sports:

Men Basketball - Cross Country - Golf - Swimming and Diving - Soccer - Track and Field - Tennis - Football - Baseball - Wrestling

Women Basketball - Cross Country - Golf - Swimming and Diving - Soccer - Track and Field - Tennis - Volleyball - Softball

Knox College was a member of the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference from 1919-1937.

School mascot

The mascot of Knox college is the Prairie Fire. The mascot was formerly the Old Siwash but was changed in 1993.


Knox College is part of the sixth-longest college football rivalry in the United States, along with rival 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 alum Bill Collins The Bronze Turkey has been ranked by ESPN as the fifth "most bizarre college football rivalry trophies"


Knox College has 42 academic and residential buildings on its 82 acre 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 natural prairie reserve, the Green Oaks Field Station. The new E. & L. Andrew Fitness Center was dedicated on February 17, 2006, a $2.4-million facility.


Built in 1928, the handsome Seymour Library is the soul of the campus and was ranked as high as 3rd in the nation by the Princeton Review. 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.

Famous professor and newspaperman Christopher Morley delivered a three-week-long series of lectures on "Literature as Companionship" at Knox in March and April of 1938. In one of these lectures, entitled "Lonely Fun" he describes the Standish Alcove in the library as modelled after a "gentleman's library," and praised the opportunities the library offered for solitary leisure.

In addition, Knox offers the Kresge Science & Math Library, which houses the scientific and technical collections of the college, 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.

Radio station

Knox has a radio station - WVKC. It is located on the fourth floor of George Davis Hall, a former science building that now houses social science and language departments. Its frequency in Galesburg is 90.7. It is ranked by the Princeton Review as #10 in the nation for "great college radio station" in their 2007 Best 361 Colleges rankings.

Computer laboratories

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.

Addressing the issues of paper waste and 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. In addition, one printer is stocked with reused paper—printed on one side, the paper remains suitable for scratch copies, rough drafts, and other informal printing needs.

The Honor Code

Knox College introduced the Honor Code by students 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 two faculty members.

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

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. 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.

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 the only time that students, staff, and faculty can all come together.


Notable alumni

Notable honorary degrees



  • "Now will saying 'yes' get you in trouble at times? Will saying 'yes' lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don't be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying 'yes' begins things. Saying 'yes' is how things grow. Saying 'yes' leads to knowledge. 'Yes' is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say 'yes.'" Stephen Colbert to the 2006 graduating class.
  • "In South Africa, where Mandela and I started a biracial youth service program like AmeriCorps that works in the townships, the kids adopted as their motto the Xhosa term 'Ubuntu,' which means, roughly translated into English: 'I am because you are.' If we cannot meaningfully exist without one another, then by definition what we have in common is more important than our differences. I think all of you should think about that as you leave. I think nobody in this graduating class has a racist bone in their bodies. You don't have an elitist bone in your body either. I could tell that the way you clapped for the grounds staff that put the chairs up. That meant a lot to me. But you have gifts. And it is very important that we make the most of our gifts without falling too much in love with them. North of Mandela's home, in the central highlands of Africa, where we also do our AIDS work, there's a fascinating tradition of greeting. When people meet each other on a path, the first person will say, 'Hello. How are you?' But the answer is not, 'I'm fine.' The answer, translated into English is, 'I see you.' Think of that. Think of all the people in this world today who will not be seen. The reason I was so happy that you clapped for the grounds staff is that every place there's a commencement exercise in America, we'll all get up and leave, and somebody will have to come in and clean up after us. And they'll have to fold up the chairs and clean off the litter. Some places the sod will be torn up and it will have to be resodded. And enormous numbers of the people who do that work feel like they are never seen." Former President Bill Clinton to the 2007 graduating class.



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

See also

External links

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