Knox College

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Knox College is a four-year coeducational private liberal arts college located in Galesburg, Illinois. It is home to 1,351 students and some black squirrels. Download the Campus map(PDF). <googlemap lat="40.942629" lon="-90.371733" type="map" zoom="15" width="550" height="200">

40.941819, -90.371261, Knox campus </googlemap>

Official Seal of Knox College, adopted in 1903


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 which Knox it was named for (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 Scotch 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."[1]

Knox is also proud of its past as the inspiration for the rambunctious and lively college immortalized in 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.[2]

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. The 2007 commencement speaker was former President Bill Clinton, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Madeleine Albright also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters for her commencement address in 2008.

Knox College is one of 40 colleges in the nation featured in "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College," by Loren Pope, former education editor of The New York Times and founder of The College Placement Bureau.

Knox's President, Roger Taylor, was chosen as one of Yale Daily News Guide to the Colleges "Most Attractive Presidents."

Students and faculty

Student Profile[3]

  • 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; 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:


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


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

School Mascot

The mascot of Knox college is the Prairie Fire.[4] The mascot was never officially the Siwash but alums are still mad about the switch. Ask Brian Gaower for the story. 1993.[5]

Unofficial Mascot

The unofficial mascot of Knox College is the Prairie Dragon, coined by Kristin Mussar, 2009. The Prairie Dragon has the body of a squirrel, with wings of a dragon. It also has the ability to breathe fire and thus start prairie fires. While sightings of the actual Prairie Dragon are rare on campus, it can be seen in the following picture, or on the shirts of fellow students. Kristin hopes that the legacy of the Prairie Dragon will live on at Knox for several years to come, and invites all inquires related to its history and discovery to be directed to Kristin.

Praire Dragon NewFireOldWords smallest perhaps.jpg


In 1843 prefecture- trustee Rev. Samuel G. Wright declared, “eternal, unalterable, opposition unto sloth and wickedness.” The overwhelmingly anti- slavery student body responded to Wright’s command by initiating what has remained one of America’s longest standing intercollegiate rivalries against pro- slavery Yale University. In 1906 124 Knox males walked 1038 miles to New Haven, Ct, where upon arrival they proceeded to raze Yale’s observatory and woman's dormitories. In 1952, after over 100 years of rivalry, Knox College students succeeded in freeing Yale’s slaves.


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 700-acre 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, state-of-the-art 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.

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.[1]

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 year. Scanning (including film-scanning and optical character recognition) is available freely to student users, and printing and copy services are available for a small 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. Pumphandle was recently named one of the five weirdest college traditions.

Flunk Day

Flunk Day is an annual spring carnival. Planned by two students and a small number of administrators, the date of Flunk Day is kept secret from the campus until the morning of, when the bell in Old Main rings and a cadre of seniors known as the “Friars” who are now gathered together about 15 minutes before the official start of Flunk Day by the student planners run around campus blowing whistles and pounding on doors around 5:45 a.m. for the 6 a.m. beginning. 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. However, since the school is trying to tone down Flunk Day, the Friars are now only given 15 minutes to get wasted.

Classes are canceled for the day as the student body turns its attention to a joke issue of the student newspaper, drinking, mud-pits, live music and petting zoos.[6]

Supposedly the best flunk day scare ever was when a small group of students broke into Old Main and began ringing the bell. Recent Flunk day scares have been tame at best, with little to no effort put into actually convincing the students that it was truly flunk day.

Pregnancy Scare Day

Pregnancy Scare Day has continued with few interruptions since its conception in the mid 1920’s by Knox’s female students. It was originally begun in opposition to the all male group of flunk day organizers, however has continued since the inclusion of women in planning in the mid 1980’s. The exact date of Pregnancy Scare Day is determined by a secret group of upperclassmen women.


Notable alumni


  • "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.[7]


  1. Calkins, Earnest Elmo. (1937) They broke the prairie, University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06094-6
  2. Muelder, Hermann R. (1959) Fighters for freedom, Columbia University Press. ISBN 1-58152-409-9
  3. Knox College Fast Facts
  4. Prairie Fire - The Wiki Fire the unofficial, free encyclopedia of Knox College
  5. Siwash - The Wiki Fire
  6. [http://w Internal Flunk Day - The Wiki Fire]
  7. Stephen Colbert, Commencement Address to Knox College, June 3, 2006, via


  • Knox College 2004-2005 Catalog
  • Knox College Student Handbook 2004-2005