Lombard College was founded in 1853 by the Universalist Church as the Illinois Liberal Institute. In April 1855, however, a major fire damaged much of the college, placing its future at risk. The college received substantial financial assistance from Benjamin Lombard and was renamed 'Lombard College'.
Lombard was coeducational from its founding, reflecting the Universalist philosophy. The institution was the seat of the Ryder School of Divinity from sometime in the 1880s until 1913. The very first chapter of the national sorority Alpha Xi Delta was also founded there in 1893.
The Great Depression proved to be too much for Lombard; the last class was graduated in 1930. In 1930, the charter moved to Meadville College in Chicago - the Meadville Lombard Theological School still exists today. The buildings are now used for the Lombard Jr. High School. While Lombard did not merge, some of its students transferred to nearby Knox College, and its alumni activities take place at Knox.
Lombard's nickname was the Golden Tornado.
From the 'History of Knox County' (1878):
The college grounds, 14 acres in extent, are ornamented with trees and shrubs of various kinds. The University building is brick, 3 stories high, 80 feet long and 66 feet wide, and had excellent rooms for libraries, apparatus, lectures and recitations. The invested funds of the University, together with other property, amount to about $175,000. The college library containes nearly 5,000 volumes, besides a large number of pamphlets and magazines. The cabinet is large and contains many valuable specimens. The apparatus is sufficiently extensive for class illustration.
The academic year is divided into three terms, the first beginning usually on the first Monday in September, and continuing sixteen weeks; the second beginning immediately after the holidays, and continuing thirteen weeks; the third beginning one week after the close of the second, and continuing eleven weeks. The annual commencement is on the third Wednesday in June.
From the 'Blue Book of the State of Illinois' (1909):
Lombard College is located in the city of Galesburg. Its buildings are on a beautiful campus of fifteen acres in the eastern part of the city. The college is an outgrowth of The Illinois Liberal Institute which was chartered in 1851, and opened for students in 1852.
In 1853 the institute was invested with college powers and took the name Lombard University in honor of Mr. Benjamin Lombard, who was the largest donor to the college funds at that time.
In 1899 the name was changed again to Lombard College, which is the corporate name today.
The college has never received any aid from the State, being supported mainly by the income from its invested funds, now about $250,000, all of which are gifts from personal friends of the college.
To this Income from permanent funds, the college has for its support such gifts as come in year by year, and receipts from tuition paid by students. The original purpose of the Liberal Institute was to provide a school free from all sectarianism, which in those early days was oppressive. It was practically a high school or academy in grade of work at first, and in the days of its inception, when few towns supported a high school, the institute had an attendance of 300 frequently.
As local high schools increased, the institute, as has been said, raised its educational standards, taking first the name university, which in those days was not very clearly defined. Later it took the fitter name of college. The preparatory work has been less and less, and the college work more and more emphasized. The school affords opportunity for work preparatory for college entrance, but the main work is the regular college course leading to the A. B. or B. S. degrees. The approximate number of students is about 125 each year.
The presidents of Lombard have been Paul Kendall, William Livingston, Otis .Skinner, James P. Weston, Nehemiah White, John V. Standish, John Clarence Lee, C. Ellwood Nash, and the present incumbent, Lewis B. Fisher.
Lombard has sent out about 4,000 men and women who have been students one year and more, some of whom have reached places of distinction, as Hon. Edwin Conger, American minister to China; Harlow N. Higginbotham; Henry N. Morris, consul to Belgium; Vespasian Warner, Commissioner of Pensions; Lilian Whiting, the author, and many others no less distinguished might be named.
This was the second school in the country of college grade to open its doors to men and women on equal terms, and among the first to place itself on a non-sectarian basis. It has a corps of twelve university-trained teachers with five assistant teachers. This gives each student a rare and exceedingly valuable opportunity to come in contact directly with men and women of the finest culture daily in the class room, and in many hours of personal consultation.
The college has a department of music offering special teacher's courses. Its new gymnasium and broad campus offers exceptional opportunity for athletics and physical culture. Its department of elocution and expression has also attracted favorable attention.
Lombard College pictures