Knox College is engaged!

By Karrie Heartlein

On May 9th and 10th, Knox College hosted the Midwest Conference Championships in track and baseball – the precursor to the NCAA Division III tournament. More than 450 student athletes came to Galesburg and brought close to 200 spectators with them. Every year, thousands of visitors come to Galesburg for athletic, cultural, and academic experiences made possible by Knox’s investment in its campus and Galesburg.

Last week, Zephyr reporter Mike Kroll claimed that Knox College is “totally disengaged from the local community.” He indicated that Knox has no interest in “participating in community issues,” and urged area businesses to offer internships to Knox students. Poor Mike. He needs to get out more.

Over the past four years, Knox has invested close to $17 million in construction projects that now make the college attractive as host campus to athletic contests like the Midwest Conference Championships in track & field, wrestling, baseball, and soon football.

These projects are almost entirely paid for by donors to the College – most of whom live outside Galesburg – and completed primarily by local contractors and workers. There’s the $2.4 million construction of the E. & L. Andrew Fitness Center, the $800,000 renovation of the track & field venues, the $900,000 Old Main roof replacement, and two projects currently underway – the $1.8 million renovation of the Knox Bowl, and the $500,000 renovation of Memorial Gym. Not to mention the $6.2 million renovation of Hamblin Hall, rededicated last October, the $2 million campus energy conservation project in 2001, and another $2.5 million energy conservation project in 2006. That’s more than $17 million of community engagement!

Disengaged? That’s not the Knox I know. The College’s president, Roger Taylor, sits on the GREDA Board of Directors (in which Knox is an investor), belongs to Rotary and jumps at the chance to show a visitor the window Abraham Lincoln climbed out before his historic fifth debate with Stephen Douglas. Roger travels more than 100 days each year to visit with alumni and donors in all parts of the country. What does he talk about? Knox College and Galesburg. Every year, more than 2,000 prospective students – plus their families – visit Knox, staying in local hotels, drinking coffee at Innkeepers, enjoying dinner at local restaurants, even shopping at the mall. Roger makes a point of trying to meet each of them. What does Roger talk about with these students? Knox College and Galesburg.

Every fall, nearly 1,000 alumni return to Galesburg to celebrate Homecoming at Knox. And every spring, a host of families, friends, and alumni swarm into Galesburg to celebrate Knox’s Commencement. Knox brings thousands of people from around the world to Galesburg each year. Close to 1,300 of them choose to live here for four years, and many more come back regularly year after year.

Knox not interested in local issues? That’s not the Knox I know. Students, faculty and staff infuse energy, enthusiasm, and resources into this area. Last year, more than 60 students held internships in the Galesburg community – including internships with GREDA. Sixty went into local schools to teach and to learn to teach. Sixty-three students take time each week to be reading buddies at Nielson School, and another eight have “adopted” Leanne Scherpe’s classroom at Cooke School. Each week, more than 40 Knox College students spend time with a little brother or sister as part of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.

Knox’s employees are active on campus and off. They volunteer with nearly 100 different social service, civic, and community organizations, from the Red Cross to the United Way, from the local schools and churches to the Girl and Boy Scouts.

I’m not asking for praise from Mr. Kroll, just a little accuracy about the depth and breadth of Knox’s 171-year engagement with the Galesburg community.

Veritas!

Karrie Heartlein is the Knox College Director of Public Relations