Happy Founders’ Day, Alpha Xi Delta (and a Connection to Carl Sandburg)

Alpha Xi Delta was founded at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois on April 17, 1893. Its founders are Cora Bollinger Block, Alice Bartlett Bruner, Bertha Cook Evans, Harriett Luella McCollum, Lucy W. Gilmer, Lewie Strong Taylor, Almira Lowry Cheney, Frances Elisabeth Cheney, Eliza Drake Curtis Everton, and Julia Maude Foster. At age 15, Alice Barlett Bruner was the youngest of Alpha Xi Delta’s founders; Eliza Curtis Everton, a 25-year-old widow, was the oldest founder.

Coeducational from its beginning, Lombard College was founded in 1853 by the Universalist Church. Originally called the Illinois Liberal Institute, its name was changed in 1855, after a fire damaged much of the college. Businessman and farmer Benjamin Lombard gave the college a large gift to build a new building and the institution was named in his honor. Among Lombard’s students was Carl Sandburg.

The book Alpha Xi Delta, A 100-Year History recounts an interesting story which Jessie Brown Robson recalled many years after it happened. Early in its history, the chapter opened a bank account in preparation for the organization’s desired expansion to other campuses. Founder Frances Cheney, whom Robson called “a saint,” wanted to lend some of the savings to the boy who mowed the Lombard College lawn for him to use for his tuition. “Cora (Bollinger Block) was indignant and said the money was for expansion,” wrote Jessie. “She said, ‘Can’t you see when Alpha Xi Delta will be in every first-rate college? How can we do that if we give money to Carl, who would probably hop a freight train to Heaven knows where?'” Robson added, “If Cora had known that the same Carl Sandburg would be known all over the world as one of America’s greatest writers, maybe she would not have been so stingy with the money.”

Carl Sandburg, pictured second on the right in the second row, was captain of his Lombard College Basketball Team. (Photo courtesy of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Galesburg, IL)

In 1902, Iowa Wesleyan College’s Chapter S of the P.E.O. Sisterhood became the Beta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. With this move, Alpha Xi Delta became a national organization, rather than just a local on the Lombard campus, and the P.E.O. Sisterhood became an organization of community adult women.

The 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression hit Lombard College extremely hard and the college closed its doors. The last class graduated in 1930. Knox College invited the Lombard students to transfer to Knox, with the same tuition cost as Lombard, and without loss of academic standing. Knox also incorporated the Lombard alumni into the Knox Alumni Association.

Ladies Hall, Lombard College


To read more about the history of the Illinois State Chapter of P.E.O. visit the link to the page about it and Lulu Corkhill Williams  http://wp.me/P20I1i-Qf .

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013.

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