I love it when random historical pictures show up on my facebook feed. The photo below was posted by a Monmouth College Pi Beta Phi alumna who is a facebook friend of a friend of mine. It’s a picture from a 1927 Lombard College yearbook. The page is titled “Lombard 100 Years from Now!” under the word “Dirt” and it contains humorous predictions about Lombard life in 2027.
Sadly and seemingly, none of those predictions came true (although Pi Phis still sing “Ring Ching Ching” whenever possible). Even sadder, Lombard College ceased to exist. Some of the students who are pictured as underclassmen in that yearbook did not have the opportunity to graduate from Lombard.
Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois was coeducational from its beginning. It 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 with which to build a new building and the institution was named in his honor. Among its students was Carl Sandburg. And among its faculty, if only for one year, was David Starr Jordan, who would later leave his mark on Indiana University and Stanford University (see http://wp.me/p20I1i-Md for more info on Jordan and http://wp.me/p20I1i-L7 for more info on Sandburg).
Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women was founded as I.C. Sorosis in nearby Monmouth, Illinois in 1867. The chapter at Lombard was founded in 1872 and was the organization’s fifth chapter. It remained the only women’s fraternity on the Lombard campus until 1893, when ten young women decided to start their own organization, which they named Alpha Xi Delta.
The Illinois Delta Chapter of Pi Beta Phi was founded at Knox College in 1884 and the Alpha Xi Deltas may have seen the interaction between the two Pi Beta Phi chapters or the interactions between chapters of the men’s organizations then on campus. In 1902, the Alpha Xi Deltas, with the “interested cooperation” of the Lombard College Sigma Nus developed a constitution. The Alpha Xi Deltas approved the constitution and expansion possibilities were sought.
On the other side of the Mississippi River, about 80 miles west of the Lombard College campus, the original chapter of P.E.O. at the Iowa Wesleyan College, was in a quandary. P.E.O. had begun as a collegiate organization and made its debut on January 21, 1869 about a month after the organization of the Iowa Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi. In 1902, Iowa Wesleyan College’s Chapter S of the P.E.O. Sisterhood became the Beta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. This move certified that Alpha Xi Delta was now 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. Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Xi Delta were now competitors on two campuses, Lombard College and Iowa Wesleyan. (For more information on how the first chapter of P.E.O. became the Beta Chapter of AZD, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-9L )
At Lombard College, in 1912, bungalows were completed and the two groups held chapter meetings and activities in their respective bungalows. In 1915, Delta Zeta established a chapter on campus and Theta Upsilon joined the three in 1928.
The men’s fraternity system at Lombard College consisted of: the Lambda Chapter of Delta Tau Delta, in existence from 1868-1885; the Illinois Delta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta founded in 1871; the Delta Theta Chapter of Sigma Nu, founded in 1891; and the Beta Omega Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha founded in 1924.
While a small group of Lombard faculty discussed uniting with nearby Knox College in 1907, and a meeting between the trustees of both colleges in 1912 voted to do the same, nothing happened. 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.
The men’s and women’s fraternities attempted to make the best of the situation. The Pi Beta Phi chapters joined together to create Pi Beta Phi’s only doubly named chapter, Illinois Beta-Delta. The Alpha Xi Delta chapter approached Zeta Pi, a local organization at Knox, about the members becoming members of Alpha Xi Delta. Seven collegiate and 29 alumnae members of Zeta Pi were initiated into Alpha Xi Delta in September 1929. It remained the Alpha Chapter. The chapter was declared dormant by the national organization in 1973. The Delta Zeta chapter also moved to Knox and it closed in 1964. It is unclear what became of the Theta Upsilon chapter (that organization became a part of Delta Zeta in 1962).
The Illinois Delta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta merged with Knox’s Illinois Zeta Chapter and became the Illinois Delta-Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta. The chapter closed in the early 2000s. The Delta Theta Chapter of Sigma Nu moved to the Knox campus.
A building at 1220 East Knox Street, near the south end of Lombard Middle School, is the all that remains of the Lombard College campus. The “Zephyr Dome” is the nickname given to by the school district, which used its gym and locker rooms for sports activities until it became unusable.
The Lombard College bell tower and the cornerstone of the Alpha Xi Delta bungalow at Lombard College are now on display on the lawn of Knox College. The plaque on it reads “Lombard College Old Main Bell 1851-1930.”
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013. All Rights Reserved.