Albert Lea, Minnesota
I arrived in Albert Lea in some of the coldest rain I have ever felt. After helping the staff at the public library find their copy of the 1971 Chronos to review, I talked with Ed Shannon, who had done articles on Lea College for the Albert Lea Tribune. His “Campus Life at Lea College” was very helpful. I then set off to find the Lake Chapeau campus. Employees at the City Arena helped me find the right buildings. But a rain shield for my camera would have been helpful—especially since I have no clue about removing rain spots from photos.
Lea College opened in 1966 as Mid-Continent College, a business venture using the Parsons College model. This venture was predicated on two beliefs about higher education: first, that an organization could operate a college as a business; second, that many students who wanted a college education were available: one need only to find and recruit them. Lea College, like Parsons, began to recruit students who had not been successful in other colleges; and because of the Vietnam War, many young men were available. However, high student turnover, accreditation issues, and financial woes began to plague Lea. Ultimately, like Parsons and other Parson-model colleges, Lea was forced to close.
The Chronos shows a student body with 75 graduates. Most graduates were in business administration (25), with physical education (15), history (9), elementary education (7), music (5) and sociology/psychology (5) also represented. Ed Shannon notes that Lea College offered 15 student organizations. There were four social fraternities in addition to the Black Students’ Coalition, Gentlemen of High Quality, Aquarians, and the Association of Women Students. Musical opportunities included a chorus, a band, and a jazz band. Students published a newspaper—the Lancet—in addition to the yearbook.
Bricks and Mortar
Lea College began as a hotel college, using the former Hotel Albert in downtown Albert Lea as its dormitory. Administrative offices were in the former Morlea Dairy building. Later the campus moved to Lake Chapeau, west of Albert Lea. New construction included Christopherson Hall, the new dormitory; and the Field House, containing classrooms, offices and the gymnasium. A barn was moved onto campus and converted into the student center.
Christopherson Hall is now a condominium. The Field House is now Albert Lea City Arena. The “Barn” still stands, used by the Sons of Norway.
Team name: Lancers
Colors: Blue and White
Lea College fielded varsity teams in football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, and track. In those days before Title IX,
co-eds served as cheerleaders.
Lea College began a football program in the fall of 1966. In the initial season, coached by Frosty Westerling, the team went 5-1-1 against junior varsity and club teams. In 1967 against stronger competition, which still included junior college and junior varsity sides, the team had a 4-5 record. 1968 was the finest of the school’s six seasons as they compiled a 6-2-1 record against NAIA and Division III opponents. Teams went 5-5, 4-4 and 3-5 in the final three seasons. Westerling, who came to Lea from Parsons College and went on to a Hall of Fame career as coach at Pacific Lutheran College, coached all six Lea teams. As an independent, the team played Midwestern opponents—Mayville State and Minot State in North Dakota; Yankton in South Dakota; William Penn, Westmar and Wartburg in Iowa; Culver-Stockton, Tarkio and Missouri Valley in Missouri; Hastings and Wayne State in Nebraska; Elmhurst and St. Vital in Illinois. The school’s overall record was 27-22-2.
Hotel Albert, the original home of Lea College. (courtesy of Lakenwoods.com)
Players from the 1970 team (Chronos, courtesy of the Albert Lea Public Library)