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Lombard College

Galesburg, Illinois



Knox College is a repository for materials from some neighboring schools that have closed.  The same archivist who provided images from Hedding College assumed that I might also need images from Lombard and kindly included them in the package.


Illinois Liberal Institute was founded by the Universalist Church in 1851, with classes beginning for 60 students in 1852.  An early benefactor of the school was Benjamin Lombard, who provided funds for the construction of Old Main after the original building burned.  Lombard University was named for him in 1856.  In 1881 W.H. Ryder endowed a School of Divinity, which was later named for him.  In 1912 this school was transferred to Chicago.


Lombard was only the second college in the nation to provide equal opportunity for women, and many graduated to become bishops in the Universalist Church.  The school sponsored the first-in-the-nation chapter of the Alpha XI Delta social sorority.  Perhaps the advanced thinking surrounding Lombard University can be seen in the opinion of President Fisher in 1907 that young people could dance, play cards, and attend the theater and still be good Christians.  He noted that Lombard students did all three under careful supervision.


Among the graduates of Lombard was Carl Sandburg.


The finances of the school, never robust, ultimately were its undoing.  At the onset of the Great Depression, Lombard was forced to close its doors, the last class graduating in 1930.  School records went to Knox College.

Bricks and Mortar

Lombard College occupied a 13-acre campus.   Old Main, an imposing three-story brick structure, was completed in 1856. Lombard Hall, the Ladies’ dormitory, was added in 1896, replacing earlier boarding houses.  A new gymnasium was built in 1912, replacing the existing gymnasium/oratorical structure.  Also in 1912 both Phi Beta Phi and Alpha Xi Delta had bungalows built.


When Lombard College closed in 1930 the Galesburg School Board purchased the campus, using Old Main until 1939.  At that point the building was abandoned and eventually was described as an “eyesore.”  It was razed around 1954.  The 1912 gymnasium, the last remaining Lombard College building, stills stands but is not “sound” and is, therefore, “non-accessible,” according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The old gymnasium in 1921.  Image from A Few Pictures and a Few Words about Lombard College ( accessed 2-19-2017


            Team name: Olive/Golden Tornado

            Colors: Olive and Gold


Lombard College played intercollegiate football yearly from 1900 to 1929, its final year.  A founding member of the Little Nineteen Conference in 1910, Lombard played teams throughout the Midwest.  From the first they played some of the best—Chicago, Northwestern, Illinois and later Notre Dame.  Its most fierce rivalry was, of course, with cross-town neighbor Knox College.


In the 1920-23 period Lombard compiled a 29-2-2 record, with one of those losses coming to the “Four Horsemen” Notre Dame team.  Lombard sent no fewer than six players from that team to the professional ranks.  Roy “Roddy” Lamb, a quarterback, made honorable mention all-America in 1924.  A year earlier halfback Evar Swanson went on to play professionally in both football and baseball, being regarded as the fastest man in professional baseball.  In addition, halfback Arnie Hummel, fullback Swede Hummel, guard Bill Strickland and tackle Alvie Thompson aided the fortunes of Lombard football before having professional tryouts.


Lamb earned 16 letters at Lombard, so the school fielded teams in basketball, baseball and track as well as football.  In fact, in 1924-25, Lombard was among the nation’s elite in basketball, participating in the National AAU tournament in Kansas City both years and making the semi-finals in 1925.


(left) Evar Swanson in 1922. (Stroller (right) Lombard prided itself on the physical culture training of its co-eds.  Note the basketball goal and the balcony seating. (1908 Bulletin accessed 2-19-2017

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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