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Midwestern College

Denison, Iowa



Activities at Midwestern College were reasonably well chronicled by the Omaha World-Herald.  The school has an active alumni presence on the Internet with some yearbooks on line.


Midwestern College opened in 1965 as a for-profit school, based on the model and spurred by the success of Parsons College.  At the core of the model was the belief that a significant college-age population existed, including students that had not been successful at a previous school.  Therefore a successful college could be organized by actively recruiting these students and giving them a “second chance” at success.


By 1965 residents of Denison had raised $350,000 as a fund to begin college operations.  Projections were that by 1970 the college would have an enrollment of 3,000 and that the town’s economy would realize more than two million dollars annually.  Initial enrollment was 588 students from a pool of 800 applications.  The school reported that the students were equally divided across class rank and financial status.  Most students were from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.   These students were introduced to a “no-frills” curriculum taught by an expensive faculty—more than 70% of whom had doctorates. 


The second year saw enrollment top one thousand; it also saw the Sophomore class introduce the Freshmen to beanies and initiation.  But it was not long before the term “financially troubled” was used in reference to Midwestern.  After one year, the football program was dropped to save money.  When Iowa began investigating the possibility of creating a fourth state university in the western part of the state, Denison offered Midwestern as a ready-made campus, but this offer was not adopted.


By the fall of 1970 only 450 students enrolled for classes, well below the threshold figure for survival, so the college officially closed on October 1 with almost three million dollars of indebtedness.

Bricks and Mortar

The Administration/classroom building was being completed on “College Hill” on the southeast side of town when classes opened, so classes were conducted around construction workers.  The college purchased two downtown motels to house students; the rest found homes in private residences until new dormitories were completed.


By the time Midwestern College closed, the campus consisted of the Administration/classroom building, and three dormitories—Aarestad Hall, Boeck Dorm and Marien Dorm. The dorms had a capacity for 1,000 students.


After closure, the buildings stood empty, deteriorating, as various proposals were made for their use and various offers were made for purchase.  In 1976 the Pioneer Baptist Church purchased Boeck Dorm for a retreat center.   Iowa Department of Transportation took the Administration Building in 1977.  Wiki says that the Denison Job Corps Center uses the campus.

"College Hill" in 1969, (Vista accessed 2-05-2017


            Team name: Packers

            Colors: Red and Blue


Midwestern College began football even before students had registered for classes.  The first year, playing junior varsity teams and junior colleges, Midwestern went undefeated.  The 1966 team attempted a much tougher schedule, going 3-4.  The Packers defeated Pillsbury (MN), Norfolk JC (NE), and Milton (WI).  After competitive losses to St. Mary of the Plains (KS) and Hiram Scott (NE), Midwestern was hammered by Texas Lutheran and East Central Oklahoma. The school then dropped football.


Newspapers mention intercollegiate contests in cross country, wrestling, tennis, baseball and basketball. 


But the signature sport of Midwestern College was women’s basketball.  The so-called “Lassies” were Midwest conference AAU champions in the first season, going on to participate in the national tournament at Gallop, NM.  The school continued as a regional power and national participant each year of its existence.


1965-66 women's basketball team, national AAU tournament participants. (Vista accessed 2-05-2017


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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