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Upsala College

East Orange, NJ



For a start I was able to purchase the 1949 Upsalite on e-bay.  The Upsala Foundation maintains an Internet presence with articles on the history of the college along with photos of the campus both before and after its closure.  "Remembering When Kenilworth Was a College Town" is a history of Upsala College's 25 years at Kenilworth.  Best of all, the Swenson Swedish Imigration Research Center at Augustana has the archives for Upsala College.


Upsala College was founded in 1893 by the Swedish-American Augustana Synod of the Lutheran Church.  Originally located in Brooklyn, it moved to Kenilworth, NJ in 1898.  In 1899 it built a new campus there.  After becoming a four-year college in 1903, it moved to East Orange, NJ in 1924.  During World War II its enrollment peaked at 2,000 students and held at around 1,500 for much of its history.  85% of the faculty held Ph.D degrees. Until the 1960’s it drew its student body from a traditional Lutheran base. 


The 1949 Upsalite, shows a student body of around 1700 students in a typical liberal arts setting.  Co-curricular activities included music, publications and student government.  The campus sponsored chapters of honorary fraternities for mathematics, history, drama and German.  In addition, it provided opportunities for students to be involved in academic clubs in most disciplines, in interest groups, and in service organizations.  At that time the campus had chapters for seven social fraternities and eight sororities.  Major campus festivals included Homecoming and Spring Week.


However, following the Newark riots in the 1960’s, the college began to reach out to the local New Jersey area, recruiting minority students, less affluent students, and underprepared students.  According to Dr. Kim-Eric Williams in “History of Upsala College,” Upsala became the “only Lutheran college with a majority of minority students.”  Since many of these students were given scholarships, the financial problems of the school began to mount, ending in a 12.5 million dollar indebtedness.  By 1995 enrollment was down to 425.  And the school closed on May 31, 1995.



Bricks and Mortar

When the college closed, the buildings began to deteriorate.  The Campus was then sold to the East Orange Board of Education.  The East campus, containing the two main classroom buildings—Beck and Puder Halls as well as Viking Hall, the student center—became the core of the Campus High School.  Old Main, the administration building, was razed in 1999. The West Campus, containing the dormitories, deteriorated and was demolished in 2006.  It is now the site of an upscale housing development.




Old Main at the time of its demolition in April, 1999 (Courtesy of the Absent But Not Forgotten website,  Accessed 3-5-2018


Upsala College fielded intercollegiate football teams from 1916 when the school was still located at Kenilworth.  In general, Upsala’s football record was not a matter for envy.  However, the 1950 team won seven of eight, losing only a road game at Baldwin-Wallace.  The 1955 team had a draw with Moravian and a season-ending loss to Tufts against seven wins.  The 1976-79 teams compiled a 27-8-1 record. 


Playing as an independent, Upsala scheduled teams throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Atlantic Coast as far south as Virginia.  In the decade of the 1950’s. they played 29 different schools.   Despite a mediocre record, Upsala sent three players to the NFL.  Halfback Jim Apple played three games for the Jets in 1961.  Defensive back Jimmy Norris played three games for the Giants in 1987; Offensive lineman Walt Houseman also played in three games in 1987—his for the Saints.


In 1925 Upsala College fielded a girl’s football team, an unsuccessful venture according to Ruth Pennington who organized it.  Upsala played women’s basketball at a time when most schools didn’t.  The 1937 team played an 11-game schedule, winning four.

The 1916 Upsala team played only one game—a loss to St. Peter’s Prep.(Photo courtesy of Swenson Swedish Imigration Research Center)

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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