Lincoln College looks toward 
area's future

[APRIL 11, 2000]  If the last building program at Lincoln College comes about as Dr. Jack Nutt, college president, envisions it, not only the college but the city of Lincoln and the rest of Logan County will benefit.  In the final phase of the construction project Nutt wants to see a new and larger field house for the college and a new, bigger and better home for the Lincoln College Museum and its $1.5 million collection of Lincoln artifacts.

“With a new museum we could become an integral part of the ‘Looking for Lincoln’ tourism project.  It would enhance tourism if we could properly display all the Lincoln artifacts that we have,” he said.

 “Looking for Lincoln” is being developed to tell the Abraham Lincoln story in the places where it happened, which include Logan County and other communities in Central Illinois.  The Lincoln Presidential Library to be built in Springfield will become a jumping-off point for tourists to visit other sites in the area to learn about our 16th president’s life and times.

 Nutt sees the city of Lincoln becoming part of the influx of tourism that is expected to result from the “Looking for Lincoln” project.   “Lincoln is always our number-one president, and tourism in Central Illinois is going to burgeon,” he said.


[The museum has items belonging to Mary Todd Lincoln, including a fan which was part of her
mourning clothing, gloves, a small valise
and monogrammed napkins.]


 “Wherever they have the ‘Looking for Lincoln Trail,’ we’re going to have Lincoln College Museum brochures,” he added.  He would like the museum to have an introductory film and perhaps a docent to serve as a guide to visitors. 

 His vision of a completed campus includes a field house that would hold 1,200 people for athletic events, with the possibility of seating another 1,000 in chairs on the floor. “We have nothing on campus now that will hold our entire student body,” he pointed out.

 The new museum would provide 3,000 square feet of display space, more than three times the space in the present museum in a wing of McKinstry Library.  The new field house, he noted, would also provide ample parking for museum visitors, which is not available at its present location.

 The museum today is not large enough to hold all the Lincoln material the college now owns, and Nutt believes other materials might be donated if the college had the proper space to exhibit them.

 “If we could display things properly, I think there are people out there who would give us items that would double the value of our museum,” he said.

 The college is also in the process of searching for an employee who could serve as curator of the museum as well as holding a teaching position.         


The desk and chair used by Abraham Lincoln when he served in the Illinois House of Representatives is displayed in the Lincoln College Museum, with a photo of the Old State Capitol chambers in the background.]


 The Lincoln College Museum began with the collection of Judge Lawrence B. Stringer, an 1887 Lincoln University graduate.  (Lincoln College was originally chartered as Lincoln University.)  The judge died in 1942 and left his sizable Lincoln and Logan County history collection to the college, with the provision that a museum be built to house it.  Other acquisitions have since been added.


Among the important items in the museum are the original Lincoln town charter drawn up by Abraham Lincoln, Logan County’s first two land grants, the desk Lincoln used in the Illinois legislature, china and clothing belonging to Mary Lincoln and many documents with Lincoln’s signature.

 “We try to center our collection around things that happened prior to Lincoln’s election as President,” Nutt said. 

 As part of the field house-museum complex, he would like to add a Logan County Hall of Fame in which both athletic and non-athletic achievers would be recognized.  Athletes such as Tony Semple of the Detroit Lions and basketball stars Chuck Verderber, who played for the University of Kentucky, and Brian Cook, who recently won a basketball scholarship to the University of Illinois, would be included, as well as writers William Maxwell and Langston Hughes and the late Ed Madigan, a former state representative who also served in the U.S. Congress and as secretary of agriculture under President George Bush. 

 Nutt said he would start a fund-raising campaign next fall “to tell us whether we have the money to build a new field house.”   He is optimistic about raising the $3 million he believes the field house will cost, but says the college will be looking for state or federal funding to help defray the estimated $2 million cost of the new museum.  He said if funds permit he would also like to construct three indoor tennis courts.


[Dr. Jack Nutt, Lincoln College president since 1982, stands beside a painting of University Hall, the original college building, as he discusses plans 
for the college’s future.]


 Funding for the current building program, which will add a new dormitory, a new classroom and office building, and an addition to the Johnston Center for the Performing Arts, is already in place, according to Nutt.  He noted that the college has had good cooperation from the local banks, both in Lincoln and in Normal, where the college has a second campus, and that its bonds are well rated.

 When he came to the college in 1982, there were fewer than 300 students, both here and at the Normal campus, he said.  Now there are 1,045 on both campuses, including residential and commuter students.  The two campuses have a full-time equivalent of 850 students, with 650 of them at Lincoln, and the college already has 150 more applications than it has seats for next fall semester.



 President Nutt sees a total of 525 residential students as ideal for the college’s mission, which is the personal approach to education, giving the student the individual attention that might make the difference between success and failure.  The current building program and the proposed field house-museum complex will complete his plan for the 50-acre college campus.

 “I’d love to have our whole campus finished by the time the Lincoln Presidential Library is completed, probably in 2004 or 2005,” he said.


[Joan Crabb]