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Knox College in the Great War

 

During World War I patriotic fervor swept through Knox College unabated. Soon after the United States declared war, Knox's faculty and students leapt into the war effort with enthusiasm, expressing support for France and "suffering humanity" and pride in the American military, “responding promptly and generously to the call of the country for men for military service.” Students and alumni both responded to the call, with Knox well represented at "nearly all of the first officers' training camps, the largest delegation being at Fort Sheridan where upwards of 40 men were enrolled." The December 1917 issue of The Knox Alumnus reported that "Knox is somewhat above the average in the number of men in the government service. More than a fourth of the men registered last year are on the honor roll."

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In the pages of a wartime Knox College yearbook, it is noted that "Each week saw some Knox man lay down his books and depart for service in the Army or Navy..." And women sprung to the nation's aid and "responded to the call in a body and worked zealously at all kinds of Red Cross work." The Knox Alumnus magazine reported in December 1917 that "Knox College was the first '100 percent college' in the American Red Cross membership drive Christmas week. Every student and faculty member had joined the Red Cross by Tuesday noon - a day before the canvas started in Galesburg." Knox College and Galesburg residents participated zealously in the war bond campaigns as well.

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Academic pursuits at Knox were impacted by the war, as students' interests were shaped by the ongoing philosophical and intellectual questions raised by the conflict. College debaters took on war-related topics ad as German culture and philosophies began to be regarded as suspect, the number of students studying the German language fell and the number of students studying French surged.

 

The most visible changes brought by the crisis were those that physically transformed the campus, seemingly overnight. In Illinois, 30 institutions of higher education established units of the Students’ Army Training Corps, and Knox College was one of those, training about 230 men over the course of the war.

 

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For more information on Knox College history:

Knox College
Special Collections & Archives
371 S. West St.
Galesburg, IL 61401
309-341-7392
archives@knox.edu

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