THE NEWS SUN
Thursday, January 19, 2006
SHIMER BOLTS COUNTY
College to move: Operations to IIT campus in Chicago
By Dan Moran
WAUKEGAN — The opportunity to set up shop on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus proved to be too strong a pull for Shimer College to stay in Waukegan, as the school's Board of Trustees announced Wednesday that Shimer will move to Chicago for the fall 2006 semester.
The news was announced late Wednesday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after the board first sat down to debate the IIT proposal. While declining to reveal the final vote from the 17-member panel, Shimer President William Rice said late Wednesday the meeting went on for more than five hours.
"It was a very long and very thorough discussion, and I think everyone had a chance to be heard," Rice said, adding that the final decision reflected what the board felt is best "in the long-term interest of the college."
Specifically, Shimer officials pointed to the access to a wider pool of students and benefactors that would come with a Chicago location, and also the opportunity to partner with IIT in academic programs.
"IIT's invitation to Shimer proved attractive because the two institutions have much to offer each other academically and intellectually," Rice said in a statement announcing the move. "Shimer will strengthen the liberal arts on the university's campus, reinvigorate the Great Books tradition with deep roots in Chicago, and Shimer students will benefit from IIT's strengths in science and technology."
Along with the Chicago address and the partnership with IIT, Shimer officials said the factors in favor of the move included student access to expanded facilities and student services, such as athletic facilities, health services and library, and residential and dining options.
The decision to move south came despite an offer forwarded by Waukegan officials late last week to arrange either a move to the Karcher Hotel, which is scheduled for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment, or a deal with local trade unions to renovate buildings on Shimer's Sheridan Road campus.
After hearing news of the move around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Mayor Richard Hyde said he realized Shimer "needed more than we could offer them" when it came to marketing the college.
"I think they weighed what we offered them, but the bottom line was money. They need students, and they need students badly," Hyde said. "Right from the get-go, I figured that if IIT wanted them, it would boost their student population.
"It'll be a plus for them," added Hyde, "and Waukegan will be sorry to see them go."
According to a statement from school officials, Shimer "expects to continue to offer certain programs at its current location in Waukegan," including graduate teacher programs through its Hutchins Institute, and a laboratory science program for home-schooled students from kindergarten through high school age.
Waukegan Main Street Executive Director Theodora Anderson said the decision was "sad to hear" after the local business community had joined in lobbying Shimer to remain in Waukegan. But at the same time, Anderson expressed understanding for Shimer's position.
"I guess there were two reasons given for their decision, and they are sort of overwhelmingly in favor of Chicago," she said. "They feel they will be able to better recruit new students, which has been a major concern for them, and they will have more access to (financial donors).
"Those are two fairly compelling reasons, although I'm told they really like the proposals from Waukegan," Anderson added. "I can accept (the decision). I'm just sad to see them leaving Waukegan. Having a four-year college here was an asset for our quality of life."
Both Hyde and Anderson said they will monitor the future of the buildings owned by Shimer along the 400 block of Sheridan Road and the square block to the west.
Some of the 10-plus buildings have historic significance, including Shimer's original Waukegan headquarters at 438 Sheridan, which dates back to the 1840s and is one of the county's oldest brick structures.
Rice said it is "too early to say" how many of the buildings will be kept under the Shimer banner for the remaining K-12 and graduate programs.
"We may also maintain more programs, but that will be determined (later)," Rice said, adding that "certainly not all our buildings" will be vacated.