George Williams College (Chicago)

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George Williams College was a college located in the northwestern corner of Hyde Park, Chicago. The college was an expansion of a summer camp founded by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) on the shores of Geneva Lake, Wisconsin in 1886. The college remained in Hyde Park from its founding in 1890 until 1965, when it moved to Downers Grove, Illinois. Subsequently, the Hyde Park campus was demolished in 1989.


George Williams College has its genesis in a summer camp founded on the shores of Geneva Lake, Wisconsin by YMCA leaders I. E. Brown, William Lewis, and Robert Weidensall in 1886. This camp was created to serve as a professional YMCA training school. Later, the camp moved to Hyde Park in 1890, where it transformed into a college.[1] The school's Hyde Park campus went by a variety of names during the late-19th and early-20th century: the Training School of the YMCA (1890–96) the Secretarial Institute and Training School (1896–1903), the Institute and Training School of the YMCA (1903–13), and the YMCA College or Association College (1913–33). In 1933 its name was changed for the last time, to "George Williams College". During the 20th century, the college "was a national center for the development of group work as a profession. It was also an early pioneer in the idea of holistic health, with the integration of body, mind and spirit that was key concept within the YMCA movement."[2]

By the late 1965, the college moved to Downers Grove, Illinois; the stark racial divide between the mostly-black student body and the mostly-white citizens of Downers Grove caused racial issues to flare up numerous times.[2][3] By the 1980s, the school was flagging, and was eventually absorbed by Aurora University (currently, the original Geneva Lake location is now called "George Williams College", and is a subsidiary of Aurora).[4][5]

In 1986, the college library was acquired by The Master's University in Santa Clarita, California,[6] and in 1989, the abandoned Hyde Park campus was demolished to make room for new development opportunities.[7]


  1. ^ "George Williams College: History". Aurora University. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "George Williams College: An Inventory of Its Records". University of Minnesota. Archived from the original on April 17, 2015.
  3. ^ Dale, Maryal Stone (January 15, 1986). "George Williams". Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  4. ^ Gross, Theodore (2005). The Rise of Roosevelt University: Presidential Reflections. SIU Press. p. 186.
  5. ^ "George Williams College: Aurora University Partnership". Aurora University. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  6. ^ "The Master's University – Mission and History". The Master's University. Archived from the original on December 1, 2015.
  7. ^ "Urban Renewal Timeline Part II: Aftershocks mingle with new waves, 1964-present". Hyde Park Historical Society. Retrieved February 11, 2016.