Northwestern alumni group offers summer class on Evanston history

Patrick Svitek, Managing Editor

A Northwestern alumni group is marking Evanston’s 150th anniversary with a new summer class on the history of the city.

The Alumnae of Northwestern University announced Monday a six-week course on Evanston’s past taught by NU faculty. The non-credit class starts June 27 and will meet 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. most Thursdays and one Tuesday in the Coon Forum in Leverone Hall. Anyone can enroll.

Sandy Gross (The Graduate School ’64), an Alumnae board member, said the course will prove how Evanston and NU are “extraordinarily intertwined.”

“I know and love the city,” said Gross, who has lived in Evanston for more than 50 years. “Knowing the history of Evanston, you have to know about Northwestern because Northwestern was here first.”

The course will also cover Evanston before it became a city, as well as its black community, industrial sector, architecture and politics. The faculty lineup includes history Prof. Henry Binford and Albert Hunter, a sociology professor and director of urban studies at NU.

University archivist Kevin Leonard (Weinberg ’77 and The Graduate School ’82) will deliver a lecture July 2 on town-gown relations titled “Sanctified Minds and Sharp Elbows: Northwestern and Evanston Through History.” He said he hopes to show how the NU and city were important partners “from the get-go” and still depend on each other in major ways.

Leonard said some aspects of Evanston-NU history are “obscured by periodic conflict,” such as whether the school should pay property taxes. He cited NU’s Methodist roots and alcohol restrictions as historical highlights that are often overlooked.

“There’s far more to the relationship between the university and the community than the contention over the school’s tax exemption,” Leonard said.

Evanston150 approached the Alumnae about a year ago with the idea for the class, said Patrick Keenan-Devlin (Weinberg ’06 and Law ’12), who sits on the Evanston150 steering committee. A working group decided the course fits into the community initiative’s three-pronged mission to celebrate, engage and volunteer as the city’s 150th anniversary nears.

“We as a community made a clear decision that we did not want this year to be about just reflecting on our history,” said Keenan-Devlin, who majored in history at NU. “Nevertheless, it is important to look back and reflect on the milestones and leaders of Evanston’s past.”

Tuition for the full course is $100 if registration is postmarked by May 15 and $110 after that deadline. Enrollment forms can be found on the Alumnae’s website. If space is available, students can pay $25 to attend individual class meetings.