Educating the Lord’s Redeemed and Anointed: The University of Illinois Chapel Experience, 1868-1894

J. Gregory Behle | May 18, 2010

Institution-sponsored religious activities within American state universities in the nineteenth-century have gone largely unnoticed by higher education historians, although such activities were an integral part of such institutions from their founding. One such case was the compulsory chapel at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from its origin in 1868 to the demise of chapel in 1894. The first Regent of the University, John Milton Gregory, instituted chapel exercises from the beginning of the institution. Emphasis on chapel began to decline under the leadership of Selim Hobart Peabody, the second Regent. Compulsory chapel attendance ended during the tenure of Thomas Jonathon Burrill, the interim Regent who followed Peabody. Historical lessons to be learned from the University of Illinois experience include the effect of changing student populations on chapel attendance, the limitations placed on faculty schedules by academic work loads, and the effect of leadership’s view of the importance of chapel attendance.

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