Research Files: The Founder’s Gate/West Gate

Guest posted by Melissa Mariotti

IWU West Gate. Found on IWU Website.

IWU West Gate. Photo copied from IWU Website.

As most students and faculty know, there are several main entrances into Wesleyan’s campuses. There is the North entrance on Franklin Avenue, the South entrance by Empire Street, the East entrance by Park Street, and the West entrance by Main Street. There is not much known about the latter entrance. It stands between Pfieffer and Gulick Halls and bears the inscription:

“We stand in a position of incalculable responsibility to the great wave of population overspreading the valley of the Mississippi. Destiny seems to point out this valley as the depository of great heart of the Nation. From this center mighty pulsations, for good or evil, must in future flow, which shall not only affect the fortunes of the Republic but reach in their influence other and distant Nations of the earth.”

The West Gates, looking north toward the Women’s Dormitory. From a 1931 booklet of pen sketches of Illinois Wesleyan University.

The West Gates, looking north toward the Women’s Dormitory. From a 1931 booklet of pen sketches of Illinois Wesleyan University; RG 4-16/2/4.

Upon further research, it was discovered that the gates were ”erected and presented to the school by the Bloomington Association of Commerce in 1921” (Founders’ Day Convocation, 2006). There are two differing theories about where this quote came from. According to the 1960 Wesleyana, it is “an excerpt from the report on education to the annual meeting of the Illinois Conference held in Springfield in 1854.” But according to an Argus article from February 13th, 1940, it was said on December 18th, 1850 from the “Conference Record.”

The quote was verified in the Methodist Conference Record of 1854 by the archives that holds those documents: The Illinois Great Rivers Conference Archives at MacMurray College, Jacksonville, Illinois. There is more to the quote than was summarized on our West Gates, but the spirit of the passage resonates just as much today as it did for our Founders.

Students around the West Gate in 1951. From the 1951 Wesleyana.

Students around the West Gate in 1951. From the 1951 Wesleyana.

The quote that is inscribed on the gate is said to represent “the ‘incalculable responsibility’ the founders of Illinois Wesleyan felt in the work they had undertaken” in establishing Illinois Wesleyan as an “institution of learning” (President Wilson, Founder’s Day Convocation Remarks, 2006). It describes the passion that the Founder’s had for teaching and learning, along with the many obstacles they had to face into creating the school. This inscription is referenced many times during Founder’s Day Convocations, and is evident in the care and consideration of all who work to sustain and advance that goal today.

 

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