By: Lester Lindley ‘59
I attended Kendall College in the late 1950s, when it was still a junior college and joined the Kendall faculty in 1976, the year it accepted its first junior class and began its quest to become a four-year, senior college. I taught at Kendall from the fall of 1976 through the summer of 1989. As part of my work at Kendall, in 1984 I wrote a history of the College’s first fifty years. When I learned of the proposed transfer of Kendall’s programs to National Louis University, I was initially surprised, but as I reflected on the proposed union, its fits well into Kendall’s historic evolution. Change is part of Kendall’s DNA, to use a contemporary expression, and its responses to demographic and educational challenges.
Kendall began after two Methodist theological seminaries had fulfilled their mission and no longer served the purposes that led to their founding. The seminaries educated Swedish and Norwegian-Danish pastors to serve immigrants from those Scandinavian countries. Their creation was a response to a central reality of the late 19th and early 20th centuries of large influxes of foreign language speakers, but by the end of the 1920s, the number of new immigrants declined dramatically, and earlier immigrants knew and spoke English. As a result, there was no need to educate pastors to serve foreign-speaking languages. The properties the two seminaries owned, one on Sherman Avenue and the other on Orrington, were transferred to a new educational endeavor — the Evanston Collegiate Institute (ECI) — established in 1934, which had a strong religious orientation.
The ECI struggled through the remainder of the ‘30s and served students through World War II and a few years beyond, even though it had a dwindling number of students during the war years. In 1950 it had the good fortune of receiving a large monetary gift from a member of the Kendall family, who was associated with the Washington National Insurance Company, which was also located in Evanston. The infusion of the Kendall gift led to the name change to Kendall College and gave it a better financial footing. With the growth and expansion of community colleges in the 1960s and ‘70s, it became clear that Kendall had little chance of surviving as a junior college. The expansion into a four-year college in 1976-77 proved inadequate to keep the College viable, so in the mid-1980s, it developed its Culinary Arts and Hospitality Programs, which soon became the strongest attraction for students and won the College national and international reputation and renown.
Kendall’s expansion into the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management occurred on its Evanston property, but the Culinary Program outgrew that facility and in 2005 Kendall moved to its present location on Goose Island. It is now poised to take the next step in its evolution at National Louis and the development of state-of-the-art facilities in National’s State Street Location. Kendall’s premier programs in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality will retain the Kendall name, while its other programs will merge into NLU’s existing programs. The two seminaries are gone, ECI is gone, but by adjusting to changing educational and demographic challenges over a rapidly changing, often turbulent society, Kendall endures. Its union with National Louis assures that Kendall’s legacy — from the two seminaries and the Evanston Collegiate Institute – will continue to endure for untold generations to come.