CHARLESTON, Ill (WCIA) — If you’ve ever visited Coles County, you’re probably familiar with Eastern Illinois University.
But, you may not be familiar with the story behind the antique campus landmarks that give the school its flair.
This is panther country. At least, that’s what it’s known as today.
As I took a walk through the campus of Eastern Illinois University, Mark Hudson gave us a history lesson dating back to the 1890s.
“Well, I think we’ve both changed and stayed the same,” said Hudson, director of housing at EIU.
Let’s start with what’s become the iconic symbol of EIU.
That’s here thanks to governor Altgeld’s visit to Germany’s higher education systems.
“That’s how we got to get a castle. It’s because it’s a representation of what was then thought to be the best higher education systems in the world.”Mark Hudson
Not too far from there is the historic Booth library.
“This library was built in 1947, named after Mary Booth, who was the 40 year librarian of the university. It was the first building built in the state of Illinois named after a living person, which is kind of a cool thing,” said Hudson.
Another cool thing? Eastern was the first residential state college in Illinois.
The original residence hall, Pemberton, is still around today, making students feel like they live in their own castle.
As for EIU’s education legacy, “we were initially a teacher’s school,” said Hudson. “That’s what we did…just the teaching component, but now we have tremendous pre-med classes and programs, and pre-professional, and the business school is awesome…so many different things.”
The school’s evolution is well-documented with photographs and books.
Bill Schultz is largely responsible for keeping it that way. He loves that job.
“There’s lots of archival photographs that tell interesting stories and show interesting and show interesting parts of campus life or, for example, the homecoming parade from decades ago…things like that,” said Booth.
If you take the time to look back at the then, and now…you’ll see what mark hudson was talking about.
EIU’s mission has stayed the same…giving students the best, most focused education possible.
But the way it’s been able to do that changed, and improved as time went on. Needless to say, today, there’s a lot of panther pride in Our Town Charleston.