Eureka College

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Eureka College is a private college in Eureka, Illinois, that is related by covenant to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Enrollment in 2022 was approximately 559 students.

Eureka College
MottoThe Moment of Discovery
TypePrivate college
EstablishedFebruary 6, 1855; 169 years ago (February 6, 1855)
Religious affiliation
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Endowment$16.2 million
PresidentJamel Santa Cruze Wright
Students559 (Fall 2023)

40°42′50″N 89°16′3″W / 40.71389°N 89.26750°W / 40.71389; -89.26750
CampusRural, 112 acres (45 ha)
Colors    Maroon and gold
NicknameRed Devils
Sporting affiliations

Eureka College was the third college in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis. It had a close connection with alumnus Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. In 2010, Eureka College was designated as a national historic district by the National Park Service.


Eureka College in 1904

The college was founded in 1848 by a group of abolitionists who had left Kentucky because of their opposition to slavery and was originally named the Walnut Grove Academy. It was chartered in 1855. When the school was founded, it was the first school in Illinois (and only the third in the United States) to educate women on an equal basis with men. Abingdon College merged with Eureka in 1885.

Ronald Reagan

Eureka College is the smallest college or university in American history to graduate a future U.S. president with a bachelor's degree. Among its alumni throughout history are forty-two college and university presidents, seven governors and members of U.S. Congress, and the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, class of 1932.

Ronald Reagan is the only president born, raised and educated in the state of Illinois. Reagan's relationship with his alma mater began in 1928 when he entered as a freshman from Dixon, Illinois, at age 17. Following his graduation on June 10, 1932, with a joint major in economics and sociology, Reagan returned for visits on twelve recorded occasions. He served on the board of trustees for three terms, stayed connected to his fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon, communicated with his football coach and mentor Ralph "Mac" McKinzie, and helped support fund-raising drives including with his own financial commitments to the college. Reagan gave three commencement addresses at Eureka College in 1952, 1957, 1982, and 1992. He dedicated the Melick Library building in 1967 and the Reagan Physical Education Center in 1970. When he died in 2004, Eureka College was one of three officially designated recipients of memorial gifts by his family.

In 1982, President Reagan told the Eureka College audience, "Everything that has been good in my life began here."

Eureka College has created programs related to its most famous alumnus. It established the Ronald W. Reagan Leadership Program in 1982 to provide scholarships and four-year full tuition scholarships to designated Reagan Fellows. On March 27, 2009, the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, visited the section of the Berlin Wall on display in the Reagan Peace Garden on campus. Eureka gave President Gorbachev an honorary degree during a convocation in which students asked the former Soviet leader questions. The college granted Nancy Reagan an honorary degree in 2009 at a private ceremony in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. As part of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration in 2011, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich delivered the commencement address at Eureka. The same year saw the opening of the Mark R. Shenkman Reagan Research Center and College Archives; the center is collecting and maintaining every book and doctoral dissertation written about Ronald Reagan. James A. Baker III was named Honorary Reagan Fellow in 2012, and this honor was bestowed on Justice Sandra Day O'Connor the next year. George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State, received was made an Honorary Reagan Fellow at a ceremony in San Francisco in 2014.

Ronald Reagan Museum

Ronald Reagan on the Eureka College Football Team, 1929

The Ronald W. Reagan Museum, located within the Donald B. Cerf Center, contains a collection of objects and memorabilia largely donated by Reagan. The items are from his times as a student, actor, athlete, Governor of California and President of the United States. Admission is free.


Eureka College Administration and Chapel
Administration Building
Location300 College Ave.
Eureka, Illinois
Coordinates40°42′50″N 89°16′09″W / 40.7139°N 89.2691°W / 40.7139; -89.2691
Area2.8 acres (1.1 ha)
Architectural styleItalianate, Georgian, Federal
NRHP reference No.80001426
Added to NRHPMay 31, 1980
  • The Eureka College campus is 112 acres (0.45 km2).
  • Burrus Dickinson Hall, Administration building, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The chapel (some claim Ronald Reagan gave his first public speech here) is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Reagan Athletic Complex (before 2015, known as the Reagan Physical Education Center or the Reagan Gym) was dedicated in 1970 by brothers Neil Reagan '33 and Ronald Reagan '32 and named in their honor. At Eureka's commencement exercises in 1982, President Reagan announced the START treaty proposal in the Reagan Gym. In 2015, The Bonati Fitness Center and Reagan Center Pool underwent renovation.

Student demographics

About 48% of the students at Eureka are women, while about 52% are men. 0.5% of the students are Native American, 0.35% are Asian, 8.5% are African-American, and 82% are white. 1.2% of the students are international, but 93.5% of the students are from the state of Illinois. The first-time, full-time bachelor's seeking student retention rate is 62% and the graduation rate cohort as percent of total entering students is 70%. The student-to-faculty ratio is 13 to 1.


The Eureka athletic teams are the Red Devils. The college is a member of the Division III level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), primarily competing in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) since the 2006–07 academic year. The Red Devils previously competed in the defunct Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference from about 1996–97 to 2005–06; and in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) until after the 1995–96 school year. Eureka was also a member of the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) from 1910–11 to 1941–42.

Eureka competes in 14 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling.


On September 1, 2012, Eureka College quarterback Sam Durley set an NCAA record with 736 passing yards in Eureka's 62–55 victory over Knox College. That beat the old record of 731 yards set by Menlo College quarterback Zamir Amin, who passed for 731 yards on October 7, 2000.

Greek life

As of 2019, 23% of male students are in social fraternities, while 26% of female students are in social sororities. Overall 24% of the student body are involved in Greek life. In February 2020, the college's chapter of Delta Sigma Phi was disciplined due to unknown allegations.

Notable alumni

Notable faculty





  • Yager, Edward M., Ronald Reagan's Journey: Democrat to Republican, Rowman & Littlefield, 2006, ISBN 0-7425-4421-4

Further reading