The Reagan Legacy

Reagan with ivy chain

The Reagan Family

A lasting impact on Eureka College

They were simply known as Dutch and Moon, nicknames passed down from their father. Ron was thought to have resembled “the Dutchman” while Neil looked like comic strip character “Moon Mullins” with his slicked back hair. The names stuck.

Younger brother Ron convinced his brother Neil (3 years his senior) that Eureka College was an experience he couldn’t pass up. Together, the Reagan boys worked, studied, and developed a foundation that would stick. The EC foundation took them far. Both men were generous and throughout their future successes they remembered Eureka and the campus they loved so well.

Ronald Wilson Reagan

Eureka Alumnus (1928–1932) – Radio Performer, Actor, Governor, and 40th US President

In his 1992 Commencement address, President Reagan related the experience of the class of 1932. “We took with us from Eureka College the strength born of a spirit of fellowship, willingness to work together for common goals, and a deep faith in the word of God.” In the case of Ronald Reagan, who graduated from Eureka in the early years of the Depression, those values propelled him to a lifetime of leadership.

From humble beginnings in Dixon, Illinois to President of the United States, a transformation took place during those four years at Eureka that gave him the knowledge and confidence to succeed in life. Active in athletics, drama, and student life, Reagan became a campus leader early in his career.

During his four years at Eureka, Reagan demonstrated his gratitude by immersing himself in the life of the College. He even convinced his older brother Neil to enroll in the fall of 1928, creating the enviable situation of his older brother waiting on him as a pledge at the TKE house.

Reagan signature

Reagan’s Participation in events at Eureka College

In the fall of 1928 Ronald Reagan, from Dixon, Ill., enrolled as a freshman at Eureka College. He became an active participant in many phases of campus life, culminating in his role as president of the student body as a senior. He was destined to become a prominent motion picture star, the governor of California, and the 40th President of the United States of America.

Dutch, as he was known in his college days, was encouraged to apply to Eureka College by his minister, the Rev. Ben Cleaver of the First Christian Church in Dixon. During his four years at Eureka, Mr. Reagan developed a deep affection for the college, which continued throughout his life. His enthusiasm led him to persuade his older brother, Neil, to follow him to Eureka in 1929. Eureka College boasts that its historic commitment to small enrollment gives every student an unusual opportunity to participate in activities, building initiative and leadership. Ronald Reagan’s four years at Eureka are a testimony to those principles.

His activities included:

Dramatics:

Appeared in 14 plays, including Aria de Capo in 1931 in which he was cited for character portrayal in national competition.

Athletics:

Lettered in football, swimming and track. He was the College’s leading swimmer, being named coach of the team his last two years. He played guard on the football team, lettering three years.

Student Government:

Served two years on the Student Senate, becoming president his senior year.

Other:

An active member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, President of the Boosters Club, a cheerleader for the basketball team, and held a campus job in the dining hall all through college.

Ronald Reagan graduated in 1932 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science and economics. He moved to Davenport, Iowa, to accept a position as a sports announcer for radio station WOC. His career led him on to Hollywood and then into state and national politics, but his loyalty to Eureka College was evidenced by his three six-year terms on the College’s Board of Trustees and his continual involvement in various college related events.

Beyond Eureka: A Loyal Alumnus

Graduation from Eureka did not diminish Dutch’s affection for the school. Throughout his succession of careers, from Actor to Politician to President, Mr. Reagan was a frequent visitor to campus. He used his visits to Eureka to remind the audience that if he had it to do over again, he’d return to Eureka. In fact, he chose Eureka as the location to deliver one of his most important speeches on Arms Control as President. Remembered in foreign policy circles as “The Eureka Speech,” Reagan chose the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Eureka to introduce START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) — a program that continues to play an important role in nuclear disarmament.

From sports broadcaster, to actor, to politician, Dutch Reagan’s four years of personal development at Eureka launched him into a lifetime of leadership. What was it that he took with him beyond that “small school on the hill?” His classmates say it was charisma and an enthusiasm for any project he was involved in. Others point to the mentoring relationships from members of the Eureka community, like coach McKinzie and drama teacher Ellen Johnson. It was likely a combination of the two.

Ronald and Neil Reagan

John Neil Reagan

Eureka Alumnus (1929–1933) – radio station manager, CBS senior producer, and senior vice president of McCann-Erickson

“Ron came home at the end of his first year with the news that he had it all fixed for me. I would have a scholarship at the school and he had a job for me ‘hashing’ at the girls dormitory so I’d have three meals a day. He said he’d have me pledged to the fraternity he belonged to. I laughed and said, ‘You got to be out of your mind!'” – Neil Reagan

Not only did Neil join Ron the following semester, but he ended up “hashing” at that girls dorm, he played on the EC football team, and he became Prytanis of the TKE chapter in 1930. Neil “Moon” Reagan ended up agreeing with his younger brother Ron that Eureka College was an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

“Moon” Reagan graduated in 1933 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. He followed his brother to California, just as he had followed him to Eureka, and established a very successful and distinguished career as a television producer and advertising executive. He served as president of both the Hollywood and Los Angeles advertising clubs, as well as served on numerous community and professional boards including, but not limited to: the Crippled Children’s Society of Los Angeles, the Kennedy Child Study Center in Santa Monica, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. He retired from McCann-Erickson in 1973 as senior vice-president.

Beyond Eureka: A Loyal Alumnus

Neil and his wife Bess, who still resides in California, took an active interest in the welfare of Eureka College. They were generous supporters of the Melick Library Fund and the Reagan Physical Education Center. Neil served two terms as trustee of the college before his death in December 1996. Reagan even “stomped” the world for EC, traveling to Japan to meet with President Nakasoni on a Eureka College fund-raising tour.

“He (President Nakasoni) told me to show up at this hotel for a reception. And, when I got there, there were all of these wealthy Japanese businessmen waiting for me. An emcee got up on stage and began speaking to the crowd in Japanese. He was all excited and so were they. Then the man pointed to me and spoke in English. He asked me to come up on stage and explain my cause.”

Reagan did, and a large donation for EC and a continuing relationship with Japanese students materialized.

Giving back – A Reagan Brother tradition.

*quotes obtained by Paul W. Schmidt in his article “The Other Reagan”