Our History

Eureka College was founded by abolitionists from Kentucky who were members of a religious movement known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and were committed to providing young people a broad, liberal education. These pioneers believed in an education infused with values as a basis for leadership. Chartered by the Illinois Legislature in 1855, Eureka was the first college in the state and third in the nation to admit men and women on an equal basis.

Eureka College was designated by the National Park Service as a Campus Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places in June 2010.

The campus architecture spans a number of popular styles from the past 150 years, including Italianate, Romanesque Revival, Colonial Revival and Collegiate Gothic Revival. The oldest remaining building on campus, Burrus Dickinson Hall, was constructed in 1858.

Rich With Tradition

Eureka is a college rich in tradition. When you pass along a glowing torch at the annual homecoming Torchlight Parade or experience the fun of finding the rum cake our senior class hides every year, you’ll feel like a link in the long chain of Eureka history – and that’s because you are!

Eureka College traditions include:


The Ivy Ceremony has, for many years, been a part of Eureka College Commencement Exercises. The tradition is traced back to 1925 and holds very special meaning to thousands of graduates who have matriculated from Eureka’s hallowed halls. Ivy is representative of the characteristics of Eureka’s community: strong, flexible, and tenacious. Faculty and staff endeavor to instill these qualities in our students.

Each year at Opening Convocation new students are given a sprig of ivy. Each student then places the ivy sprig into a collective basket symbolizing formal membership in the Eureka College community and a joining together to form this community. The ivy then symbolically grows together to form a single continuous vine as one becomes a full member of the EC family. This common bond is represented at Commencement in the form of an ivy chain.

The circle of ivy represents the strong bond that binds our graduates and our community together. Although the cutting of the ivy results in separation, it also reminds us of ivy’s ability to take root elsewhere. It is our hope that our graduates will take with them these ivy springs and all they symbolize and spread the knowledge they have learned and the relationships and love they have experienced “‘neath the elms.”


The Recruiting Elm was an actual elm tree that was located on the Eureka College campus and has become famous for its historic significance. It was under this particular elm tree in April 1861 that Eureka students and faculty gathered to volunteer to fight in the Civil War. A total of 29 Eureka students and faculty joined Company G of the 17th Infantry of Illinois that day. The recruits elected Asa Burgess as their captain.

The original Recruiting Elm itself has long fallen – however, as long as it stood, and as long as it remains in our memories – it represents those students’ and faculty’s selfless act and sacrifice for a larger cause. Their act resonates on the campus still. Eureka students and faculty of today are proud to walk “‘neath the elm” and its historic memory.


Homecoming is one of the most beloved traditions at Eureka College. Each year the theme may change, but the skits, chants, bonfires, window displays, parades, and games in competition for the “Old Elm” still remain.

A highlight of homecoming is the Torchlight Parade. Participating students, staff, and faculty ignite large torches and walk a night-time parade route through campus culminating in a large bonfire and pep rally raising spirits high for the game and festivities to come.


Beginning around 1918, the senior class buried a fruit cake somewhere on campus for the juniors to find. If the juniors failed to unearth the cake, they threw the seniors a party, and if they succeeded in finding the cake, the seniors threw them a party. More recently at the college, the fruit cake has been replaced by a rum cake. Every year at Commencement, the Senior Class president provides a clue to the Junior Class about where they can try to locate the cake.

Singing Of The Alma Mater

Eureka College students and alumni have a special song which they carry with them wherever they go. With very little prompting they may be enticed to sing the beloved tune for you. The lyrics of the alma mater have a deep connection to all who know and love Eureka College.

‘Neath the Elms upon the campus
Glorious to view
Stands Eureka, Alma Mater;
Faithful, tried and true.
Lift the chorus, speed it onward
Ne’er our voices fail
Praise to thee, O fair Eureka
Praise to thee, all hail.
When we leave thy halls forever never to return
Still within our hearts fond memories steadily will burn.

Listen to the Alma Mater