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150 Moments: President Herman J. Kiekhoefer, 1889-1910

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Herman Julius Kiekhoefer was born in northern Germany and emigrated with his family to the United States as a child, settling in Wisconsin in 1862. He entered Galesville University and graduated in 1872.

Kiekhoefer then enrolled at North-Western College to continue language studies with Frederick W. Heidner, professor of German, who hired Kiekhoefer as an assistant. Kiekhoefer later returned to Wisconsin and Galesville University and served as a teacher of classical languages and a pastor before returning to Naperville to serve as professor of systematic and practical theology at the Union Biblical Institute (later Evangelical Theological Seminary).

In 1889, he was selected as the acting president of North-Western College, an appointment the trustees finally confirmed in 1892.  

During Kiekhoefer’s term, the College’s physical landscape greatly expanded. The south tower of Old Main was added in 1891 and steam heat and electricity were introduced. The College’s second building, Nichols Gymnasium, opened in 1902. Then, in a move that more than doubled the College’s physical spaces, Carnegie Library, Goldspohn Science Hall and the Boilerhouse were dedicated on April 7, 1908.

Extra-curricular programs also blossomed during Kiekhoefer’s tenure. Intramural and intercollegiate athletics included football, basketball, baseball and track and field. From 1901 through 1910, a series of oratorical contests between the two oldest literary societies provided educational entertainment to town residents and students alike. Glee clubs, YMCA and YWCA, and the Prohibition League were also active student organizations during this time period and the Spectrum yearbook was started.

Kiekhoefer resigned in 1910, after leading the College through its transition to a modern 20th century institution, and returned to ministry in the Illinois Conference. He died in 1937 and is buried in Naperville Cemetery.

Photo: President Kiekhoefer (center) and students at rally for Goldspohn donation, ca. 1905.