Saturday, January 3, 2015

You can see the stars

My parents never went to college, but they hoped I would. Early in my senior year at Boston English High School, Dad asked the education editor of The Christian Science Monitor where I should apply. She recommended Blackburn College in rural Carlinville, IL. because it offered quality education focused on affordability. It's the only college in the nation with a student-managed mandatory work program. All resident students must work 10 hours each week, even if your uncle donates a library. Students were cooks, waitresses, custodians, office staff. We ran the heating plant. Nine principal buildings on the 80 acre campus were built by students, instructed by skilled contractors. Because student work earns tuition discounts, Blackburn today is the least expensive private, residential liberal arts college in Illinois.

Hudson Hall, built by Blackburn students

Each student cherishes Blackburn for a unique reason. I'll never forget Dr. John Forbes, who taught my freshman political science class. His final exam was 40% of the grade, and was pass-fail. We had to memorize the Bill of Rights, including punctuation. If we wrote it correctly, we passed. If we forgot a comma, we failed. I spent many warm, sunny afternoons walking down dirt roads between cornfields near campus reading and repeating James Madison's famous words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...etc." I passed.

This fall, a new student walked into the President's office to explain why he likes Blackburn. He grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood. Many of his high school friends made money selling drugs. He knew he had a choice, sell drugs or go to college, but he had few financial resources. Then he found Blackburn online and told his high school counselor about it. At first, she didn't believe Blackburn was real. After visiting campus, he signed up right away. What does this freshman from inner-city Chicago like about Blackburn? "You can see the stars," he said, "and people are always friendly." To see a 2-minute CNN Money feature on Blackburn, visit


  1. From one Blackburn alum to another -- beautiful message. Thanks!

  2. I took Dr. Forbes' class as well. I also worked in the library with his wife, Lydia. She knew that library down to the location of every book. Amazing people at Blackburn!