BY BRITANI BEASLEY
In a small community of 5,523 people, Lebanon, Ill. is a tight knit community full of hometown pride and yearly celebrations that draw people out of their historic homes. As you drive down the beautiful brick road and look at the worn storefronts, it is apparent each of these buildings are beautifully decorated with vintage clothing and homely antiques presented in storefront windows. With loosely-draped spider webs hanging in every corner, Lebanon’s historic architectures make the town very appealing to inhabitants and visitors alike. At the end of the road, there is a welcoming brick monument with a fountain reading “McKendree University.” Suddenly you feel like you are no longer in Lebanon.
As McKendree continues to grow and overpopulates Lebanon, it’s apparent that the campus is seeing more support than ever from the local community. I spoke with a resident of Lebanon Deborah, who wished to keep her last name confidential, and she told me that she has lived in Lebanon her entire life. She recalls that as a child, she wanted to watch McKendree athletics, but her parents would not take her because of issues pertaining to whose town Lebanon really is. She said she is an active member on campus: “I love the activity around [McKendree University].” Debora also added, “Lebanon would be a ghost town without it.”
Kaleigh Admire, co-coordinator of traditional events for Campus Activities Board (CAB) at McKendree University, said that she feels students, faculty and staff are doing what they can to promote McKendree University’s name and events to Lebanon. By planning events like Spring Fling, Homecoming and tailgate parties for the community, we are not only inviting residents of Lebanon to our campus but also welcoming their families and friends outside of Lebanon, Ill.
A variety of local bars, like Brewers Bar and Grill, tries to appeal to McKendree students with attractions like in-house DJs and special theme nights. It is a question as to why other local businesses are not taking the extra steps of making Lebanon a college-friendly town.
After speaking to 5, seniors, 5 juniors, 5 sophomores and 5 freshman at McKendree University, I found that one thing they would change about the university would be the nightlife. All of these students I had spoken to wish to remain anonymous. A female senior said, “As a freshman, we had things to do on the weekends. Campus Activities Board events were widely attended and the sororities, I believe Kappa Sigma Tau, always had events at the golf course, which was then called Locust Hills. We had things to do, and although they weren’t always the best things to do, they kept us busy and we had a great time. Now as a senior, I see that these freshman are not getting to experience the same McKendree that I have grown to love, and that truly saddens me.”
Former McKendree student, volunteer and resident of Lebanon for 5 years, Hannah Johnson, said, “I have lived in Lebanon five years now and I think the community generally supports McKendree. I went to town the other day to hand out flyers and everyone who was working in the shops were interested and excited for our annual Bunny Hop. I am a member of the Lebanon Facebook group, and I always see positive things about McKendree from residents. I definitely feel that when we do projects through “Into the Streets” or “Global Youth Service Day” we show the Lebanon Community that we are not stereotypical college kids, but actually young adults who want to have the community that we live in even more awesome and to not step on their toes. I think that we get a lot of good support through volunteering in town.”
Former resident of Lebanon and an employee of McKendree for 25 years, Dr. Joni Bastian said that she definitely believes that the Town Gown relationship has improved over the years. She added, “President Dennis works very hard with the city leaders ensuring them that McKendree University wants to be a good neighbor. I believe that there are more Lebanon residents who support us than not. For the last few years, members of the President’s Group attend the weekly city council and committee meetings. I believe that we need to continue to communicate and be supportive of each other.”
As you can see, McKendree University and Lebanon, Ill. have had a long history in the cat and mouse game of whom this town belongs to, but the relationship between the two has improved and will hopefully continue to improve as we expand.
A sophomore student said, “If they don’t like us yet, they will. By the time I graduate or even a few years after, McKendree will overtake Lebanon, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
I believe this quote holds a lot of truth. With McKendree’s expansion,, there is no doubt that the community will be more involved with our athletics, arts programs, and campus events and will continue to be more visible and vocal in the Bearcat family.