BY KATIE HERATH
Everywhere you look, McKendree continues to grow. For example, attendance for undergraduates has reached an all-time high; we also have a new entrance, an athletic building as well as the expansion of campus housing. Edwin E. Voigt Science Hall, which opened in 1965, is one of the most anticipated renovations on campus, and the building was named after the president of McKendree at the time. Edwin Voigt’s connection to the college spans a few years before his presidency; since 2014 marks 50 years since his first year serving, now is the perfect time to honor his historical legacy.
Edwin Edgar Voigt served as a pilot in World War I; later in 1924, he was ordained as an elder in the Methodist church. His impact on the denomination was significant because he helped revise the Methodist Hymnal and Book of Worship. He later became the first bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference in 1960 when the central and southern Illinois conferences merged.
Voigt became greatly involved in the partnerships between the conference and its colleges, including McKendree. He established a fundraising campaign for renovating Bothwell Chapel, raising over $700,000. Also during his time as bishop, he helped raise money for a school in Bangladore, India. As an expression of gratitude, the school was named after Voigt.
In 1964, Bishop Voigt accepted the position of McKendree’s president, and campus would expand tremendously during this time. Voigt Science Hall was opened on Sept. 12, 1965, almost 50 years after any previous dedication of a building on campus. Building on campus did not stop there. The Deneen Center and Helen T. Barnett Hall were also built, followed closely by Baker Hall, Walton Hall and Ames Dining Hall. By the end of his short presidency, Holman Library was under construction. Previous president Peter Akers termed Voigt’s presidency as the “McKendree Renaissance” (168).
Edwin Voigt stepped down from his position in 1968 with the announcement of his retirement at the age of 76. He felt he was too old for the position of college president, indicating that “the college needed young, creative, and dynamic leadership” (173). In just four years, enrollment increased almost 50 %. Voigt would be the last president of McKendree University with direct ties to the United Methodist conference.
Information is taken from McKendree College History 1928-1978. The McKendree History Museum is located in Bothwell Chapel and is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, from 10 AM to 12 PM.