Northwestern & DU Share Common Founder

(above) John Evans founded Northwestern University in Chicago before starting DU in 1864

From: The Daily
by Lark Turner

In 1851, John Evans helped found a Methodist university just north of Chicago. In 1862, he headed west to do it again.

Both Northwestern and the University of Denver, founded in 1864, can trace their origins to Illinois-bred and Colorado-bound Evans, from whom Evanston gets its name.

Evans got on the right side of Abraham Lincoln early in his career, said Prof. Steven Fisher, curator of special collections in DU’s Penrose Library.

“The way I always put it is that John Evans was a person who was in the right place at the right time,” Fisher said.

Evans fell in line with Methodists and converted to the religion early in his political career, said Kevin Leonard, NU’s archivist. Leonard said Evans was probably the most prominent member of the group who founded NU.

“Without John Evans, of course, there would be no Northwestern,” he said. “He helped to float this place when it was just a nickel-and-dime affair.”

After Evans founded NU, Lincoln offered Evans governorship of the Colorado Territory, Fisher said.

“One of his first goals when he got here was to found an institution of higher learning so that the citizens of the territory would not have to go back east for their college education,” Fisher said.

Today the schools have less in common than their humble beginnings suggest. At DU, the weekend is more likely to be spent in the mountains than anywhere near campus, DU junior Mindy Stone said.

Still, commonalities exist: Both schools have a Division-I athletic program, operate on the quarter system and are located in suburbs, Fisher said.

Furthermore, the two schools share similar social atmospheres. DU students like to head out on Thursdays, too, and hit venues that sound suspiciously similar to The Keg of Evanston. Stone said the three bars most students frequent—The Border Restaurant, Stadium Inn and Stick-E-Star—are popular for dancing, pool and beer pong, respectively.
The schools both have a flagship athletic team. For NU, of course, it’s football. In Denver, the biggest sport is played on the ice.

“We are a hockey school,” Fisher said. “We dropped football in 1961 because hockey was really becoming more prominent. We also had a chancellor then who thought that football made us less scholarly.”

References to Evans can be found on both campuses: at NU’s John Evans Alumni Center and DU’s Evans Avenue. Mount Evans, a towering mountain on the Rocky Mountain’s Front Range, is visible from DU’s campus.

Just as Lake Michigan acts as a navigation point for NU students, these mountains serve a landmark for the DU community.

“If they’re going west, I’d just say, ‘Head towards the mountains,’” Stone said.


Anonymous said...

Well, I know that DU is not located downtown, however, I would hesitate to call University & Evans "the suburbs". Strange...

Anonymous said...

“We dropped football in 1961 because hockey was really becoming more prominent. We also had a chancellor then who thought that football made us less scholarly.”

This is why many, many alumni from that era refused to contribute to DU during their lives. They never forgave DU for killing off the football program.

Further, the football program was dropped because it was deemed too expensive (not because hockey was becoming more prominent - hockey was already prominent at DU at that time) to operate. For many years DU teetered on the brink of insolvency and killing the football program was a quick fix. This hard to fathom today given all the money that is flowing in and all of the buildings/playing fields that are being built.

Anonymous said...

I am from Evanston and went to DU and the only real similarity is they both have beautiful campuses and they are both full of rich white kids.

puck swami said...

DU was running $100,000 football deficits annually (that would be millions in 2010 dollars) in the early 60s. We were doomed in football, and the administration did the right thing in pulling the plug.

DU would never have be able to compete at a national D-I level in football in today's era, especially without a facility. If DU had football today, we'd would be playing no-name Sun Belt teams before 5,000 people rattling around in 75,000 seat Hile High Stadium. CU and CSU can barely keep up in their confrences today, and there aren't enough quality football players to recruit locally. DU would have to recruit Texas and California, where we'd be 35th in line for talented players.

Personally, I'd rather see DU being nationally competitive in sports where we have a chance.

I'd much rather be top 5 in hockey than 150th in football.

Anonymous said...

"We were doomed in football, and the administration did the right thing in pulling the plug."

Baloney. Football at DU was every bit as popular or more popular than ice hockey was in that era. You have no idea what would have happened if DU would have stuck with football and eventually had invested the time, money, effort into improving the football program the way they have with lacross and soccer. I find it almost comical that they are now spending all of this donor money on fancy lacross fields and soccer fields - sports that have negligible turnouts and sports which most people could care less about.

Football & basketball are the big sports on most college campuses, not hockey and certainly not soccer or lacross. Northwestern had one of the best teams in the country years ago when a guy named Parseghian coached there. Of course he went on to Notre Dame and did a few things there. NU suffered many lean years but never gave up on their football program the way DU did and now it is coming back strong. The same thing is happening with the basketball program at NU.

dggoddard said...

Whether DU dropped football in 1961 or not isn't the issue. Almost certainly DU would have dropped it by the early Seventies when they went to the NAIA.

Comparing DU to Northeastern or say Vanderbilt, who make millions of dollars from their conference affiliations isn't a fair comparison. Compare DU to Rice or Tulane football programs that lose millions of dollars each year.

DU fields 16 sports (8 mens & 8 womens), not because they want to, but because they have to. Its the minimum allowed to retain D-1 membership.

Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in Division I for a reason. Low costs and it appeals to the demographic student that DU is pursuing academically. Same with Soccer.

Heck, the University of Texas that generates $130 million a year in revenue only has 19 varsity sports.

Anonymous said...

Division I-A Football is a game for very large schools or those with good BCS/FBS conference affiliations. DU doesn't have either one.

Swami is right. We'd be doomed - Rice, Tulsa and Tulane are great examples of what our program would be if we had kept it at best-- and those schools are in much more fertile recruiting areas than DU is.

We'd be toast.

Anonymous said...

This is from, not Just so you know.

dggoddard said...

Thanks for the heads up. Edited.

timt89 said...

I went to DU for Undergraduate and Northwestern for graduate school. Both schools do have great campuses and both are on the upswing with sports and the community. DU would never be able to make a go of it in fotball for all the reasons stated. We have carved out a nice place for ourselves with some core sports and niche sports.

Whle NU had many big donors, Dan Richie is the person who single handedly turned DU's fortunes around. A fine man with the midas touch that put DU back on the map.