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Recruiting for Tabor College

posted Apr 4, 2018, 3:02 PM by James Nennemann   [ updated Apr 4, 2018, 3:09 PM ]
By Harry Wilkins

Tabor College, founded in 1866, prided itself on being an accessible and affordable choice for young men and women who wanted a Christian education. Although many students hailed from the local area, a sizeable number came from out-of-state, some from foreign countries. To attract new students the school relied on traditional advertising, like newspapers and flyers, but students and graduates were sometimes asked to help as well. One such recruiter was Ralph Ellis Todd, a 1905 graduate and grandson of Reverend John Todd. Ralph was headed to the University of Nebraska to study civil engineering, but before leaving Tabor he traveled through southwestern Iowa and eastern Nebraska talking to prospective students. He also took the time to write. 

On September 5, 1906, Ralph penned a letter using college stationary to Shirley “Shirl” Clayton Lincoln, son of a farming family that had settled near Pacific Junction in the early 1880s.  Ralph reached out to Shirley after hearing the young man was interested in attending Tabor College Academy because he was thinking of qualifying for admittance to law school. Ralph was proud of his alma mater and he told Shirley the school was “up-to-date in every respect.”  The catalog Ralph enclosed showcased the 14,000 volume library, gymnasium, chemistry lab, natural history museum, herbarium, and an $11,000 steam heating plant containing two 80-horsepower boilers, “with provision for an electric light plant.”

If Shirley Lincoln had enrolled in the academy, he would have been in a preparatory school designed for those who wished to hone their academic skills for college or to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma. Based on the philosophy of a “standard school,” the academy required students to learn classical languages and mythology (Homer’s Iliad was read in the original Greek), physics, botany, geometry, history and the Bible. In 1906, the prep school graduated 15, seven of whom were women; ten of the students were from Tabor, while others hailed from as far away as Idaho, Illinois and Texas.

Tuition and “incidental” expenses were $15.00 per semester, with a fifty-cent lab fee, low even for the time. Another important consideration would have been living expenses, since dormitory space was limited.  Ralph highlighted one option for Shirley, telling him he could find room and board on a farm 1½ miles from town for $2.50 per week, and might be able to work off half of the charge.  The host family would let him use a horse for his trips into town.

Shirley Lincoln decided to pursue other opportunities and never went to Tabor College.  As for Ralph Todd, he landed an engineering job with the North Western Railroad in Madison, Wisconsin, married and bought a home in Riverside Park. Tragically, he suffered fatal head injuries in 1918 while swimming with his wife at a lake near his home.  He was 34 years old.  He was brought home to Iowa, with funeral services held at his parents’ home before interment in Tabor Cemetery.