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January 26, 2010 | 150-285

Historic Old Main to undergo multi-phase renovations

Rock Island, IL— Augustana College will begin a multi-phase renovation project to Old Main this year, the 150th anniversary of the college’s founding. The dome of the historic academic building catches the eye of visitors and the Quad-Cities community. The building is located along Seventh Avenue and overlooks the Mississippi River.

The goal of the phased project will be to enhance the learning and teaching environments for students and faculty through renovations to both the exterior and interior of the building. The exterior work, which is expected to start in the spring of 2010, will include repairing the dome and stone, replacing the roof, tuckpointing and replacing windows.

“As we celebrate the college’s sesquicentennial year, all of us have gained a deeper appreciation for the important work of our forerunners in building Augustana into the national liberal arts college it is today,” said President Steven Bahls. “Old Main is a symbol of the vision and dedication not just of our founders, but also of generations of students, professors and all those who have maintained a stalwart devotion to the vital role of higher education in transforming lives.”

The family of Dr. Peter Wallenberg, Sr., a former trustee of the college, and Modern Woodmen of America fraternal benefit society—both devoted friends of the college—will provide their financial support for the project.

The three Wallenberg family foundations—Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation and Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation—will together contribute approximately $1.1 million in support. The family is one of Sweden’s leading industrialist families and among Augustana’s oldest friends. Wallenberg recital and lecture hall in the Denkmann Memorial Building is named for the family.

Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal benefit society, granted $100,000 for the project. The organization provides life insurance, annuity, investment and banking products to its more than 75,000 members. It was established in Rock Island in 1897 and has since become a valuable corporate citizen, annually donating nearly $24 million nation-wide through projects like the Old Main renovations. To honor its generosity, the first floor commons area will be named for Modern Woodmen of America.

“Augustana is a wonderful college with a long history of benefitting the Quad-Cities community,” said W. Kenny Massey, President and CEO of Modern Woodmen of America. “Our financial support of the Old Main project is yet another way Modern Woodmen strives to improve the quality of life in the community and shows its commitment to the Quad Cities and its educational institutions.”

Old Main was built from 1882-1889 and was modeled after the main building at Uppsala University, Sweden. A farmer on the building committee suggested adding a dome to give the building an American appearance and help establish it among the greatest structures built by first-generation Swedish immigrants in America. Today, the building houses many departments linked to the humanities, including classics, English, history, philosophy, political science, religion, sociology, anthropology, communication studies, and women's and gender studies.

For more information, contact Kamy Beattie at or 309-794-7721.

About Augustana: Founded in 1860 and situated on a 115-acre campus near the Mississippi River, Augustana College is a private liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The college enrolls nearly 2,500 students from diverse geographic, social, ethnic and religious backgrounds and offers more than 60 majors and related areas of study. Augustana employs 226 faculty and has a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Augustana continues to do what it always has done: challenge and prepare students for lives of leadership and service in our complex, ever-changing world.