Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ronald Reagan Trail: Eureka College's Reagan Museum

After a six day respite, my Ronald Reagan Trail series is back. And it returns to Eureka College, Dutch's alma mater.

Inside the college's Donald B. Cerf Center is the Reagan Museum, the largest collection of memorabilia about our 40th president outside of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in southern California.

Eureka produced a YouTube video about the museum.

The museum has about 2,000 items in its collection, about 1,000 are on display at any time. In articles about the museum, photographs of Reagan's presidential cowboy boots are almost always included. Oh, photographs! Unlike most museums, picture taking is permitted, although every display item is located behind a glass showcase--which presented a challenging situation for me while I was photographing what was behind the displays. The Reagan Diaries is sprinkled with numerous references to meetings with students and fundraisers from Eureka. In his November 30, 1988 diary entry, Reagan writes, "I was pleased to learn that we've been shipping stuff to Eureka College for their museum." While I was at the musuem, a DVD of humorous Reagan quotes was playing--the Gipper of course was a first-rate raconteur.

Presidential boots
Eureka of course is a small college, just 350 students were enrolled when Reagan and his brother Neil attended during the Great Depression. In 2009 the Peoria Journal Star reported 767 students--a big increase from just a few years earlier. A push by the administration to make the school affordable has shown results. But all is not well at Eureka. It was one of 13 Illinois colleges--and 149 nationwide--which failed the Department of Education's financial responsibility test two years ago. But none of those schools have Reagan. Last month, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gave the Eureka commencement address and with his wife, Callista, became first time donors to the school.

Gingrich and the author at CPAC,
February, 2011
"I would argue to the national media," the former speaker of the House declared during that graduation address, "that Eureka College can claim to be one of the most influential institutions in the last third of the 20th century." He added, "The collapse of the Soviet Union began here in 1928 [When Reagan enrolled]. The resurrection of general economics and the development of American economic growth and jobs for 25 years began here when Dutch Reagan took a degree in economics and sociology - because he was studying economics before [liberal economist John Maynard] Keynes and he was learning the principles of general economics that actually turn out to have one great virtue: They work." Unfortunately, the national media ignored Gingrich's Eureka speech. The final words come from Reagan's son Michael:
Reagan museum video display
When it comes to Ronald Reagan, there is one college that is the torch bearer. Eureka College is more committed to the living legacy of Ronald Reagan than any other institution of learning in America. Set among the Illinois small towns where Ronald Reagan grew up, Eureka College is his proud alma mater where my dad found a vision and voice that would help him lead throughout his life. In his words, "Everything that was good in my life began here."
Next: The town of Eureka Earlier posts:

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