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Sesquicentennial exhibit highlights items from North Central College collections

This letter written by President Abraham Lincoln is one of the documents featured in the exhibit “North Central College at 150 years: Selections From the Oesterle Library Collection” at North Central College’s Schoenherr Gallery at the Fine Arts Center in Naperville.

This letter written by President Abraham Lincoln is one of the documents featured in the exhibit “North Central College at 150 years: Selections From the Oesterle Library Collection” at North Central College’s Schoenherr Gallery at the Fine Arts Center in Naperville.

As part of its Sesquicentennial Celebration North Central College will host an exhibit to display prized artifacts from its Oesterle Library collections, including items signed by U.S. presidents and other historical figures.

The exhibit, “North Central College at 150 Years: Selections from the Oesterle Library Collections,” will be displayed from Nov. 1 through Jan. 8 in the College’s Schoenherr Gallery at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. The exhibit is free and open to the public. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1; complimentary refreshments will be served.

The exhibit will include reproductions of items from the Oesterle Library collections, including the Sang Collection, the Arlo L. Schilling President’s Papers and the Harris W. Fawell Congressional Papers.

Highlights of the collections include letters written and signed by poet Emily Dickinson and President Abraham Lincoln and a land survey completed and signed by a 16-year-old George Washington, says John Small, Clare and Lucy Oesterle Director of Library Services at North Central College.

“This exhibit helps tie North Central College’s history to events that were happening nationally,” Small says. “There is something profoundly moving about knowing Abraham Lincoln sat in front of this piece of paper with a pen in his hand.”

The Sang Collection includes items signed by 31 of the nation’s first 37 presidents. Usually, items from the collection are available for public viewing only by appointment. Other noted signatures represented in the collection include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Wesley, the 18th century British cleric who founded the Methodist Church.

“The signatures are the showpiece of the College’s special collections,” says Emily Prather-Rodgers, the library’s technical services coordinator. “People love looking at signatures.”

A noted philanthropist and collector, Dr. Philip Sang (1902-1975) and his wife Elsie Sang donated many historical artifacts to North Central College and other universities throughout the United States. The collection includes manuscripts, letters and autographs from their Americana and Jazz collections that were donated to the College during the 1970s.

Sang served as an Honorary Trustee on the North Central College Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1975 and as a director of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Modern Poetry Association, Ford Theatre Society and Illinois Institute of Technology. He received an honorary doctor of business administration degree from North Central College in 1971.

Fawell is a 1951 alumnus of North Central College who represented Illinois’ 13th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 to 1998. Schilling served as North Central College’s seventh president, from 1960 to 1975.

Schoenherr Gallery’s hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and one hour before most performances in the Fine Arts Center. Contact Nickole C. Lanham, North Central’s gallery director, at 630-637-5375 or to learn more about the exhibit.

North Central College’s yearlong Sesquicentennial Celebration commemorates the 150th anniversary of the first day of classes on Nov. 11, 1861, and the College’s role in helping to shape the fabric of the Naperville community. Throughout its history, North Central College alumni have distinguished themselves as leaders in the arts, sciences, business, education and many other areas of study. Numerous Sesquicentennial events and projects are planned throughout 2011 and into 2012. Visit to learn more.

This exhibit is sponsored by J.P. Morgan through the leadership of Joseph L. Weidenbach, managing director of J.P. Morgan’s Naperville branch and a member of the College’s Board of Trustee Associates. USG Corporation and Navistar, Inc. are underwriting sponsors of North Central College’s 2011-2012 Sesquicentennial Fine & Performing Arts Season. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. This exhibt is one of many ongoing programs at North Central College to enrich and broaden the cultural and academic outlook for the College and community. North Central offers a variety of venues accommodating a rich range of local and world-class events, performances and space needs for the public. For a comprehensive schedule of musical performances, theatrical and dance productions, art exhibits and lectures, visit or call the box office at 630-637-SHOW (7469).

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