North Central College - Naperville, IL

150 Moments: President Arlo L. Schilling, 1960-1975

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Arlo Schilling, 1960
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Arlo Schilling, 1960

Arlo Schilling was named North Central College’s seventh president on Nov. 11, 1960. Raised in an Evangelical United Brethren family in Indiana, Schilling served in the military during World War II before he graduated from Huntington College and earned a master’s degree from Indiana University and a doctoral degree from Purdue University.

Schilling was the youngest president in the College’s history, at age 35. The 15 years of his presidency spanned a tumultuous period for the country—the Vietnam War, civil rights movement and social unrest at many colleges and universities. These years resulted in an incredible change in higher education at the national level, too. The civil rights movement of the 1960s led to a new level of student engagement.

At North Central, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to the student body in November 1960 during a chapel convocation in Pfeiffer Hall. James Farmer of the Congress on Racial Equality led a number of students to Selma, Ala., to participate in voters’ registration marches in March 1965.

In 1968, College faculty, staff and students worked with the Naperville Human Relations Council to secure an open housing ordinance in Naperville to prevent racial discrimination in housing, and the Black Student Association was established at North Central College.

By the 1970s, an increasingly active student voice emerged and students demanded a more engaged role in their own education. Through an initiative called Project Phoenix, a new curriculum that focused on experiential learning and individual opportunities was developed.

Additional accomplishments under Schilling’s presidency included the institution of academic tenure and professional terms for faculty; the construction of Rall Hall, Student Village and the Science Center; and renovations of Merner Field House, Pfeiffer Hall and Kaufman Hall.

Schilling also was instrumental in leading the College through the financial and enrollment crises of the College in the early 1970s.   

In 1975, Schilling retired and began a career as a consultant in educational and financial planning and served on boards of financial and civic groups. He died in 1999.

Photo: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Arlo Schilling during a luncheon in North Central’s Student Union, Nov. 21, 1960.