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Founders' Day

Founders' MedalCoe celebrates Dec. 5, 1851 as Founders' Day because it is on that date that the Rev. Williston Jones began teaching young men a pre-seminary curriculum in his parsonage of the Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids.

Two years later, while Jones was canvassing churches in the East for money to send three of his students to Eastern seminaries, a Catskills farmer named Daniel Coe stepped forward with a pledge of $1,500 and urged Jones to start his own college in the frontier town of Cedar Rapids. The conditions for Coe's gift were that a farm be bought so "poor but pious" students could support themselves and that the college offer education to women as well as men.

With Jones' blessing, the Cedar Rapids Collegiate Institute was incorporated in 1853 by a group of Cedar Rapids leaders chaired by Judge George Greene. They used Daniel Coe's money to purchase two downtown lots for the school and 80 acres of farmland on what was then the edge of town. The farm would evolve into today's campus.

In 1868, the trustees renamed the school Parsons Seminary in a failed attempt to secure the Lewis Parsons estate. After a period of severe financial difficulties, the institution was reestablished in honor of its original benefactor as the Coe Collegiate Institute in 1875. Coe College has operated continuously since its incorporation under that name on Feb. 2, 1881.

The first Founders' Day was held in 1911. It was regularly held for the next decade to honor the people, places and events that make up the college's history. Founders' Day was revived in the late 1920s and 30s and has periodically been honored since. The last Founders' Day was in 2001 to honor the 150th anniversary of Coe College.

The Founders' Medal is given by the Trustees of Coe College to persons of rare and exceptional distinction. Persons so honored should be distinguished nationally or internationally in their fields of accomplishment, in service to Coe College, or persons who exemplify in extraordinary degree those qualities of a liberally educated person.

Dec. 5, 1976

Dec. 4, 1980

Dec. 5, 2001