LINCOLN, Ill. — Friday will be the end of an era for an Illinois institution. That's when Lincoln College will close its doors for good after 157 years. The pandemic and a ransomware attack prompted the decision.
Corey Allen of St. Louis admits it doesn't feel real.
"It still doesn't feel real that that place isn't there for other people anymore,” the 27-year-old said.
Imagine the memories made, the hope of sharing those with future generations and returning to campus as an alum. That’s no longer a reality for those who attended Lincoln College.
Since 1865, Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois, has fulfilled a mission.
"They actually really cared about each student there,” Allen said.
He graduated from Lincoln in 2015.
"Professors at times were there until 8 and 9 o’clock at night hosting tutoring sessions for math, writing and everything. Those professors really went out of their way to make sure everyone was prepared,” he said.
Friday will be the college's last day in operation. Students spent their final days writing their names on the walls of one of the oldest buildings on campus as they hope to leave a legacy.
"I really wish there were people we could have found to save it but it was too late,” Allen said.
School officials say the pandemic impacted their ability to recruit and fundraise for the private college. On top of that, a cyberattack last December hindered access to important school data, making it hard to admit new students.
A Facebook group called Save Lincoln College tried unsuccessfully to help the school keep its doors open. The school, named after President Abraham Lincoln, held its final graduation last week.
"Everyone started leaving and we said our goodbyes, but we kind of realized we weren't coming back,” a student said.
Allen, who ran track for the college, feels for not only his fellow alumni, but also students who were attending the college when officials made the decision.
"Other universities are offering them tuition and allowing them to start into the programs there but there's never going to be a place like Lincoln,” he said.
School officials say Lincoln survived many difficult times – the economic crisis of 1887, a huge fire on campus in 1912 and the Spanish flu six years later. But the last couple of years would prove the be the toughest challenge of all.