A Brief History of Upsala College
Exhibit on view February–September 2013
Upsala College was a Swedish-American college that existed from 1893 to its closing in 1995. The school was founded at the annual Augustana Synod meeting in 1893 in Rock Island, Illinois.
The school received its name partially to reference Uppsala University (in Sweden) and also in homage to the meeting of the Uppsala Synod in 1593, a meeting which officially declared Sweden to the Lutheran faith.
Lars Herman Beck was called by the Augustana Synod to become the college’s first president. Beck held classes in various church basements throughout Brooklyn, until the school was offered land and monetary funding by the New Orange Industrial Association in rural Kenilworth, New Jersey in 1898. The first building on the grounds was Old Main, followed by a dormitory, Commercial Hall, and a gymnasium. Upsala became a four-year degree college in 1903, and graduated its first students with B.A. degrees in 1905.
In 1910, Upsala College graduate, Rev. Peter Froeberg assumed the presidency and got to work fundraising for the college. He even borrowed money in his own name to pay off college debts.Carl G. Erickson assumed the presidency of Upsala College in 1920 and was instrumental in reorganizing the curriculum and the faculty to increase enrollment from 300 to 1,500 students during his tenure. He also led the New York and New England conferences of the Augustana Synod in raising $465,000 to redevelop the school. In 1923, the college purchased 45 acres of land in East Orange, New Jersey, where a new campus was erected.
The college settled in East Orange, New Jersey in 1924. During Rodney Felder’s presidency (1976-1984), a second campus, Wirths, in Sussex County was added.
Through the late 1970s and into the 1980s the East Orange area crime rate increased, and student enrollment dwindled. The college chose not to relocate the campus. Eventually, financial hardship due to slumped enrollment caused the college to close at the end of the 1995 academic year.
The Upsala College records were donated to the Swenson Center by the last president of the College, Paul V. DeLomba on May 15, 1995.
The Upsala College campus was used on film in Season 2 of Dirty Jobs (2006) and the film Riding in Cars with Boys (2001).
I/O:58 Upsala College records
“Upsala College, 1893-1968: its roots, growth, aspirations.” [East Orange, N.J. : Upsala College, 1968]
“Upsala College: the story of the growth of an institution.” [East Orange, N.J. : Upsala College, 1941]
“Pages from early history of Upsala College,” Evald Benjamin Lawson