Kenyon, the first private college in Ohio, was founded in 1824 by Bishop Philander Chase on a hilltop to be away from the “vice and dissipation” of city life. Since the town of Gambier still does not even have a traffic light, Chase’s wishes have, largely, been honored.
The College has some of the oldest examples of Gothic architecture around, including castle-like Ascension Hall, built in 1859, and the Old Kenyon residence hall, originally built in 1827, though it burned down and was rebuilt in 1949. Kenyon is known for being haunted by several ghosts, including that of a student who supposedly fell down a Caples elevator shaft. Every Halloween, Professor Shutt of the English department hosts a night of ghost stories in the College’s cemetery.
Kenyon’s isolated 1,000-acre campus, complete with a 380-acre nature preserve, is known for its beauty. Architecturally, the tone is set by Old Kenyon Hall, a Gothic revival building of gray stone that dates back to 1827. In terms of where students congregate, Emily Kliever ’08 reports, “Kenyon doesn’t have an official student union, but Gund Commons houses one of the dining halls in its basement, and it also has a 24-hour computer lab, a ballroom for dances, concerts, and meetings, and a game room with pool tables, foosball, air hockey and ping-pong. On nice days, students can be found throwing around Frisbees or reading on the Freshmen Quad across the street.
Probably the most popular hangout is Middle Ground, the College’s café/coffeehouse. Student musicians sometimes perform here, as well as an occasional a cappella group. Middle Ground offers great sandwiches, soups, and wraps, as well as phenomenal breakfasts. Many students meet up with friends for informal chats or study groups, and sometimes professors hold meetings with students here. The Village Inn, located near Middle Ground, is the “date restaurant.” The owners of Middle Ground recently reopened the Village Inn, which has a bar that’s popular with students, professors, and Gambier residents.
Lots of students go to the new athletic center (the KAC) both during the week and on weekends. The most popular time to be there is weekday afternoons. The building has a study lounge and a café that offers smoothies and sushi.
Kenyon College is located in the tiny town of Gambier in rural Ohio.
Gambier is surrounded by the city of Mount Vernon, commonly known as “the Vern,” with a population of about 15,000. Some students venture into town for community service projects like Hotmeals and Habitat for Humanity and to volunteer at the animal shelter. However, many students only go into town for Wal-mart and the occasional Chinese meal at Hunan Garden, and as a result they haven’t seen much of Mount Vernon. Admittedly, there’s not much to do there besides shopping, bowling, and going to the movies. The Goodwill Store is a popular spot for students hunting for Halloween costumes and get-ups for other parties. The city is also home to Mount Vernon Nazarene University (“the Naz”).
Although Mount Vernon is only a five-minute drive from campus, it can feel like another world. The College seems even more isolated for students without a car, which is about 70% of the students. Still, it’s never hard to get to Mount Vernon, thanks to the free shuttle which runs four days a week in the afternoon and evening.
All entering students take a Matriculation Oath and sign a century-old Matriculation Book.
Freshman participate in "Freshman Sing" annually on the steps of Rosse Hall. This tradition comes full circle when seniors return to those steps to sign the same songs again.
Students place lit candles in the windows of Old Kenyon to welcome a new president.
Jim Borgman (1976) is the cartoonist who draws “Zits.”
E.L. Doctorow (1952) is the award-winning author of The Book of Daniel and Ragtime.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1942) was the 19th President of the United States.
Laura Hillenbrand (1989) wrote the novel Seabiscuit.
Allison Janney (1982) won an Emmy for her role as C.J. on The West Wing.
Paul Newman (1949) is an award-winning actor and philanthropist.
Bill Watterson (1980) is the creator of “Calvin and Hobbes.”
All of Kenyon’s 22 varsity sports are Division III and the football team is legendarily bad. Men’s and Women’s Swimming, by contrast, have almost 50 national championships between them, and the Tennis team is also notable. The school offers 15 relatively popular club sports as well as some IM teams, and athletes appreciate the sparkling new Kenyon Athletic Center. Female athletes are “Ladies” and male athletes are “Lords." The school has no official mascot.
Kenyon is thought to be haunted by several different ghosts, including one of a student who fell down an elevator shaft.
Kenyon was once named one of the most promiscuous schools in the country by Playboy magazine. It has since outgrown that reputation.
The Kenyon Review, which publishes on campus, is one of the most prestigious literary journals in the United States.
No one pledges to frats or sororities their first semester, to ensure that students who do go Greek still make other friends and stay connected to the campus at large.
98% of Kenyon students live on campus.
Freshmen live in one of three dorms on the north end of campus: the Freshmen Quad, McBride, or Mather Hall. Lewis and Norton Halls on the Quad have large double rooms and a handful of singles. The rooms feature new and movable furniture and big windows. Gund Hall, also on the Quad, has doubles with a room divider. The Quad dorms are co-ed by hall, meaning that girls live on one end of the building and guys on the other. Across the street is McBride, which has three floors and is the largest of the freshmen dorms. The rooms are co-ed by random room, but bathrooms are still single-sex. Mather is similar to McBride, although much of Mather is made up of sophomores and juniors. Mather and McBride have carpeting and air conditioning, but the rooms vary in size and shape. Those two buildings were built in the 1960s and are not the most aesthetically pleasing. However, people put up posters to cover the boring white cinderblock walls.
After freshman year, students can choose whether they want to live on North or South Campus. Those who choose to stay North live in Caples or Watson Hall. Caples offers doubles and several singles, as well as three- and six-person suites, with smaller bedrooms and a shared living room. At nine stories, Caples is the tallest building in Knox County. It is also the home of a rickety old elevator that’s said to be haunted. Students who choose to “go South” live in Hanna, Old Kenyon, or Leonard Hall. Hanna has mostly doubles with a few triples, and Old Kenyon and Leonard have doubles and singles. All three buildings have “division housing,” which means that fraternities and sororities have specific hallways in the dorms allocated to some of their members. These dorms also include fraternity/sorority lounges for meetings and parties.
The remaining students choose from one of the college’s four apartment complexes, which house three, four, or six students each. Apartments may be co-ed and are scattered around campus. They are generally reserved for juniors and seniors and they have kitchens, although students are automatically on the same meal plan that provides dining hall meals.