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Coe College is a private, four-year, liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowamarker. Founded in 1851, the institution is historically affiliated with the Presbyterian Church . Its current president is James R. Phifer. It is one of the smaller universities to have a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. It is one of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM).


Coe College claims the shortest name of any American institution of higher education, but the school has carried five titles through its history. When the Rev. Williston Jones founded the college in 1851, it was named The School for the Prophets. Cedar Rapids’ first resident minister opened the parlor of his home to a group of young men with the goal of educating them for the ministry to serve churches in the Midwest.

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.

With Jones' blessing, the Cedar Rapids Collegiate Institute was incorporated in 1853 by a group of Cedar Rapids leaders chaired by Judge Josephie Doddleberry. They used Daniel Coe's money to purchase two downtown lots for the school and 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.

T.M Sinclair, founder of the Sinclair Meat Packing Company, played the key financial role in the final step toward the firm establishment of Coe College. Sinclair liquidated all the debt from Parsons Seminary and the Cedar Rapids Collegiate Institute. The Sinclair gift made it practical for the property of the Coe Collegiate Institute - including the original land paid for by Daniel Coe - to be transferred to Coe Community College with the Iowa Presbyterian Synod to assume major responsibility for the institution.

Coe College has operated continuously since its incorporation under that name on Feb. 2, 1881.

The compact campus on the east edge of Cedar Rapids grew with many building projects in its early years, including Old Main (1868), Williston Hall (1881), Marshall Hall (1900), the first gymnasium (1904), and the first T.M. Sinclair Memorial Chapel (1911).

In 1907, Coe earned accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. Over the decades, Coe’s reputation as a liberal arts college has continued to grow. One recognition of this came in 1949, when Coe was granted a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, a distinction reserved for fewer than five percent of all American colleges and universities.

Central to the educational philosophy of Coe College is the belief that a liberal arts education is the best preparation for life. Coe offers more than 40 areas of study that cover a range of fields. The college awards the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Music (B.M.), and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). A Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) may also be earned.

Since 1989, Coe has nearly doubled in size with the addition of the east campus. New facilities on the east side of College Drive include Clark Racquet Center and athletic fields (1989), Clark Alumni House (1993), Nassif Admission House (1999), and four student apartment buildings (Morris House and Schlarbaum House in 2000, Brandt House and Spivey House in 2002).

McCabe Hall (2005), named in honor of former Coe President Joseph E. McCabe houses the offices of the president, dean of faculty, and advancement and alumni relations. Coe’s oldest building, Stuart Hall, could be remodeled after the transition of these offices, which allowed the first significant addition of classroom space since Peterson Hall was built in the 1960s.


Coe offers more than 40 majors:Accounting, African-American Studies, American Studies, Art, Asian Studies, Athletic Training, Biochemistry, Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Computer Science, Creative Writing, Economics, Education, English, English as a Second Language - ESL, Environmental Science, French, French Studies, Gender Studies, General Science, German, German Studies, History, Historical Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Literature, Mathematics, Molecular Biology, Music, Neuroscience, Nursing, Philosophy, Physical Education, Physics, Political Science, Pre-Professional Programs, Psychology, Public, Relations, Religion, Sociology, Spanish, Spanish Studies, Speech, Theatre Arts, and Writing.

Coe also provides the option for students to create their own major under the guidance of faculty members.

Coe College awards the following degrees:
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Music (B.M.)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.)
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T)

Stewart Memorial Library

Stewart Memorial Library houses more than 202,000 books and other materials. There is also a wide variety of artwork displayed in the Stewart Galleries, featuring a painting of Grant Wood.

Stewart Memorial Library was renovated and expanded in 1989 through a grant from the Hall Foundation. The original building was a gift from Colonel Robert W. Stewart, chairman of the board of Standard Oil company, in 1931.

National Rankings

Coe is recognized by a variety of college ranking publications. U.S. News & World Report regularly includes Coe in its "America's Best Colleges" publication, which ranked Coe tied for 98th among national liberal arts colleges in its 2009 edition. Coe is also included in the latest editions of The Princeton Review's "361 Best Colleges" and "Peterson's Guide to Selective Colleges." Barron's "300 Best Buys in College Education" ranks Coe as "Very Competitive."

Department of Music

Coe College is known for a strong Department of Music, with a long history of excellence. Approximately one out of every four students participates in music each year. Professor Margie V. Marrs is chair of the Department of Music, which has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) since 1962. Performing ensembles include a concert band, concert choir, a chamber choir (known as Crimson & Gold) women's chorale, symphony orchestra, and jazz band. There also is a student-led drumline that operates independently of the music department. The department sponsors chapters of two musically oriented social fraternities, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and Mu Phi Epsilon.

Fraternities and sororities

Coe has an active Greek social community: five men's fraternities and three women's fraternities (sororities). The groups, all of which are chapters of national organizations, include fraternities Lambda Chi Alpha, Sigma Nu, Phi Kappa Tau, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and Tau Kappa Epsilon; and sororities Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Sigma Alpha and Delta Delta Delta. The campus is also home to a chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon, a coeducational professional music fraternity.

At one time, Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and Alpha Xi Delta and Chi Omega sororities had chapters on campus but they are now defunct.

Coe has recently implemented a Greek Task Force focusing on revising the current Greek system. The Greek Task Force is composed of Greek Students, Greek Alumni, Coe Faculty and Administrators, and non-Greek students.

There are no "official" sorority or fraternity houses located off campus. All official Greek houses are located in the residence halls on campus.

Writing Center

Coe's Writing Center is the largest undergraduate writing center in the nation[335783]. There are about 65 students on staff for the 2008-2009 academic year.

The Coe Writing Center opened in September 1986 with a staff of seven writing consultants directed by Dr. Robert L. Marrs ("Dr. Bob"), professor of rhetoric. Since that first year, the CWC has grown in size and influence on campus, currently conducting over 2,000 student conferences per year. Staff members have published dozens of articles and essays in professional journals and have given over 80 presentations at state, regional, and national conferences. Most recent conferences have included the Midwest Writing Center Association conference in Las Vegas, NV. The next conference will be in October, 2009, at the MWCA Conference in Rapid City, SD.

The CWC also produces and distributes several campus publications, including The Pearl, Colere, Coetry, and the Coe Quarto.

Notable alumni


  1. Winter Courier 2004, p. 22, PDF. Coe Community College. Retrieved on 9 March 2008.

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