Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 23, 2019

Campus reflects on trailblazing philanthropist with bell toll

The bell on top of Old Main rang for one minute on Oct. 18. in remembrance of Ellen Browning. (Katy Coseglia/TKS)

Last Friday, Oct. 18, an email was sent out informing Knox students and staff about the Ellen Browning Scripps Bell Toll that would be happening at noon in Old Main. Browning is remembered for what she has done for many institutions, journalism, women’s suffrage and, especially, Knox College.

According to a biography by Deborah Day of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Archives, Ellen Browning Scripps was born on Oct. 18, 1836, in London, England. In 1844, when she was seven, her family moved to America and settled in Rushville, Illinois. She fell in love with writing and saved up enough from teaching to enroll at Knox in 1856, attending the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858 at Old Main.

However, in those times, only men were given actual diplomas. Like all of the other women, she only received a certificate of graduation and began teaching for $9 a month.

She moved onto journalism and helped her brothers Edward and James found the Scripps-McRae Newspaper Enterprise in 1866. In 1873, she invested her savings in James’ Detroit News and funded Edward in founding the Clwcweland Penny Press in 1868. She worked as a proofreader, copy editor, and writer, as well as writting her own collumn for women called “Matters and Things”.

It wasn’t until 1891, when she was 60, that she left journalism behind to move to California and became known as one of the most prominent female philanthropists of her time. Scripps College in Claremont, California; Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and the Scripps Health in La Jolla, California all bear her name. She was an avid supporter of women’s suffrage and advancement, and she made sure to make Scripps College a women’s college where women could get the education they deserved.

But, out of all her accomplishments, the event remembers her most for her generous contributions to Knox. Knox College is the only institution outside of California to receive money from the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation. It is through this foundation that the college has been able to fund renovations to SMC, equipment for science classes, cameras and video equipment for the journalism classes, as well as many other programs. The foundation also gives money to the Presidential fund to support President Teresa Amott’s office and has done so for 100 years.

Beverly Holmes, Vice President for Advancement, said that the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation decides on what projects to support not by how it will affect individual students, but by their impact. Recently, they have made contributions to support the observatory in SMC knowing that it will not only benefit students but the outside community as well.

To honor her immense generosity to Knox, the tradition of the bell toll was started on October 18, 1967, on her birthday, and has continued since.

 

Geneva Gage

Tags:  bell toll Eleen Browning Scripps Old Main philanthropy women's suffrage

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