Alumni Facebook page addresses concerns about Eureka College

By Ken Keenan for Chronicle Media

Eureka College alumnus Aaron Pilcher created the Eureka College Alumni Update Facebook page after discussions with friends and fellow alums about the state of Eureka College. (Screenshot of Facebook page)

When Aaron Pilcher, a Class of 2008 Eureka College graduate, visited his alma mater a couple of years ago, it proved to be an eye-opening experience.

“My wife and I drove through campus, and we noticed that the grounds looked bad … the buildings looked bad,” said Pilcher, a lawyer residing in South Dakota. “So, we parked the car and started looking around.”

The couple entered the Cerf Center, a student area connected to a wing with Becker Auditorium and were disturbed by what they discovered in a foyer outside of the auditorium.

“There were two coat closets, and one of the closets had used clothes spilling out, donated clothes piled on the floor like a mountain,” Pilcher said. “It looked really bad. And it’s the same entryway to the Ronald Reagan Museum.”

Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, graduated from Eureka College in 1932. The private university, founded in 1855, has a current enrollment of about 550 students.

After his visit, Pilcher sent a letter to the school addressing his concerns about conditions there, and also had discussions with friends and fellow alums about the state of Eureka College, in general. That inspired Pilcher to create Eureka College Alumni Update, a Facebook page that launched in December.

“I saw some comments about the school’s health, and what’s going on there,” Pilcher said. “It seemed like people were raising questions about the school, so I thought it would be great to have a conversation … just looking for some information, and it went from there. I have a diploma from Eureka, and I’d like to know that it’s an open and operating school.”

Some small, private institutions have closed in recent years, including Lincoln College, in 2022, and MacMurray College, in 2020.

“There’s sadness when a school shuts down, and I don’t want that to be Eureka,” Pilcher said.

Since its launching, the Facebook page has grown to number more than 1,300 members. The page has no official connection to Eureka College, and anyone can join.

In one recent post, Mary Finch, a Class of 1984 Eureka grad, referenced an email that was sent in January to Eureka College Board of Trustees Chair Beau Underwood. The post, co-signed by Eureka grads Kevin McQuade (Class of 1978) and Rodney Gould (1987), requested written responses to questions concerning the sustainability of Eureka College, citing public documents and information taken directly from the school’s website — as well as an attempt to schedule a Zoom meeting with board members to discuss alums concerns.

“When I started the page, I don’t know if I had any expectations — big or small,” Pilcher said. “My goal was just to figure out what’s going on. After I started, a number of people joined. In short, a lot of different topics have come up. It also has brought alums together who haven’t spoken in a while, some going back to the 1970s.

“My role is more of a moderator. I’m just trying to build a fair discussion … trying to maintain a respectful environment. I’m doing this as an alum. I have no position with any group. I simply care about Eureka and want to see it thrive. We’re reviewing public information — not putting things out there to have a negative effect on the school. It’s just a discussion about the college. Hopefully, it will result in some positive things.”