Ah, summer at Northwestern. The Lake is almost warm, the campus is leafy and green, and it’s so much quieter than during the academic year. But the sense of quiet has always been relative—there may be fewer students and faculty here during the summer, but for most of its history Northwestern has continued to be open for business. Summer sessions were offered in 1891, at least on an informal basis, by the Preparatory School and the Schools of Music and Oratory.
A few College of Liberal Arts faculty members also offered classes, and pocketed the fees. In 1914, Northwestern officially established summer programs. To the relief of the trustees, these proved to be popular and profitable. In 1912, 18 students had attended Liberal Arts summer classes; in 1914, there were 111 summer scholars. By 1930, 2,100 students spent their summers on the Evanston campus (compared to around 7,100 students during the school year).
In 1931, summer school students were joined by high-schoolers attending five-week programs in debate or journalism. The National High School Institute (NHSI) was established partially to offset the declining student enrollment caused by the Depression. It was during that first year that NHSI founder Dean Ralph Dennis is alleged to have remarked of the students, “We call them Cherubs, because they ain’t.” NHSI students have proudly borne the name Cherubs ever since.
The Cherubs have kept the Library staff busy during the summer. The July 11, 1958, Library newsletter commented that “The restful atmosphere of Deering Library in summer is shattered annually by the invasion of its quiet reading rooms by hordes of animated high school students. . . The summer doldrums in Deering will not arrive until the Cherubs depart.” The NHSI, the oldest such summer program in the country, now comprises six divisions and attracts over 800 high-school students a year to live and study on campus as a preview of college life. (Many Cherubs enjoy their stay enough to attend NU for college.) Notable former Cherubs include such disparate names as Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney. (Can you spot Mr. Cheney in the group shot below?)
The host of Cherubs was augmented in 1983 by piping flocks of K-12 students attending Center for Talent Development summer programs. Over 3,000 now alight on campus for up to three-week stints. Sports camps, leadership training programs, and other programs attract students of all ages from across the country. Programs for the older set include the Summer Research Opportunity Project, established in1986 to pair minority graduate students with faculty mentors. And summer institutes have long been offered for alumni, teachers, and special-interest groups. The Daily Northwestern goes on vacation, but issues of the Summer Northwestern, usually appearing weekly during July and August, have been published since 1922.