Macalester and the decline of religion at liberal arts colleges

Macalester College
Macalester College in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Thousands of Presbyterians are meeting in Minneapolis this week for that church's biggest decision-making conference. The semi-annual General Assembly is a chance to set church policy on everything from hymnbooks to foreign relations.

As the Presbyterians convene, one of their associated institutions in the Twin Cities won't have a huge role. Macalester College still has some connections to the church. But they've changed quite a bit over the college's history.

Macalester College in St. Paul was founded by a Presbyterian minister in 1874 as a place to educate the church's future leaders.

But like Minnesota's other prominent colleges -- Hamline, Augsburg, Carleton and St. Olaf -- Macalester has shed most if it's practical connections to the church.

Jeanne Halgren Kilde has written a new history of Macalester College that documents the decline of the role of religion in liberal arts colleges. She is director of the Religious Studies program at the University of Minnesota.

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