Campus Life at Lea College
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series.
One way to get an idea of student life at Lea College 40 years ago is to use their yearbook as a guide. Thus, the 1971 issue of Chronos helps to serve as a source of information about the college and its students, which were a part of life in Albert Lea from 1965 to 1973.
This college was then based on five buildings in three locations. One was the former Hotel Albert at the corner of South Broadway Avenue and East College Street (now the US Bank site). The name was changed to Albert House and it was a dormitory for nearly 500 students with dining facilities, a bookstore and some recreational assets. The second location was at 130 N. Broadway Ave., about four blocks away, in the former Morlea Dairy building that was used for college offices. (This is now the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Inc. site.)
However, the college’s real campus was west of the city. This acreage consisted of three buildings. One was Christopherson Hall dormitory for 234 students. (This large lakeside structure is now Lake Chapeau Condos.) The second building was the Field House which had classrooms, offices and a gymnasium. (The Albert Lea City Arena is now situated in this structure.) A third building on the campus was called the “Barn.” It was moved from a nearby farm and converted into a student center. (This big red barn is now used by the Sons of Norway organization.)
The 199 pages of the 1971 yearbook also featured highlights of student activity at Lea College. In reality, events for the college’s school year actually started in the fall of 1970 with the very first homecoming. By the way, when the college football team played a home game at Hammer Field, the place was given the temporary name of Lancer Bowl. That year’s homecoming included a parade on Broadway, the football game, bonfire, pep rally and dance at the Barn.
Besides football, Lea sports included basketball, wrestling, baseball (at Hayek Park), and track (which may have been at Hammer Field). Other sports activities included intramural football, basketball, tennis and various water sports based on lakes in the Albert Lea area, especially Lake Chapeau on the north side of the campus.
A comment in the yearbook said, “Students of Lea College are encouraged to participate not only in college productions, but community productions (ACT) as well. All members of the student body are urged to become involved in the field of drama. …”
An important part of student life at Lea was based on organizations. For the female gender one of those groups was the Associated Women Students. The fraternities were Delta Sigma Phi, Alpha Kappa Omega, Sigma Epsilon Chi and Alpha Psi Omega. For the women there was a fraternity, Sigma Kappa Psi, plus the Aquarians and the Majors Club. Other campus groups were the Black Student Coalition, Gentlemen of High Quality (GHQ), Lea College Chorus, the band and jazz band, Lancet staff (the bi-monthly newspaper) and Chronos yearbook staff.
According to a Tribune report in the May 14, 1971, issue, there were actually 15 student organizations at this college.
One of the special seasonal events mentioned in the 1971 yearbook was the Snow Festival. However, there was no further information about his particular festival. Instead, the even more seasonal event called Weekend In May, or WIM, was given better coverage in both the yearbook and Tribune. And in 1971 the fifth annual WIM took place.
What was becoming a tradition on the Lea campus included a pep rally and the crowning of the May Queen. Events were based on intramural sports competition, pie eating contest, egg tossing, male and female tugs-of-war, canoe races on Lake Chapeau, sunbathing, Frisbee tossing, and ended with an outdoor rock concert with four bands at the Lea College Barn.
Next week: Information about the 1971 graduation ceremonies at Lea College.