Upsala College

Upsala College (UC) was a private college affiliated with the Swedish-American Augustana Synod (later the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church) and located in East Orange in Essex County, New Jersey in the United States. Upsala was founded in 1893 in Brooklyn, in New York City, and moved to Kenilworth, and finally to East Orange in 1924. In the 1970s, Upsala considered moving to Wantage Township in rural Sussex County (where it opened a satellite campus) as East Orange's crime problem magnified and social conditions deteriorated. However, college administration and trustees chose to remain committed to East Orange. Declining enrollment and financial difficulties forced the school to close in 1995.

Upsala College
Upsala College NJ SEAL.jpg
Latin: Collegii Upsaliensis
MottoVincit omnia veritas
Motto in English
Truth Conquers All
TypePrivate Liberal Arts College
Active1893 (1893)–1995 (1995)
AffiliationAugustana Synod, (Lutheran)
Presidentinstitution closed
Location, ,
40°46′34″N 74°12′29″W / 40.776064°N 74.208146°W / 40.776064; -74.208146Coordinates: 40°46′34″N 74°12′29″W / 40.776064°N 74.208146°W / 40.776064; -74.208146


Early history (1893–1924)Edit

In its early years, Upsala College was invited to build its campus in Kenilworth, New Jersey (seen here, circa 1906) where it operated for 25 years before moving to East Orange in 1924.

Upsala College was founded at the 1893 annual meeting of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America, known as the Augustana Synod—a Lutheran church body with roots in the Swedish immigrant community.[a][1][2] The Augustana Synod placed an emphasis on mission, ecumenism, and social service.[1] Meeting at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, the polity decided to open the college in Brooklyn, New York, in October 1893.[2]:p.122 The Synod chose a young minister, the Rev. Lars Herman Beck (1859–1935), as the college's first president. Beck, a Swedish immigrant to the United States, had received his Ph.D. from Yale University in the previous year and turned down a teaching position at Yale to assume the post at Upsala.[3]

The name Upsala was chosen to honor both the historic Uppsala University in Sweden and the Meeting of Uppsala.[b][2]:p.122–123 That 1593 meeting—exactly 300 years before the founding of Upsala College—firmly established Lutheran Orthodoxy in Sweden after the attempts by King John III to reintroduce Roman Catholic liturgy.[4]

On October 3, 1893, Upsala College opened in the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Church in Brooklyn. The first day, Beck began instruction with 16 students.[5]:p.10 By the end of the year, Upsala had 75 students. Early instruction had been in Swedish as the student body largely consisted of Scandinavian immigrants. In 1897, the college moved to Kenilworth, New Jersey (formerly "New Orange, New Jersey") when the "New Orange Industrial Association" offered the young school fourteen acres of land. Upsala erected its first building on the Kenilworth campus in 1899.[2]:p.122–123 The college granted its first Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degrees in 1905 to four students.[2]:p.123–124 By 1910, Upsala offered Bachelor of Arts in modern and classical languages, and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in Mathematics and Sciences, while offering a three-year college preparatory program, instruction in music for preparing "teachers of music, organist and choir leaders, and in general to afford its students a musical education", instruction in commerce and business to "train young men and women for a business career" and in stenography for students seeking "to fill positions as stenographers and private secretaries."[2]:p.124 While the college was identified by its connexion with the Swedish Lutheran community, Upsala was the first college in New Jersey to admit women, and it student body welcomed students from many other nationalities and religions. In 1908, the student body consisted of "79 Swedes, 2 Finns, 1 Jew, 1 'American', 1 Chinese, 1 Korean, and 1 Persian"[5]:p.55

East Orange campus (1924–1995)Edit

The college moved to East Orange in 1924 after purchasing a 45-acre site in the city in the previous year.

After the passage of Title IX, Audrey Donnelly became the school's Women's Tennis Coach.

In 1989, Upsala hosted the National Forensics Association national collegiate speech championship, which featured over 1,100 competitors over five days of competition.

However, the surrounding community's crime rate increased, and student enrollment declined throughout the late 1970s and 1980s.

Upsala's men basketball team made it to the 1980 NCAA Men's Division III Basketball Championship, losing to North Park University, 83 to 76.

Wirths Campus in Wantage (1978–1992)Edit

During the tenure of Upsala's sixth president, Rodney O. Felder, Upsala sought to expand and acquired a 245 acres (99 ha) tract of land in rural Wantage Township in Sussex County in northwestern New Jersey for the construction of a second campus which was called the "Wirths Campus." In 1978, the land a large family farm had been donated by Wallace "Wally" Wirths (1921–2002), a former Westinghouse Corporation executive, author, local newspaper columnist and radio commentator.[6]

Upsala did not erect any academic buildings on the property, and in these formative years held classes in existing buildings. A few graduates studied at the campus until 1992 when classes ceased and the trustees chose to remain committed to East Orange.[6][7] But when the school closed down in 1995 and the school's assets were dissolved, the Wirths family bought back their farm in Wantage from the college for $75,000.[7]

Decline and closingEdit

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Upsala suffered from severe financial problems and a declining enrollment.[8] The financial issues were exacerbated by students unable to pay tuition. The demographics of East Orange had changed in the aftermath of the Newark riots in the 1960s, and Upsala began to enroll larger numbers of minority students—a move thought to have upset the older Caucasian alumni and donors. East Orange's tax base and socio-economic conditions continued to deteriorate with an increase in crime statistics which made the college an unattractive setting for prospective students. By the early 1990s, the student body had decreased from approximately 1,500 to 435 when the school closed in 1995.[9] The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools announced that as a result of the decline in academic standards and the school's ongoing financial problems, it would not be renewing Upsala College's accreditation. On May 1, 1995, the college's board of trustees voted to close the school when its accreditation expired on May 31, 1995.[9] The school closed with approximately US$12,500,000 in debt.[9] The school's ninth and last president, Paul V. DeLomba, a partner and project manager with the financial services and accountancy firm Price Waterhouse,[10] was hired by the board of trustees to close the college and dissolve its assets.[3]


After its closing in 1995, the college's East Orange campus was sold to the city for the use of the East Orange School District to build a new high school on half of the site constituting the college's East Campus. Several of the college buildings (including Beck Hall, Puder Hall, Viking Memorial Hall (gymnasium) and College Center) were incorporated into the new public secondary school, East Orange Campus High School. During this time, the west campus deteriorated and became blighted and its buildings were looted, vandalized and one building lost to arson.[11] This section of campus was slated for residential redevelopment by the city government, and demolished in 2006.[12] The demolition of the West Campus was featured in the "Coal Miner" episode in season 2 of the Discovery Channel television program Dirty Jobs that aired on August 8, 2006.[13]

Upsala's campus radio station, WFMU, remains in operation; a nonprofit company known as Auricle Communications purchased WFMU's license shortly before Upsala was closed.

The majority, if not entirety, of the Upsala's library was sold to the newly established Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL. Its first classes were held in August 1997 with the books making up its original library.[14]

Notable peopleEdit

Upsala College in popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ The Augustana Synod, which was known by several names over the years (as Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, Augustana Lutheran Synod, Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America and Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America) was merged into the Lutheran Church in America in 1962, which merged in 1987 with the two other national Lutheran bodies (The American Lutheran Church and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches) to in 1988 form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
  2. ^ Upsala is an historical variant spelling of Uppsala. The modern spelling featuring two p's replaced this historical spelling in the early of the twentieth century.


  1. ^ a b Arden, G. Everett. Half a Million Swedes from Bonderud, Omar and Lutz, Charles. America's Lutherans (series). (Columbus Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1958).
  2. ^ a b c d e f Johnston, Lawrence Albert. The Augustana Synod : a brief review of its history, 1860-1910. (Rock Island, Illinois: Augustana Book Concern, 1910).
  3. ^ a b "Series I Presidential Papers" Archived January 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine in the "Upsala College records, 1893-1995" Archived October 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine held in the collection of the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, Augustana College (Rock Island, Illinois). Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  4. ^ "N.F." "Upsala, The Diet of" (article) in Jacobs, Henry Eyster Jacobs, and Haas, John Augustus William (Rev.). The Lutheran Cyclopedia. (New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1899), 528-529.
  5. ^ a b Calman, Alvin R. Upsala College: The Early Years (New York: Vantage Press, 1983).
  6. ^ a b Augustana College (Rock Island, Illinois) Swenson Center Archives: Wirths Campus in Sussex County records - Series XIV, Boxes 1-6, folders 1-55. Retrieved May 22, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Strunksy, Steve. "IN BRIEF; Dream of a College Tinged With Sadness", The New York Times, August 2, 1998. (Retrieved July 10, 2012).
  8. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn. "IN BRIEF: Against Odds, Revival For Troubled College", The New York Times, September 21, 1992. (Retrieved July 10, 2012).
  9. ^ a b c "IN BRIEF: The Doors Are Closed At Upsala College", The New York Times, June 4, 1995. (Retrieved July 10, 2012).
  10. ^ Allen, David Grayson and McDermott, Kathleen. Accounting for Success: A History of Price Waterhouse in America, 1890-1990. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press, 1993), 268.
  11. ^ Walker, Steven. "East Orange fire officials blame arson for loss of old Upsala College building" in The Star-Ledger (March 31, 1998).
  12. ^ Dilworth, Kevin. "Upsala campus headed for new heights" (February 6, 2000), "2 get nod to put housing on old Upsala campus" (October 31, 2003), "College campus preps for new career Developers close on deal for 20-acres destined for housing mix" (March 18, 2005), and "Hallowed halls reduced to rubble in East Orange" (March 31, 2006) in The Star-Ledger.
  13. ^ "Dirty Jobs" (television programme), Episode #220 "Coal Miner" (2006).
  14. ^ ON CAMPUS;Sold Piece by Piece, Upsala College Vanishes
  15. ^ Roth, Philip. American Pastoral (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), passim.
  16. ^ Friend, Tad. "The Talk of the Town - Ink" in The New Yorker (May 26, 1997), 29; Lichtenstein, Gene. "A Writer's Journey (A Literary Essay and, in Part, a Memoir)." in Jewish Social Studies (Spring–Summer 1997), 3(3):156–176.

External linksEdit