by Carolyn McHenry Elwess,’71, University Archivist (Original Publication Date: July 8, 2004)
Park University has educated men and women from various cultures and foreign countries since it opened its doors in 1875. Among the original seventeen students were two Native Americans, John Rulo and Will Jewett.
Will Jewett was a member of the Creek Nation; he graduated with a B.A. degree in 1883. Early school records do not reveal what happened to John Rulo.
The first recorded student from a foreign land was Henry Fong of Yokohama, Japan who was enrolled in the preparatory department during the 1880-1881 school year. For a reason unrecorded, he did not return to Park after that year.
Although only five years old in 1880, Park University had attracted the attention of foreign missionaries through correspondence and through a weekly newsletter, The Park College Record. Ministers of Presbyterian congregations around the nation also encouraged young people to earn their educations at Park.
The earliest foreign-born student to graduate was James A. McKay, class of 1884, who was from Canada. A second Canadian, John McCuish, graduated in 1887.
James McKay, 1884
The first two graduates from across the seas were Jacob Hammalian from Turkey and Stephen Momchiloff from Bulgaria. Both men graduated in 1893. Both received a B.A.
In 1909, Japanese student Seichi Ikemoto, class of 1912, created The Cosmopolitan Club, which was active under that name until 1926.
Club Description form 1911 Narva, p. 85
The Cosmopolitan Club does not appear in the 1928 Narva; apparently it had been replaced by the International Relations Club. This could have been because there were fewer foreign students enrolled by that time and it was no longer possible to meet the membership criteria as earlier defined.
Another early organization devoted to support and understanding was a chapter of The League of Friends of Korea, founded in March of 1920 by a group of “interested men” who began a membership drive immediately. “Ours is the first college organization of the League established and we wish to make it the means of starting similar organizations in other colleges and universities. Remember that sentiment means nothing, action everything.” (Park Stylus, March 11, 1920).
A photo of the league members appeared in the 1920 Narva.
As mentioned earlier, the Cosmopolitan Club was disbanded and became part of “The R.V. Magers History Club and The International Relations Club.” Dr. Magers was a much loved History professor and maintained this club until 1940. That year, there were 17 students from foreign lands, most of whom were children of Park missionaries.
According to lists in the Park College Catalogues, World War II caused a drop in International Student enrollment – the ones who were at Park then were from South America and Cuba – areas mostly unaffected by the war.
From 1880 to the present there has rarely been a year without foreign students enrolled here. We have served students from Scotland, Korea, China, Japan, South America, Russia, Finland, Sudan, Nigeria, Yugoslavia and Bohemia, just to name a few.