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History of the Cosmopolitan Club

We, as students of the University of Illinois, appreciating the advantages to be derived from a closer association of peoples of different nationalities, hereby form this Cosmopolitan Fraternity.

This preamble to the Constitution of the Cosmopolitan Club set the stage for almost a century of daily experimentation in international living.

For more than eighty-five years, since its founding in 1907, the Cosmopolitan Club at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign has served students of many nations and also the wider community. The Club was formed by students and faculty of the University of Illinois seeking to accelerate social and intellectual intercourse between American and foreign students, avowedly working to avoid segregation into national cliques. In its early days, the Club was distinguished by offering a place of fellowship and residence for minorities whose welcome socially on the campus was sometimes one of indifference, if not hostility. Indeed, among its founding members were an immigrant from Russia, who was only a few weeks in the county; and the son of the world- renowned Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.

The Club has had three residences. The first was located at 405 East Daniel Street (1907-1922); the second at 605 East Daniel Street (1923-1961); and the current (since 1969) at 307 East John Street. These residences accommodated approximately 20 students (graduate and undergraduate) with an equal number of foreign and American students.

The Cosmopolitan Club has been at various times a Fraternity and a Club, affiliated, because of University requirements, with either the Inter-Fraternity Council or the Men's Independent Association, respectively. The Club's frequent changes in affiliation between these two organizations was a result of its dissatisfaction with their objectives. Since the University dropped this requirement, the Club is no longer affiliated with either organization. It is now a registered student organization, along with hundreds of others.

Notes on the History of the Cosmopolitan Club

(adapted from a text by Prof. Alan K. Laing)

The Cosmopolitan Club at the University of Illinois was organized in 1907. In this same year, the first convention of the Association of Cosmopolitan Clubs was held at the University of Wisconsin, a convention which had as its purpose the affiliation of the clubs at several universities under one central organization. The motto "Above All Nations Is Humanity" is remarkably symbolic of the idealism of the time.

Practice in international living and effectuation of the motto gained momentum with the acquisition of a house, located at 405 East Daniel, Champaign, about 1908. This served until 1916. Another house, that at 605 East Daniel, was listed in the "Y" Student Handbook for 1921-22, and I believe that it was this house that was remodeled soon after to provide space for twenty- three roomers and as many as forty diners. In this environment a program of cultural interchange was developed which featured lectures, music, dances, exhibitions, sports, desserts, coffee hours, and many informal discussions. Soccer or "international football" was understandably a favorite sport of the club and one which pitted the members against teams at Purdue, Indiana, and elsewhere. Many international friendships were formed under these circumstances.

The breadth of outlook of club members helped the club survive the difficult years of the war. Publication of the Corda Fratres Alumni News Letter kept alumni and members informed about one another's activities in many parts of the world. It was also during these years that the Women's Chapter of the University of Illinois Cosmopolitan Club was re-established with Mrs. Nicoli as sponsor and Mrs. Farwell as housemother. Headquarters for the women was 1104 West Oregon St., Urbana.

Meanwhile, the headquarters of the Men's Club at 605 East Daniel was showing acute signs of wear, and the Board of Directors and the club officers, under Nick Yakovleveitch as President, launched a campaign for funds with a view to acquiring more suitable quarters if possible. The task was formidable because property values then began rising, the membership was scattered by the war, and foreign exchange was impossible for citizens of some countries. Nevertheless, the campaign went on with Mr. Harry Millard addressing the Rotary Clubs of Illinois, and with several other efforts. As a consequence, about $9,000 was raised. Unfortunately, this was not enough to permit acquisition of a new house in the rapidly rising market. As an alternative, efforts were made to arrange some sort of cooperative relationship with the university and several meetings were held with administrative officers. Meanwhile, repairs and improvements were made to the old house and the club struggled to continue its operation and program.

The house at 605 East Daniel was sold in the late 1950s, and the money was set aside for future use. For nearly a decade the club was rather inactive. Eventually, however, Cosmopolitan Club members began looking for a house which would be the center of new exciting activities of international relationships. The Board authorized the purchase of the Laurel House at 307 East John Street, Champaign.