Shimer College

Shimer College (pronounced /ˈʃmər/ (listen) SHY-mər) is the name of an American Great Books college established in 1853. At times an independent institution, and at times part of another institution, it is, as of 2021, part of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.

Shimer School of Great Books
Former names
Mount Carroll Seminary, Frances Shimer Academy, Frances Shimer Junior College, Shimer College
Non Ministrari Sed Ministrare
Motto in English
Not to be served, but to serve
TypeAcademic program, Small, four-year, Great Books, undergraduate, liberal arts[1]
Established1853 (1853)
PresidentSusan Henking (2012–2017)[2]
Academic staff
12 (2014)[3]
Students97 (2014)[4]
41°49′55″N 87°37′33″W
MascotFlaming Smelt[5]

Founded in 1853 as the Mount Carroll Seminary in Mount Carroll, Illinois, the school became affiliated with the University of Chicago in 1896 and was renamed the Frances Shimer Academy after founder Frances Wood Shimer. It was renamed Shimer College in 1950, when it began offering a four-year curriculum based on the Hutchins Plan of the University of Chicago. After the University of Chicago parted with both the College and the Hutchins Plan in 1958, Shimer continued to use a version of that curriculum. The college relocated to Waukegan in 1978 and to Chicago in 2006. In 2017, it was acquired by North Central College, which established the Shimer School of Great Books to continue offering its curriculum.

Its academic program was based on a core curriculum of sixteen required courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. All courses were small seminars with no more than twelve students, and were based on original sources from a list of about 200 core texts broadly based on the great books canon. Classroom instruction was Socratic discussion. Considerable writing was required, including two comprehensive examinations and a senior thesis. Students were admitted primarily on the basis of essays and interviews; no minimum grades or test scores were required. Shimer had one of the highest alumni doctorate rates in the country.[6][7][8]

According to The New York Times, students "share[d] a love of books [and] a disdain for the conventional style of education. Many say they did not have a good high school experience".[9] Students, who tend to be individualistic and creative thinkers, are encouraged to ask questions.[10] Shimer historically averaged 125 students, and enrolled 97 in 2014.[4] Most Shimer alumni went on to graduate studies.[11][12]

Shimer was, until joining North Central College, governed internally by an assembly in which all community members had a vote.[13] In 2016, Shimer announced an agreement to be acquired by North Central College.[14] The agreement came to fruition on June 1, 2017, when Shimer's faculty and curriculum were subsumed into North Central as a department known as the Shimer Great Books School of North Central College.