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Tobin College was founded in 1892 and was the fourth school founded by Professor Thomas Tobin, the other three being: Tilford Academy, at Vinton, Iowa; Waterloo College, at Waterloo, Iowa , and Ellsworth College, at Iowa Falls, Iowa.

Professor Tobin, who was a native of Ireland, was born August 15, 1835 , and died May 27, 1900. He came to America when fourteen years of age. He did not have a chance to learn his letters until he was seventeen. But even at that age, he had the courage to set out to secure a college education, earning the necessary means himself. But so hard was the struggle, that for three months at a time, he did not have money enough to buy a postage stamp.

After graduation, Professor Tobin resolved to make it easier for backward boys to obtain an education, and to give them a chance to secure instruction suited to their individual needs. Accordingly, in 1870, he came to Iowa and established Tilford Academy, at Vinton. In 1885 he went to Waterloo and started Waterloo College . In 1889, he removed to Iowa Falls, where he founded Ellsworth College .

Early in the year 1892, he began corresponding with Mr. Frank Gates, Mr. Frank Farrell, and others, concerning the establishment of a college in Fort Dodge. Satisfactory arrangements having been made, Professor Tobin moved his family here in April of the same year, and work on the college was started. The property for the college site was purchased from Mrs. Sarah Dwelle, the widow of the last landlord of the old St. Charles hotel. This property included the hotel and a quarter of a block of ground on the corner of First avenue North and Seventh street. While the college building was not completely finished, yet school began on the second Monday in September, 1892.

The new college began without a name. A week or so after it opened, Professor Tobin was invited by some friends to spend the day in the woods. While he was gone, the teachers and students took matters into their own hands, called a meeting, and by a unanimous vote, christened the new college, "Tobin," in recognition of the work he had done for the cause of education through the founding of so many colleges.

The formal dedication of the building did not take place until the last of October, 1892. The dedicatory exercises consisted of an afternoon and evening program. At these programs, congratulatory addresses were made by prominent business men of the city; also by Rev. William Randall, pastor of the Baptist church at Iowa Falls, and Rev. F. E. Eldredge, state Sunday school missionary of the Baptist church, both of whom were very close friends of Professor Tobin.

The enrollment of the first term numbered about fifty. At the opening of the winter term, many of the country boys came in, and the enrollment reached the one hundred mark. The boarding department, the first fall, numbered about twenty. In the winter this number increased to forty. This department was carried on in the old St. Charles, the kitchen and dining rooms of the college building not being finished until 1893. The faculty the first year numbered nine. Professor Tobin taught general history, which was his favorite subject, and gave the rest of his time to the supervision of the school. Professor J. F. Monk had charge of the stenography department and taught the languages. Mrs. J. F. Monk and Miss Mable Allison taught the normal branches. Professor B. T. Green taught the sciences and mathematics and had charge of the commercial department. The music department was under the direction of Professor W. V. Jones and his daughter, Miss Gertrude Jones. Miss Amelia Goldsworthy had charge of the art department.

The first class graduated in June, 1893, and was composed of thirteen members from the commercial and stenographic departments. Those from the commercial department were: J. Oscar Ahlberg, Otto L. Boehm, Walter M. Boehm, Edwin Brickson, Nora Lenihan, Benjamin F. McNeil, Charles R. Peterson, Jennie M. Slate. The stenography class included: Jurgen N. Anderson, Ella W. Beach, Annie G. Fahey, Lizzie E. Harvison and Bessie B. Norton. The first normal class graduated in 1894, and consisted of Jessie V. Cox and Ida M. Prink.

In 1893, Professor Tobin made a contract with Messrs. Green and Monk, by which they were to take charge of the school, buying it from him. But the hard times in 1893-94 so cut down the attendance, that they were unable to make their payments, and Professor Tobin again assumed active control in the fall of 1894. Professor Monk remained on the college faculty, but Professor Green followed his natural inclination and studied medicine.

During the school year 1894-95, the two literary societies, the Philomathean and the Amphycton, were established. The societies have remained in existence ever since. The Snitkay Debate Prize has had much to do in stimulating the interest in debate. This prize is offered by Dr. C. J. Snitkay, an alumnus of the class of '97, and his wife, Mrs. Emma Monk Snitkay, an alumnus of the class of '95. The society winning the contest in debate is given a prize of $10.00. This prize money has always been used by the societies for the benefit of the school. It was in declamatory work, the teaching of young men and women to think and talk upon their feet, that Professor Tobin was especially interested. To this work he gave freely both of his time, and of his zeal. Many of the older students of the college remember how night after night, he sat in the rear of the chapel, criticising and commending, but always urging onward his students. And the present success of many of the alumni is due in a large measure to the training of Professor Tobin. His interest was such that he never missed a program of the literary societies, nor any program in which his students took part. His enthusiasm and interest was so genuine and from the heart that it engendered a longing for success in his pupils.

The first declamatory contest of the college was held in the year 1893, and was won by Miss June McNeil, now Mrs. Kusterer, of Moorland.

In the year 1896, the first of the present series of gold medal contests was held. These contests, held annually, provide for three prizes: A gold medal to the winner; a silver medal to the one winning second place, and a souvenir spoon of the college to the one winning third place. The medals have been the gifts of various persons, who have thus shown their interest in the work of the college. The spoon has always been the gift of the college management. The contest is usually held the last Friday evening in March. A system of preliminary contests held each term leads to the selection for the closing contest in the third term. There are three contestants chosen each term, thus making nine for the finals.

The honors in the contests since their beginning, together with the donors of the medal are as follows:

Year Winner Donor

1896 R. G. Tobin Professor T. Tobin

1897 George E. Q. Johnson Mr. Isaac Garmoe

1898 Mrs. Nora Haviland-Moore Hon. John F. Duncombe

1899 M. J. Fitzpatrick Mr. J. F. Carter

1900 Otto V. Bowman Mr. J. B. Butler

1901 Miss Edith Bird Hon. O. M. Oleson

1902 E. E. Cavanaugh Captain S. J. Bennett

1903 Miss Ethel Jondreau Mr. M. F. Healy

1904 James A. Martin Mr. J. G. Early

1905 Francis Murphy Messrs. Monk & Findlay

1906 Miss Eva Southwick Mrs. Julie Haskell-Oleson

1907 Miss Ellen Schmoker Messrs. Monk & Findlay

1908 Leon W. Powers Mr. H. M. Pratt

1909 William Ryberg Mr. H. D. Beresford

1910 Miss Christine Brown Mr. Charles Iles

1911 Miss Myrtle Tullar Mrs. Margaret Tobin-Pratt

1912 D. L. Rhodes* Mr. John S. Heffner

Perhaps no school of its size has as strong an alumni association as Tobin College . This association was organized in 1895 and now numbers over three hundred. A unique feature of the Tobin College Alumni Association is the alumni fund. This fund was started in 1899 by Professor Tobin, its purpose being "for the aid of worthy students in their efforts to gain an education."

In 1899, Professor Tobin sold the college to Messrs. Monk and Findlay, who have carried on the work along the lines originally laid down. The college has continued to prosper and grow until now the annual enrollment numbers about four hundred.

With the lives of such men as Professor Tobin, Professor Monk and Professor Findlay dedicated to its service, Tobin College could not help but be the source of blessing it is to the community and to the young people who have attended it.

* D. L. Rhodes and Miss Mildred Sperry tied for first place, and on drawing lots the honors went to Mr. Rhodes.


*Iowa Biographies Project: History of Fort Dodge and Webster County, Iowa… by H. M. Pratt.1913

*Chicago: The Pioneer Publishing Company, 1913.

Current Exhibitions

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The location of Wahkonsa School has a great deal of historical interest connected with it. The plot on which the school is built was the site of the old military post from which Fort Dodge had its beginning.

The fort was placed upon the hill overlooking the valleys of the Des Moines River and Soldier and Lizard Creeks for protection from the Indians. The barracks for the officers were built upon what is now the playground.

In 1891, an eight-room brick building was erected upon the side of the old fort. The school was named for a friendly young Sioux Indian who had been a frequent visitor at the fort.

At midday, February 2, 1912, the building burned. The day was bitterly cold and a high north wind blew the flames across the street. The heat was so great that families living near the school had to leave their homes. The heat cracked the glass and melted frost on windows in nearby homes. There were only a few pupils in the building with the teachers when the fire started. All had plenty of time to escape from the building.

The fire was on Thursday. On the following Monday the children began school in various rooms in the business district. Two grades went to the Y. M. C. A., two went to the public library, and others to lodge rooms.

A new school was begun immediately, and within a year’s time the present school building was ready. Because the children and teachers had experienced so much inconvenience, they heartily welcomed the new building.

Shortly after the new structure was erected, the school board purchased the plot of ground just east of the building for a playground. At that time an old log cabin on which modern siding had been placed occupied the site. The school board removed the siding and presented the cabin to the Fort Dodge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. These women had the cabin removed to Oleson Park where it still stands to give us a clear picture of what an early log cabin was like.

In 1928 this society placed a marker on the lawn at Wahkonsa School to mark the site of the old military post. The marker is a bronze tablet set in a five foot stone, and it gives a brief history of the fort.

The old lot school of 1854 has given way to a modern building with a music room and auditorium for the use of the children and patrons. One room has been fitted for a dark room where students may develop films and study photography if they so desire.

Upcoming Exhibitions

2021 Exhibition

MAR 13 – MAY 2 | Pop, Funk, and Just Plain Fun! MAR 13 - MAY 2 | City Views MAR 13 – JUN 6 | Chun-Hui Yu, Poetic Sentiment, Chan Spirit MAR 13 - JUN 6 | Theodore Wores, Under the Californian Sun

2019 Exhibition

January 26 - April 14 | Going Places: Drawings by Ric Ambrose February 2 - April 21 | Mark Eanes: The Passionate Spectator February 9 - April 21 | Contemporary Traces on Native Land April 20 - August 11 | Ruth Tunstall Grant May 11 - August 11 | Sanaz Mazinani: Dark Bright May 11 - August 18 | Kathryn Metz: From the Center to the Edges August 17 - October 27 | Selections from the Permanent Collection: Photography August 31 - November 3 | Expressions of Divinity August 31 - November 3 | Hector Dio Mendoza: WHITE WILDERNESS/MALEZA BLANCA November 16 - January 26 | Deborah Oropallo: Flight November 16 - January 26 | Na Omi Judy Shintani: Dream Refuge for Children Imprisoned November 17 | Reception

2011 Exhibition

March 5 - May 8 | Squeak Carnwath March 5 - May 15 | Stanley Goldstein February 26 - April 24 | Selections from the Permanent Collection May 21 - Julyy 24 | Lou Bermingham: Ancient Dreams for New Realities May 21 - Julyy 20 A | Transcendent Land: Non - Traditional Landscapes May 14 - Julyy 10 | Mirang Wonne: Fire Strokes Julyy 30 - September 18 | David Ogle: Sculptures Julyy 30 - September 11 | Atmospheric Firings Julyy 23 - September 11 | Diane Kreiter September 24 - November 27 | Kenjilo Nanao - Pacific Paintings: 1986 - 2011 September 24 - November 20 | Jamie Brunson: Indra’s Net September 17 - November 27 | Loaded: The Art of Heather Wilcoxon December 3 - February 12 | Eve Page Mathias December 10 - February12 2011 | Statewide Painting Competition and Exhibition

2010 Exhibition

March 13 - June 6 | Robert Chiarito March 20 - June 13 | Xicana: Spiritual Reflections/Reflexiones Espirituales June 17 - September 19 | Flights of Fancy New York by Livia C. Stein June 19 - September 19 | Erin Goodwin Guerrero: Caught Between Heaven and Earth June 26 - September 19 | A Child’s World September 25 - November 28 | Stan Welsh: On Land - On Water October 2 - December 5 | David Middlebrook December 4 - February 27 | Sweet Obsession Lynn Powers: Twenty Year Survey December 11 - February 20 | Heidi Burckner: Chimerical Creatures and Other Curiosities December 11 - Marchch 6 | Statewide Watercolor Competition and Exhibition

2012 Exhibition

February11 - April 22 | Photography Competition and Exhibition February25 - May 2 | Collecting Large: Selections from the Permanent Collection February 25 - May 2 | Silvia Poloto April 28 - Julyy 8 | Roberta Loach May 12 - Julyy 15 | San Jose State University Graduate Show May 19 - Julyy 15 | California Society of Printmakers May 5 - June 3 Arts | Connect Julyy 21 - September 9 | Poetics of Disposability Julyy 28 - September 16 | Harry Powers: From the Inward Eye Julyy 28 - September 23 | David Stonesifer: My Point of View September 22 - November 18 | Maxime Solomon: From Void to a Dream September 29 - November 25 | Splintering Humanity: Religious Extremism in Defiance of a Global Community September 29 - Nov 11 | Cuong Nguyen November 28 - January 27 | Donna Cehrs: Portraits, New York December8 - February3 | Watercolor Competition November 24 - February 3 | Karen Frey: Alchemist

2013 Exhibition

February 16 - April14 | Domenic Cretara: 20 Years of Painting and Drawing February9 - April 7 | Echos of Islam May 4 - July 7 | Patrick Surgalski April 24 - June 23 | Photo Competition & Exhibition April 24 - June 23 | Clark Gussin July 6 - September 1 | Salvatore Pecoraro July 20 - September 8 | West Valley and Mission College Art Faculty Exhibition September 21 - November 24 | Consuelo Underwood: Welcome to Flower - Landia September 14 - November 17 | Spiral: Art of the Street September 10 - December 1 | Yori Seegar: Reliquary December 7 - January 26 | Kay Russel: Recollections December 7 - January 26 | San Jose State University Centennial Exhibition December 7 - January26 | Statewide Painting Competition and Exhibition

2014 Exhibition

February 1 - May 4 | Katherine Meyer: Territories of Experience February 15 - April 18 | Beverly Rayner: Museum of Mesmerism Psychic February 15 - April 13 | Contemporary Heritage: Selections from the Permanent Collection April 29 - August 3 | Imagine May 10 - August 10 | Lucas Blok: Paintings August 16 - November 16 | Ron Dell’Aquila: Photography August 16 - November 16 | Salma Arastu: Celebration of Calligraphy August 23 - November 23 | Karim Alwali: The Civilization Code November 23 - February 14 | Holy Van Hart: Possibilities Abound December 6 - February 8 | Salon at the Triton: A 2D Art Competition & Exhibition

2015 Exhibition

February 14 - March 29 | Kathryn Arnold: The Impact of Language February 21 - April 19 | Charles Eckhart: A 46 Year Retrospective The Space Between February 21 - March 29 | McEwen Crawford: Metamorphosis April 4 - May 3 | Triton at 50 May 8 - July 5 | Ron Guzman: Current Images Calling on Stories and Legend May 16 - Julyy 12 | 50 and Looking Forward July 11 - September13 | Vern Trindade: Vistas and Dreams Julyy 18 - September 13 | Barry Masteller: Abstractions - Bridges and Echoes September 26 - November 15 | Yao - Pi Hsu: Life.Water September 26 - January 3 | What Triton Means to Me September 19 - January 3 | Christopher Winfield: A Subtle Edge November 21 - December 27 | Life in the City: Selections from the Permanent Collection November 14 - December 27 | Menagerie 2: Selections from the Permanent Collection

2016 Exhibition

January 18 - April 3 | Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame February 20 - April 17 | Dynamic Gesture: Action Painting in the 21st Century April16 - May 29 | Salon at the Triton: 2016 Statewide 2D Competition April23 - June 5 | Susan Manchester: A Contemporary Lineage April30 - June 1 | Tableau: Still Lifes from the Permanent Collection June 4 - August 21 | David Ligare: Primary Structure June 11 - August 14 | David Ligare: California Classicist June 4 - August 14 | Lorraine Lawson August 20 - October 30 | Pancho Jimenez August 20 - October 23 | Susan Parker August 27 - November 6 | Elaine Heron: Photography September 16 - October 30 | Wendy Red Star: Let Them Have Their Voice November 12 - February 3 | Stephanie Lam: Thespians November 12 - February 5 | Symbiotic Ecologies: The Eclectic Visual Collection of Katherine Levin - Lau

2017 Exhibition

February 11 - May 7 | Doug Glovaski February 25 - May 7 | Bil Gould March 11 - April 23 | Salon at the Triton: Statewide 2D Competition May 13 - Aug 13 | Suhas Bhujbal May 13 - July 30 | Ray Ashley Collection May 13 - Aug 6 | ArtsAbled: Seeing the Unseen May 20 - August 13 | Ketra Oberlander August 19 - October 29 | Dorothea Lange August 19 - November 5 | Cuong Nguyen August 19 - October 29 | ArtsAbled: What Barriers August 12 - October 29 | Julyie Hughes November 11 - NO_DATE | Viva Paredes November 11 - NO_DATE | Veteran’s November 11 - NO_DATE | Salon at the Triton

2018 Exhibition

August 4 - October 28 | Michael Shemchuck: Paper Trails August 11 - October 21 | Illusory Abstractions: Recent Acquisitions August 11 - October 21 | Miguel Machuca: Drawing Light from Darkness August 18 - October 28 | Alimentos: Glass Works by Viviana Paredes October 27 - January 27 | Testament of the Spirit: Paintings by Eduardo Carrillo

2020 Exhibition

February 8 - October 18 | Renee Billingslea: Ten Japanese - American Concentration Camps February 1 - October 11 | Jeff Alan West: Spellings of Gravitas February 1 - May 10 | Fan Lee Warren: Shifting Messages February 8 - April 19 | Enrique Chagoya: Aliens

Exhibition Archives