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February 2018


Dear Abbot Pennings,

Is it true that classes at SNC ended earlier than anticipated one year?

Jared Simon ’12


Dearest Jared,

You are quite right! Indeed, I recall it well – it is difficult to forget the bitter cold of that year.

In 1918, we were in the throes of winter, quite unlike the mild winter we’ve been having this year! The average temperature that January was a harsh 5.9 degrees Fahrenheit, and we had a number of days that the mercury didn’t even reach zero. As a matter of fact, the National Weather Service even now has 1918 tied in fourth place for coldest January on record in the area! 

Due to the dreadfully cold weather, the cost of coal became frightfully high, and we were burning a good deal of it to keep our large buildings warm. Food also was expensive, and we had 150 students to feed (as well as three cows, 70 chickens, three cats and a fine dog).

To keep costs regimented and to save on boarding expenses, we decided in January that we would close the college around the last week of May, about three to four weeks early. Our commitment to academic excellence was unaltered, however. Students began attending classes every day, even during what would have been Easter vacation, in order to fulfill obligation to necessary coursework. 

Thank you for your question, dear Jared, but even reminiscing of that brutal winter sends me shivering. I think a visit to Ed’s is in order for a nice warm mug of hot chocolate.  

Responses to “Ask the Abbot” questions are penned by St. Norbert College staff in the name of Abbot Bernard Pennings, who founded St. Norbert College in 1898. 

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