Visitors to Eureka College will now have a new place to delve more deeply into the life of the college's most famous graduate, Ronald Reagan.
Flanked by flags of "the 24 countries that are free or freer today" because of the fall of the Berlin Wall, college Vice President for Development Mike Murtagh invited people to "learn about a life that was dedicated to making the world a better place" as the Mark R. Shenkman Reagan Research Center was dedicated Saturday at the Melick Library.
The facility now houses the 950 books written specifically about Reagan, a 1932 Eureka College graduate. It is meant to supplement the library's extensive series of primary-source documents and letters as well as other objects in the archives there and at the college's Reagan museum. It will be open to the public.
The new center "will keep the ... teaching and the memory of all Ronald Reagan meant to us for many, many years," said former Gov. Jim Edgar, the honorary chairman of the Eureka College Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration. This year marked the 100th anniversary of Reagan's birth.
"On this campus, so much was accomplished in making Ronald Reagan who he became," Edgar said, starting a theme he would return to later in the evening in celebrating the 175th anniversary of First Baptist Church of Peoria.
He told the congregation about the new facility and emphasized that in the case of Reagan and others, "I'm convinced it's your early years that shape you for the rest of your life."
In a fitting change for a president widely credited with helping bring about the end of the Cold War - and the threat of two superpowers engaging in nuclear war - the research center is in a part of the building that college librarian Anthony Glass said was originally designed to be a fallout shelter.