From Central Illinois Proud (WMBD-TV, Peoria, IL):
The Sierra Club is recognizing Knox College as one of “America’s 100 Greenest Schools.” The “Cool Schools” list, released this month in Sierra magazine, recognizes colleges for environmental practices, energy saving initiatives, and sustainability-oriented academics.
Knox is ranked at 100 out of the 162 schools that responded to the Sierra Club’s survey, which was mailed to 900 colleges and universities. According to the Sierra Club, “there are more than 2,000 four-year colleges in the United States, meaning that the schools in the ‘Coolest Schools’ index are in the top 10 percent when it comes to the environment.”
Among the survey areas where Knox received top scores were for energy efficiency and administration. Both areas received a score of 9 out of a possible 10 points. According to energy efficiency data provided for the survey, Knox has reduced its carbon emissions by 22% in the past ten years, and doubled the amount of material recycled in the past four years.
The administration category recognizes Knox’s cross-campus commitment to sustainability, including the President’s Task Force on Sustainability and having signed the Talloires Declaration, an institutional sustainability pledge that has been adopted by colleges and universities worldwide.
From the Daily Reveiw Atlas (Monmouth, IL):
Robert Hellenga, a former Knox College professor and Galesburg novelist, has written six books. Wednesday, he gave a reading of his most recent novel “‘The Snakewoman of Little Egypt,” at the Warren County Library.
Hellenga came up with the idea for the novel at the library. He was reading a book about snake handling when he began to envision the character of Sunny.
“I usually start with characters,” he said. “I have three daughters, so I really like to write about young women. A man with three daughters will never run out of stories.”
Sunny’s husband is a snake handler — a sect of Pentacostals that interpret the Bible literally. Snake handlers believe that if a just person handles a snake it won’t bite them, but unjust people will be punished. Sunny’s husband wants to see if Sunny is cheating on him, so he asks her to handle snakes. Sunny, who doesn’t share her husband’s enthusiasm for snake handling, instead shoots him.
When Hellenga begins writing a novel he is careful not to plan too much.
“I’m a big believer that you should just sit down and write and surprise yourself,” he said. “I think it should be open to surprises every step of the way. What is this all about? What do I really care about? I like to imagine that I’m letting the reader imagine certain things. A lot of that happens after writing.”
From the Chicago Tribune:
The plains and prairies of Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” and cities of Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie” have come to define the Midwestern literary tradition, while “Little Egypt,” the triangular tip of southern Illinois bound by the Mississippi, Ohio and Wabash rivers, has been long overlooked. The swamps and dense forests, pocked by closed factories and coal mines, may have proven to be fertile ground, for it is the place in which Robert Hellenga has rooted his new novel, “Snakewoman of Little Egypt: A Novel.”
Hellenga, the author of five novels such as “The Sixteen Pleasures: A Novel” and “The Fall of a Sparrow,” is often associated with Italy, though he grew up in Three Oaks, Mich., and teaches at Knox College in Galesburg. Because his father’s business was seasonal, Hellenga spent summers in Milwaukee. He remembers that he got to know his father’s employees, mostly Italians, and came to understand the cultures of both: small-town, more austere Methodists with church basement weddings featuring cake and ginger ale punch with chunks of lime sherbet floating in it, and Italian weddings with huge celebratory dinners, lavish celebrations and lots of wine.
Hellenga recalls that he was putting the finishing touches on his last book, “The Italian Lover” when he heard an NPR interview segment featuring Jeff Biggers and his book “The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture, and Enlightenment to America.” The tales inspired Hellenga’s curiosity, he explains, leading him to the library where he found not only histories, but also fascinating first-person accounts of life in the region.