Colleges: Unknown, Unsung & Unusual

Under the spring sun of the rolling farmlands around the northwestern Illinois town of Mount Carroll, tiny Shimer College wears a mask of nodding tranquillity. It might be some 19th century prairie academy trying to drive a little erudition into the neighboring pumpkin-heads. Instead, Shimer is one of eleven U.S. campuses that have an ideal "intellectual climate" in the opinion of Syracuse University Psychologist George G. Stern, writing in the current Harvard Educational Review.

"Shimer has fewer courses than any college going," says its president, F. Joseph Mullin, 56, and he means it as a boast. Largely unknown and unsung outside...

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