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On February 18, 1857, Governor William Bissell of Illinois signed a bill creating a normal school and establishing the Board of Education of the State of Illinois as its governing body. The bill stipulated that the permanent location would be the place that offered the most favorable inducements. Jesse W. Fell took up the campaign for Bloomington and obtained financial backing totaling $141,000. Abraham Lincoln, acting as attorney for the board, drew up the bond guaranteeing the Bloomington citizens would fulfill their financial pledges.

Illinois State Normal University was consequently founded as the first public institution of higher education in the state. Established as a teacher education institution, Illinois State has developed into a multipurpose university with degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

The University is one of 12 public universities in Illinois. Its 34 academic departments offer 188 undergraduate majors in the colleges of Applied Science and Technology, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, and the Mennonite College of Nursing, and Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts. The Graduate School coordinates 108 master’s, 41 certificate/specialist, and 20 doctoral programs. The University’s academic programs are supported by the services and collections of Milner Library.

The University enrolls students from throughout Illinois, 46 states and territories, and 71 countries. Students are mentored by faculty members dedicated to superior teaching, including numerous teacher-scholars recognized at national and international levels for their research and contributions to their field.