History & Tradition


North Idaho College sits on land that has a rich history. From the time when the Coeur d'Alene Tribe used these lands as a gathering place, through the U.S. Army's use of the pristine land for a fort, through the current use as an educational facility, this special place on the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene has been a focal point for the North Idaho region and the Pacific Northwest.


As a place of higher learning since 1933, North Idaho College is steeped with tradition. Our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors take pride in the outdoor facilities, its buildings, the lake front, and the traditions that surround our academic culture. As a member of this community, you are brought into a family that celebrates these traditions and helps you establish ties with the campus. Whether you are a younger student or an older student, a community member or a visitor, your participation in NIC traditions will be a part of your experience during your time with us.

Coeur d'Alene Tribe Members at Yap-Keehn-UmHnya'(pqi'nn: The Gathering Place of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe

For untold centuries, the people of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe gathered to hunt, fish, play games, dance, feast, and swim in the area where Lake Coeur d'Alene feeds into the Spokane River. Hnya'(pqi'nn (pronounced "hin-yap-keehn-un"), or the "gathering place," saw much activity, especially in the summer months, by the Coeur d'Alenes, who were known as a peaceful and diplomatic people.

Fort Sherman

Activities by the Coeur d'Alene Indians were interrupted upon arrival of the white man and the establishment of Camp Coeur d'Alene in 1878, later known as Fort Sherman, by the 45th Congress of the United States. The tribal members were driven from their gathering place to a reservation near the southern tip of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Fort Sherman Over the years, Fort Sherman flourished, bringing development to the community including a hospital, library, school, chapel, and amusement hall. The town of Coeur d'Alene grew along with the fort, sharing many amenities, while the people of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe kept to themselves on the reservation.

In 1900, Fort Sherman was abandoned. Coeur d'Alene's economy and population continued to grow and the need for higher education soon became evident. It wasn't until 1933, after the area began to emerge from the Great Depression, that Coeur d'Alene's dream of higher education became a reality.

Coeur d'Alene Junior CollegeCoeur d'Alene Junior College

The roots of North Idaho College began during the Great Depression. Moritz Brakemeyer was the proponent of the idea of a community college and was backed by the support of community members and organizations. He became the first president of Coeur d'Alene Junior College which was organized on August 10, 1933 as a public junior college and housed on the third floor of the City Hall. Enrollment for the first year was 55 students. Events included a junior college tea, a student debate, and on June 1, 1934, five students received diplomas.

North Idaho Junior CollegeNorth Idaho Junior College

Orin Lee followed as the next college president. In 1939, the Idaho state legislature passed a bill establishing the organization and funding for junior colleges. Kootenai County taxpayers enthusiastically endorsed North Idaho Junior College, which became the new name as well as creating property taxes as a means for funding. George Kildow became president in 1944.

North Idaho Junior College Under Construction In 1949, NIJC moved onto the land where the Coeur d'Alene Indians used to gather, hunt, fish, dance, and feast. Lee Hall housed the college on land that was donated by the Winton family. The location was also the former site of Fort Sherman. The Edminster Student Union opened its doors in 1961, followed by Kildow Hall in 1962 where the library was housed. Shepperd/Gridley Dormitory opened in 1963 and housed 50 men and 50 women. Perry Christenson was the college's fourth president.

In 1968, Barry Shuler became president. Students began to wear cut-offs and mini skirts in violation of dress code requirements set by the Dean of Women. In 1970, the Registered Nurse Program opened for students and was directed by Beverly Hatrock who was also the program developer. The Popcorn Forum also began under the direction of Tony Stewart.

Students by the LakeNorth Idaho College

In 1971, the college name changed from North Idaho Junior College to North Idaho College.

In 1997, North Idaho College and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe joined hands to formulate the Nine Points Agreement, which honors the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, and identifies ways to support Native American students and cultural programming on the college campus. The history of Yap-Keehn-Um comes full circle as North Idaho College and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe respect and honor the history of this land. North Idaho College has become not only the educational center of North Idaho, but remains a gathering place for all people.

75th Anniversary - A Community Birthday Celebration!

NIC celebrated its 75th birthday throughout the 2008-2009 academic year with a variety of events that honored and commemorated NIC's long history and the role it has played in our region.

As part of the celebration, the book “The Gathering Place: A History of North Idaho College” was released by author and NIC Instructor Fran Bahr, detailing the history of the community college.

NIC was born during the challenges of the Great Depression on the heels of incredible hard work and perseverance by our community's forefathers. With endorsements by the city's businesses, the local school district, the local PTA, women's groups, numerous civic organizations, and the Coeur d'Alene Press, the college opened its doors in the fall of 1933. With 55 eager students, paying $35 a semester for tuition, the seed for higher education opportunities in North Idaho was firmly planted.

New Students at "Day of Welcome"New Student & Graduation Pictures

The first day of class is special for many students. It is a time to start a new chapter of life, to learn new skills, and to meet new people. NIC marks this special moment of the first week of classes with the "First Photo" of all first-time students.

Those students who finish a degree or certificate at NIC are invited to have their picture taken again immediately after the spring graduation ceremony. This brings the NIC experience full circle from the day of the "First Photo" to the day when their "Graduation Photo" is taken.

Commencement WalkCommencement Walk

Graduation is marked by a unique tradition at NIC called the Commencement Walk. Graduates gather in the Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Arts Center with faculty before the graduation ceremony. As the time of the ceremony approaches, the faculty lead graduates from the performing arts center down Garden Avenue to Christianson Gymnasium for the special occasion. The pride, excitement, and sense of accomplishment is apparent on individuals' faces as they pass family and friends on their way to becoming an NIC graduate.

Our Mascot and Logos

The year was 1939, fall semester. Coeur d'Alene College had just changed its name to North Idaho Junior College and a mascot was needed. The students were invited to participate in a contest to name the mascot. Glen Noglenn, a first-year student, loved the St. Louis Cardinals and suggested the Cardinal be used as the new NIJC mascot. Folks seemed to really take to it, and the NIJC Cardinal mascot was adopted. An additional logo symbolizing the mountains, trees, and water was introduced in 1984 to represent the the college as a whole while the cardinal transitioned into primarily a spirit mark for athletics.

Logo 1971
1971 - 1984
Logo 1984
1984 to present
Cardianl Logo 1984
1989 to 2008
Cardinal Spirit Mark
2008 to present

The first costumed Cardinal mascot appeared in the 1960's, and rallied fan spirit at basketball games and other sporting events. The mascot name Cecil was given to the bird in 1986 in tribute to Idaho's governor, Cecil Andrus.

Art on the Green

Each year during the first weekend of August, Fort Sherman Park on the western edge of NIC's campus, comes alive in a celebration of art, creativity, and friendship. Amidst the towering pines, more than 135 artists, a variety of performers, food vendors, and numerous volunteers create a venue for inspiration at Coeur d'Alene's annual three-day Art on the Green event. Displays include various handcrafted works in glass, clay, leather, wood, metal, and fiber from the artists throughout the country. The event also features local performers, youth performances from a weeklong art workshop, and showcases local eateries. Adults and children can even create their own art in special hands-on sections where materials and instruction are provided.

Sponsored by the Citizens' Council for the Arts, Art on the Green brings more than 50,000 people to the NIC campus each year.