About Alice Kibbe

Dr. Alice L. Kibbe(1881 – 1969), teacher and botanist, was Professor and Chair of Biology at Carthage College in Carthage, Illinois from 1920 to 1956. She was noted in the region as a natural historian, philanthropist, and traveler, and for her role as an early female academic leader.
Early youth: Alice Kibbe was born June 27, 1881, in Bridgewater, South Dakota, where her father published a newspaper.  Her interests in biology and botany were formed early as she explored the local prairie lands.  She attended a Baptist College in Sioux Falls and began her teaching career at the age of seventeen in a rural school near her home.  

Expanding education and early achievements: The family moved to Bellingham, Washington, where she attended the State Normal School, and spent her summers working at the Marine Biological Station of the University of Washington,  She received her Bachelor’s degree in 1910 from the University of Washington, followed by an Master of Arts in 1914.  She taught in Washington High Schools for three years and at the end of World War I was the only woman in the nation teaching under the Smith-Hughes Agriculture Act.  Subsequently, she attended Cornell University and attained a Master of Science degree in 1920.

A Recognized Professional: In the fall of 1920 she reported to Carthage College as a teacher in the Biology department and immediately began work on her doctoral theses, a botanical survey of Hancock County, which was published later, in 1952, as A botanical study and survey of a typical mid-western county: Hancock, Illinois; Covering a period of 199 years, from 1833-1952.   The research brought her in contact with the work of other botanists, including Dr. Meade, Dr. Kellogg, Mark Tandy, Dr. Ehinger and others whose work had been forgotten by local residents.  Correspondence preserved by families of these men, from Asa Gray and other famous American botanists was the basis for her second book, “Afield with Plant Lovers,” published in 1953.  She did much to interest the people of the county in their own natural history and the work of local scientists. 

Philanthropy: Dr. Kibbe was head of Carthage College’s biology department from 1920-1956 and the professor and curator of the college museum from 1956-1964, when the college moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Realizing that many of the items in the museum should remain in Hancock County because of their local provenance and significance, Dr. Kibbe purchased them from the college and then deeded her collection and her home (a historic property itself) to the city for a museum.  A wildlife preserve at the north edge of town, which she had purchases in the 1920’s, was deeded to the Carthage Park District as an addition to the city park.  A wildlife tract in Warsaw, Illinois, which she had purchased in 1941, was given to Western Illinois University.  The University improved the buildings and named the tract in her honor, the “Alice Kibbe Life Science Station.”

These donations were the culmination of a life devoted to the interests and concerns of others.  Dr. Kibbe took a deep personal interest in her students, the elderly, and the poor.  The museum holds records of the recollections of many who speak of her financial and spiritual generosity.

In 1964, Dr. Kibbe retired to Bellingham, Washington to be near her sister.  She passed away on 21 January, 1969.  Her legacy lives on.



14 thoughts on “About Alice Kibbe

  1. I was born in Carthage in 1926 in a house on Madison st., but grew up in the east end of town. I attended schools in carthage until 1942 and at age 16 moved to Macomb, Il. where I graduated from Macomb Hi in 1944. ms. Kibbe was very active at Carthage College during my formative years and my brothers and I spent many an hour playing and running at the college. We knew Ms. Kibbe and often went into her little lab on campus where she showed us many things. I remember her very well. I have visited the museum once or twice and would love to come back somtime in the near future.

  2. I was born the same year as the kibbe preserve. Now I teach wildlife at warsaw high school and will be taking my students there to study and build habitat for various animals. I only hope ms. kibbe sends her blessing from above often. Thank you Alice…..

  3. I am a Kibbe, I just think it is interesting to learn how many there are of us.I am pleased to read about Alice and all her acomplishments, I live in PA, but maybe I’ll visit your Museum some day.

    • So you are a Kibbe. We own the house that Alice lived in while in Carthage. They turned it into a museum and then they sold it at auction and built a metal building where it is today. We are remodeling the house at this time but if you are in the area and would like to see it just let us know. My e-mail is roberta@rcooks.com

  4. Jessica:

    I am a Kibbe from western PA but am a loyal Buckeye fan and a Columbus, OH resident since 1992. I too would enjoy visiting the Kibbe Museum someday.

  5. Pingback: The Kibbe Museum: so much more to offer than a two-headed pig! « Welcome to Forgottonia

  6. Pingback: Kibbe Museum open for 2012; date set for Lincoln exhibit premiere « Treasures From The Kibbe Museum

  7. I am the great great niece of Alice Kibbe. Her brother was my great grandfather. I have many of her geneological writings and am amazed at all the things she accomplished and how everyone in the family was so well educated for the time. It was actually her sister-in-law that she went to live with in Bellingham, Wa. Her brother, Lynus was a professor at Western Washington State College(now University) in Bellingham. Another brother, my great grandfather, was a lawyer and author in Tenino, Wa. I am looking forward to visiting the museum when we get to that area. Glad she has left such a legacy!

    • Glad to see this site on the web. I’ve been wanting to learn more about her for a very long time.

    • @Laura Jones – Would love to talk to you! Aunt Alice was a thoroughly impressive person. Unfortunately, I only got to meet her as a child and only saw her for just the one time. Look me up on FB and p.m. me if you like.

      • Not sure who some of these posts are from. Alice Kibbe was my Great Aunt. My Mother Janice Kibbe Ring was Pell Carlyle Kibbe’s oldest daughter. Aunt Alice was one of his 2 younger sisters. She came to see us and Linus and Peral Kibbe every summer and I stayed several summers with her and Aunt Peral in Bellingham after she retired.

        I would be interested in any information about the museum. I have all of her diplomas and her dissertation.

      • Please contact the museum at 217-357-9552 and ask to speak to one of the board members.

  8. My earliest memory of visiting the Kibbe Museum was with my brownie troop led by Velda Dickerson sometime around 1964. The exhibits really fascinated me, not to mention the fact that the museum was air conditioned at a time when my own home wasn’t. As soon as I had permission to ride my bicycle to the museum by myself, I made it a point to visit frequently. I remember a volunteer saying “You come here so often that you could give the tour yourself.” I have very fond and specific memories of the Kibbe Museum and am very grateful for Alice Kibbe’s generousity that continues to educate children and adults.

  9. Alice Kibbe was my great Aunt. Your comments are very nice, but there are several small errors. Aunt Alice was a perfectionist and she would care that the information is accurate.
    The family moved to Elma, Washington and ran the Elma Chronical, but they did not live in Bellingham which is about 120 miles away. And, she retired to Bellingham to live with her widowed sister-in- law Pearl Kibbe. Her only sister Edna Ford lived in Portland. I have all of Aunt Alice’s diplomas and would be glad to donate them if you have an interest. I also have a copy of her dissertation if you do not have one.

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