The History of Lemont Fournier Institute of Technology
Lemont (population 13,098) is located in far northeastern Illinois in the southwest corner of Cook County. The city is located on Lemont Road between Interstate Highway 55 and Illinois Route 171. The Des Plaines River and the Sanitary Drainage and Ship Canal both flow to the northwest of town. The Amtrak/ Atchison, Topeka, & Sante Fe Railroad has tracks that travel through Lemont as well. Lemont is located about 25 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.
Lemont has a very long and storied history. According to the website address of http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/736.html, the following is a summary of that history:
The area in which Lemont is now located was first settled in the 1830s. Attempts to build a town in the area occurred in 1836 (Keepataw) and 1839 (Athens). However, it was the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in 1848 that led to the town of Lemont being created. Lemont was officially incorporated as a town in 1876.
Early industrial strengths of Lemont included the development of rock quarries. This brought in several immigrant workers to help populate the area and work the quarries. Lemont’s growth was steady, though not remarkable for its first 100 years. The town’s population in 1960 was 3,400 and this grew to 7,350 by 1990. However in 2000, that number had nearly doubled to 13,100.
The following history of the high school known as Fournier Institute of Technology in Lemont was provided to us by Barb of the Lemont Area Historical Society (http://www.township.com/lemont/historical/index.htm):
“The Fournier Institute of Technology was built in 1929 by the Archdiocese of Chicago as a seminary and retirement house for priests. Arthur J. Schmitt, a successful engineer who founded Amphenol Corporation purchased the property in early 1941 to establish a school for young men as pre-engineering students and a full program for engineering.
Fournier graduated its last high school class in 1951 (last college class in 1955) and ceased operations in June of that year. Electrical engineering was the primary field included in the curriculum and ethical precepts were included. The Institute was Lemont’s only College offering a five-year secular course of study and graduate diplomas. But from the beginning, it was designed to give its students a good background in Catholic precepts with many of the instructors being priests. Some local residents were teachers at Fournier, such as Mrs. William Krause and Frank E. Pick, head of the Department of Physics.”
Additional information from the 1953 dissertation written about the history of Catholic secondary education by Sr. Mary Innocenta Montay also tells us that Fournier Institute was built at a cost of over $250,000 in a wooded estate area east of Lemont, and was named for the Very Rev. Cyril Fournier, who served as the first Provincal of the Viatorian order in the United States. When the school opened on September 8, 1930, the school’s mission was to exclusively prepare candidates for the novitiate, emphasizing religion, Latin, mathematics, and English. The enrollment was small and closed in 1933 during the heart of the Great Depression.
However, the school was re-opened in 1943 when Schmitt created his own foundation with a board of trustees to oversee the school’s operation. It was a six-year school with the junior and senior years of high school, along with a four-year college course to educate and train future industrial leaders.
Fournier had dormitories on campus with everything paid for by the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation. Viatorian priests and brothers were still involved as members of the faculty.
The high school department was discontinued in June of 1951, due an engineering mortality rate that was too high for incoming students that had to make a career choice after their sophomore years in high school prior to transferring to Fournier. The school was later purchased by the Vincentian Order and reopened as St. Vincent dePaul Seminary in 1955, only to close in 1992. The school’s main buidling was torn down in 1996 in an effort to develop a subdivision on the site.
Fournier Institute of Technology Quick Facts
Year first opened: 1930
Year firstclosed: 1933
Closed high school: 1951
Closed college: 1955
Fournier team nickname: “Titans”
Fournier team colors: Blue & White
Fournier fight song: unavailable