History at Conference Center at George Williams College

Our History

George Williams College is named for Sir George Williams, the Englishman who founded the YMCA in 1844. This historic site was established in 1884 to serve as a training facility to prepare young men to serve in the YMCA. Since that time over 130 years ago, the campus has welcomed visitors from all corners of the world. They have journeyed to the quiet shores of Geneva Lake in search of inspiration, recreation, education and renewal.

Today, as part of the expansive Aurora University community, George Williams College offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs in fields that specialize in serving others and that inspire our community commitment.

During the summer months, the campus is host to Music by the Lake, an outdoor music festival that began on our grounds in 1951. During the years that followed, Music by the Lake welcomed the likes of Isaac Stern, John Denver, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Doc Severinsen and many more luminaries of stage and screen. Revived in 2001, Music by the Lake has recently featured Michael Bolton, Kenny Loggins, The Irish Tenors, Manhattan Transfer, Doobie Brothers and original productions of "Madama Butterfly," "Brigadoon" and many others.

The conversation continues year-round with our Sundays at 4 series featuring today’s leaders in arts and ideas sharing their words and talents. We extend the invitation to neighbors and friends to join GWC faculty and students at these free events. Recent events have featured David Brooks, Fabien Cousteau and music from Cantus and Prometheus Trio.