Founded in 1958, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest stands proudly as one of the oldest and most successful American higher-education consortia. With roots reaching back to 1920 in the Midwest Collegiate Athletic Conference and to 1951 in the Midwest Faculty Conference, the ACM can claim an extraordinary record of collaboration amongst its member colleges. With the ten founding members (Beloit, Lawrence, and Ripon in Wisconsin; Coe, Cornell, and Grinnell in Iowa; Carleton and St. Olaf in Minnesota; Knox and Monmouth in Illinois) still actively engaged, and strengthened by new members Macalester and Colorado Colleges in 1967, Lake Forest College in 1974, the College of the University of Chicago from 1988 through 2008, and Luther College in 2009, the ACM has shown remarkable stability and vitality over 50 years of profound change in American higher education.
The founders of ACM, united in a common commitment to excellent liberal arts education, identified three main purposes to support the members through joint action:
- To advance the interests and to contribute to the educational effectiveness of the member colleges of the Association;
- To develop and assist the member colleges in improving the efficiency of their operations both administrative and cultural;
- To assist the member colleges in developing additional sources of revenue.
President Miller Upton of Beloit College in 1958 summarized the collaborative goals of ACM in saying that the new association should "provide individual colleges through collective action" with assistance they could not provide individually; ACM should help the member colleges' president, faculties, and trustees be better able to "appraise their existing educational efforts, stimulate them into awareness of certain conditions ... and encourage experimentation in meeting the demanding problems of the future." Upton further wrote that the ACM should "help identify areas where cooperative college action might be undertaken with profit and serve as a creative stimulus to the individual colleges in planning for their separate missions." That common purpose and commitment to ACM as a "creative stimulus" remains vital after 50 years.