Skip to main content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois in the Cold War Era 1945-1975: The Leo Koch Case

The Leo Koch Case

The Leo Koch Case (1947)

In 1960, Leo F. Koch, a professor in the biology department at the University of Illinois, entered into a campus debate on human sexuality by writing a letter which was published in the Daily Illini.  In it, Koch defended premarital sex and trial marriages among mature adults.  The resulting storm over the letter led to Koch’s suspension and eventual firing by university President David Dodds Henry, who called the letter “offensive and repugnant.”  Despite protests from groups arguing for academic freedom of free speech, the board of trustees upheld Koch’s dismissal and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to intervene. 

University of Illinois Sources:

Board of Trustee’s Secretary's File, 1873-1880, 1888-1966 (RS: 1/1/6): Includes documents relating to the Leo F. Koch Case.

Wayne A. Johnston Papers, 1945-1967 (RS: 1/20/3): Includes complaints against faculty, notably Leo Koch.

Administrative and Personnel Actions File, 1914-71 (RS: 2/15/10):  Contains correspondence and reports related to the firing of Assistant Professor of Biology Leo Koch and the censure of the University by the Association of American University Professors.

Coleman R. Griffith Papers, 1919-1963 (RS: 5/1/21): Includes correspondence on the Koch case.

Charles B. Hagan Papers, 1939, 1942, 1951, 1955-67 (RS: 15/18/25): Includes materials relative to the Leo F. Koch censure case

Richard Murphy Papers, 1925-26, 1960-64 (RS: 15/23/27)

Samuel K. Gove Papers, 1948-89 (RS: 21/1/20)

American Association of University Professors (Urbana Chapter) Correspondence, 1934-1984 (RS: 48/1/5)

Daily Illini, 1874- (Microform in Newspaper Library)

Reference Vertical Files- Koch, Leo G. Case (at University Archives)

Bibliography:

Robert A. Freer, Academic freedom at state universities : the university of Illinois, 1867-1950, a case study. (Cambridge, MA: 1950) [microfilm copy of this undergraduate Harvard thesis available in the UI History Library]

David Lance Goines, The Free Speech Movement: Coming of Age in the 1960's (Berkeley: 1993).

Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics (London: 1954).

Al Seckel, ed., Bertrand Russell on Ethics, Sex, and Marriage (Buffalo: 1987).

Chicago Tribune, “Civil Liberties Union Assails Koch’s Ouster,” June 24, 1960, p. C5.

Chicago Tribune, “Koch Ouster Hit by 229 on U of I. Staff,” July 17,  1960, p. 14.

Chicago Tribune, “Affirm U. of I. Dismissal: Trustees Act on Academic Freedom Plea,” Sept. 22, 1960, p. N1.