Our Auer hours to retirement…

Auer_0708_800px_72dpi_web_editBy the end of today, the University of Detroit Mercy’s Dean of Libraries and Instructional Technology, Margaret Auer, after more than 54 years of service to the university (34 as Dean), will step down from her position to take a well deserved period of rest, relaxation and move to retirement. For one person to stay in one place for so long is probably a record that will be hard to top, I don’t think you will find anyone who has spent more personal time and effort to make the university library the best it can be.

Instead of listing of all the accomplishments and challenges that have taken place under her tenure, I sat with her to have an informal interview about some of her memories of the university.

I asked her the following questions (and for the record, her answers are more from my notes and memory of our conversation and not recorded. There was a lot more to her answers, but you get the gist of it):

1. If I told you when you started that you would be working here for the next 50 years, what would you say?

In one of my meetings with Fr. Stockhausen (UDM President 2004-2010) he asked me if I was going to be here for the next 50 years. I said “Do you know how old I would be? I don’t want to work that long.” I was a student here (Class of ’65) and had planned on going into teaching. I had no plans to be an administrator. I started work at the university in the Alumni office and later came to work in the library.auerpic3a

2.Did you ever consider applying somewhere else to work?

Maybe around the late 80′s I thought about it, but I had some family commitments. I was the primary caregiver for my parents and my sisters had their families to take care of. There were other libraries around here, but I couldn’t go out of state and why go somewhere else for new challenges when I could find them here.

3.Are there any regrets or something you wanted to do with the library but it never happened?

We spent months working with the architects to putting an addition to the library. It would have opened up new spaces and extended the half floors of 2M and 3M. It would have brought the library into the 21st century-but the budget and other issues prevented that plan from being put in place. It was also very frustrating to have all the different moves that various libraries had to go through, shifting collections, open a library, close a library, and merging libraries. With all the moves it was often difficult to get the new or merged libraries to realize its full potential in servicing the student.

4.What are you going to miss the most?

The people. I love the profession. I like to be able to mentor people, get them to broaden their perspectives. So many of the former librarians here have gone on to head large libraries. like Nancy was head of DPL (Detroit Public Library), Linda is Director at Saginaw Valley State University, Carol at Sterling Heights Public Library, and John at Oak Park Public Library.

auer25.Do you have any words of wisdom for the next library dean?

My father told me when I first accepted this position “Uneasy is the head that wears the crown”. At first I never really understood what that meant, but I do now. If things go wrong, its your fault, if things go right, its because everybody else does their job. Its not personal, it comes with the territory of being in charge. I would also tell her: Enjoy what you do! Look forward to coming into work everyday-well maybe not all the time.

Thank you Margaret for EVERYTHING!. You have set some high standards for the next dean. Have fun in your retirement.








1966 Mardi Gras at UD with Louis Armstrong


Louis Armstrong gave a performance as part of the University of Detroit’s Town and Gown Series. He was in town during the UD’s Mardi Gras weekend and help crown the King (Robert Plantz) and Queen (Carolyn J. Popp) of Mardi Gras at his concert.

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As part of the festivities during that weekend there was a street parade of costumed marchers down Livernois, a Mardi Gras Ball, and after Louis Armstrong’s concert and again after the basketball game, students could go to “Papa John’s” for some gambling action.

66mardi4Where was Papa John’s?¬† It was upstairs in the student union. The casino had blackjack tables, over and under wheels, crap tables and roulette wheels. To play, each person was provided with a set amount of paper money which he or she will try to increase by betting on the various games. At the end of the evening when the player has won the required number of paper dollars for a chance on a prize, he could go to the “Double or Nothing” booth for a prize. The prizes could be Batman comic books (which now probably would be worth something!), a TV set, tickets to movies, dinner for two at Larco’s, electric carving knives, or six free Karate lessons.

There once was a Varsity Roller Rink!

roller1I’m used to seeing old UD Tower yearbooks turn up on ebay-but this little item is probably a lot rarer than anyone could imagine. This Varsity Roller Rink decal had with its posting a date 1941. If it did not have that date, I never would have been able to find out WHEN it was in business. I didn’t have a phone directory for that year (the library had 1938 then a big gap to 1953), so I browsed through the student newspaper, Varsity News, for the time period. I did find a couple of tiny little adds in a couple of issues for September 1940-but that was it.



It must not have been around for very long.


There were a few articles in the student newspaper about holding skating parties, but they were held at another place called Arena Gardens.






Varsity News Feb. 6, 1941



roller skates ca 1940′s

The OLD Library-before 1950

Although building construction on the McNichols campus started in 1925, it would be a few more years before the library had its own building. A library building was always part of the original plan for the campus, but the advent of a world-wide economic depression put those plans on hold. The actual groundbreaking for the library would not take place until 1949. Until the completion of the “new” library in 1950, all the library services were housed on the third floor of the engineering building. In the archives are pictures of what the library looked like when it was in the engineering building. It is hard to tell from these pictures how much space was available, but it does not look like it had much room for books AND places for students to study.

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An Appeal for Civil Rights Back in 1838

As I was browsing the files in the Black Abolitionist Archives for something appropriate in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I came across this brief editorial from a Black Abolitionist newspaper Colored American dated July 7, 1838. As I was reading it, I could not help but hear a similar sentiment in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. It is not a long post but the message is clear-we need to treat everyone equally. If you go to the Black Abolitionist Archive site and use a key word search “civil rights” you will find hundreds of other items like this.


1916 One Hundred Years Ago at UD….


Rev. William T. Doran, S.J.

The Rev. William T. Doran, S.J. had recently been installed as the new President of UD on Sept. 21, 1915 after the untimely death of a very popular president Rev. William F. Dooley. He had been Vice-President of the University and had worked closely with the previous president and was a worthy successor of President Dooley.

On October 2, 1916, the University of Detroit formally opened the Evening School of Commerce and Finance.

1916 College of Arts and Science Tuition:

1916ud2(Just to keep things in perspective: In 1916, the cost of a movie ticket was $0.07, an ounce of gold was $20.72 and a loaf of bread was $0.05. The average home was $6,187, the price of a car was $440.)

Some extracurricular activities: 1916ud3Although the US would not officially enter World War I until 1917, it was very much on the minds of the students in 1916. U of D would not be offering a degree in aeronautical engineering until 1921, but they were writing about the aerospace industry in the student newspaper Tamarack in 1916.


“Squadron of fighting aeroplanes and aeroplane chasers “somewhere in France” about 15,000 aeroplanes in use in Europe today and about 8,000 aviators flying them.”


Danny Thomas – American of the Year, 1954 Award by University of Detroit

thomas5aAs part of the 1954 Spring Carnival, Danny Thomas was awarded “American of the Year” by the University of Detroit.¬†Danny Thomas was born in Deerfield, Michigan, one of ten children of Lebanese immigrants (New York Times obituary). (Just as a side note with the current events about Syrian refugees: Wikipedia notes that according to the 1930 and 1920 census, his parents are listed as being born in Syria.) He was honored for his charity work entertaining the troops with a USO during the war, and since then had given an average of 115 benefit shows a year, but perhaps he was best known for founding and supporting St. Jude Hospital. Danny Thomas felt he owed his entire good fortune to St. Jude, the patron saint of the hopeless people.

An article in the Varsity News explains his devotion to St. Jude: “In 1937 when his wife, Rosemarie was about to give birth to their first child; they lived in a rooming house in Detroit. Danny had just lost his job at a night club because the club closed for redecorating. He had only $7 in his pocket. He didn’t know how he was going to pay the hospital bill. He entered a nearby church, lit a candle to St. Jude and deposited the seven dollars in the poor box, asking St. Jude to return it to him ten-fold.

That night when he went back to his rooming house, the landlady told him he had a phone call from a local radio station. It was for a job to announce a commercial spot for Maytag washing machines. The job, Danny was told, would pay $75. Of course he took the job, and the money was a little more than ten times the amount he had given the church. It also paid the hospital bill for the birth of his first child.

Another direct result of Danny’s prayers to St. Jude came after he had become a $500 per week entertainer at Chicago’s 5100 Club. The owner of the club thought Danny was so valuable to its existence, that he offered the comedian a full half-interest. Danny didn’t know whether to take the offer and become a businessman or to try for greater heights as an entertainer.

In church the next morning he asked that he be shown some concrete sign of what to do, and asked that the answer be given him before midnight, he had to let the owner know what his intentions were.

That day, for the first time in many years, Chicago had one of it worst blizzards and by evening all trains were held up because of the snow and ice on the tracks. This delay caused an agency head, Abe Lastfogel of the William Morris office to be detained overnight in Chicago. (The) local William Morris representative suggested that Lastfogel go with him to the 5100 Club to see Danny Thomas whom he thought Lastfogel would be interested in handling.

When Danny met Lastfogel, he told the comedian that his place was in show business, and that he would send for him to come to Hollywood. This to Danny, was St. Jude’s response.”

The Arab American National Museum has an exhibit “An Enduring Legacy: Danny Thomas and ALSAC/St. Jude” through May 8, 2016.


Danny Thomas with Carnival Queen Barbara Kennedy and Carnival King Edward McIntosh


Danny Thomas with Fr. Celestin J. Steiner, S.J., UD President


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