The Last Light-Hearted Year

Tamarack, October 1914

Tamarack, October 1914

On June 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austria-Hungary’s throne, and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated while they were visiting Bosnia. By July of that year, Austria-Hungary and Serbia were at war; and by the end of August Germany, Russia, France, Great Britain, and Belgium were all involved in what would become the first World War. While President Woodrow Wilson worked to keep the U.S. out of the hostilities, the entire world shook with rage and horror over this bloody conflict.  (In 1917, the U.S. entered the fighting when, on April 6, it declared war on Germany.)

As events unfolded in Europe, the atmosphere around  the U. of D. campus seemed unaffected by it all.  Reading through the Tamarack publication from October 1914 (four months after the world began its steady march towards “The Great War”), I could find only a tongue-in-cheek mention of the conflict (shown in the image here).

Some of the humor in this page needs a bit of explanation. Earl Kitchener, a newly created peerage in the British ranks (dukes, marquess, earl, viscount, baron) had just been created in 1914 for famous soldier, Herbert Kitchener. Stroh and Goebel were brewers in Michigan (doing quite well at the time). The other puns seem obvious.  And it’s likely that the rest of the names mentioned here were students (Edward D. Devine, Charles L.  Bruce, and Henry N. Gaspard were all listed as officers in the Alumni Association in the 1915 bulletin).

Earlier Tamaracks expressed the light-hearted school boy air of those carefree days before the first world war.  After that, it seemed the tone changed to a more somber one. The students of U. of D. seemed to view a very different world after this point.

Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Items of College History 1898

One of the best resources for information about the history of this university lies in the yellowing pages of the Tamarack.  Through the words of the students then, it’s easy for readers to put themselves into that year and that space, and feel the slow pace of that time.  The academic atmosphere of those hallowed university halls comes into sharper focus as visitors to the Tamarack archive linger with each issue.

Within most of the Tamarack publications is a section called, Items of College History.  It might be surprising to come across a column like this in the first few issues since, in 2015, the year 1898 is already historical.  To the writers then, however, “history” began with the first month of the term, and the “items” were the events of note that occurred from then until the end of the semester. This offers readers a “snapshot” of this period in diary form.

In 1898, we can pick up events from the previous issue and learn that the semester began on September 3rd that year.  The author gives us statistical information regarding enrollments, and a nice breakdown of their discipline preferences.

Commencement was held on June 25th that year at the Whitney Opera House.  Like the year before, seven graduates received their degrees before a “large audience.”

Shown here is page one of this section of the April, 1898, Tamarack.  The following two pages tell readers that Father M. P. Dowling, S. J. became a member of the faculty that year, beginning his teaching career as a professor of Humanities with the fall semester.  It goes on to describe the “Lake St. Claire region” before “…the advent of the electrician and the bicycle.”

We also learn about the death of Father John Baptist Miege, founding father of Detroit College.  The Tamarack notes that word of Father Miege’s death came during this year (1898) and that his death was a direct result of a “burn” he received.  Several sites throughout the Internet give conflicting information about this, and even Wikipedia says he died in 1883 of “paralysis.”

Want to learn more about this?  Why not visit the Tamarack archive?  Whether you are searching for poetry, prose, or history, some of the best places to find interesting reading are among the digitized volumes of the University of Detroit’s Tamarack.



Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician




Sanctuary in the Library-The CLASA Special Collection

sanct1The current political climate has made sanctuary cities in the United States a hot topic for discussion. Besides the many resources of books and journal articles that can be accessed through the library site, the library archives also contains the CLASA Collection.

CLASA stands for Carney Latin American Solidarity Archives. The collection consists of books, reports, bulletins, newsletters, articles, correspondence, media, etc. from 1975-2001 (predominantly, 1980′s). The documents come from Detroit’s merged Latin American solidarity groups, including Michigan Inter-faith Committee for Central American Human Rights (MICAH), the Centaral American Solidarity (CASC) and the Organization in Solidarity with Central America (OSCA)

Also as part of the collection are Freedom-of Information Act (FOIA) documentation and correspondence with the Federal Government surrounding the family’s efforts to locate the remains of Fr. James Guadalupe Carney. Fr. Carney attended the University of Detroit before deciding to become a Jesuit priest. After ordination he worked among the poor campesinos in Honduras until he was expelled in 1979 for his activities at organizing cooperatives. In 1983 he “disappeared”, presumably by the Honduran military, while serving as chaplain to a revolutionary army which had just crossed the border from Nicaragua into Honduras.





Big Mac on Campus


OK- well not exactly ON campus, but you can’t miss it. McDonald’s set up shop at the corner of McNichols and Livernois in 1989. Originally on that corner was Gregg’s Pizza, which just moved to another building nearby on Livernois. When it opened in January 1989, it became the 35th McDonald’s franchise to open in the city of Detroit.


The Age of Inquiry


In March, 1827, Freedom’s Journal, the first black-owned and operated newspaper was established with the goal of reaching the free black population in the northeastern part of the U.S.  A speech (delivered in July, 1830) by one of its founders, Peter Williams, is among some of the earliest speeches held in the Black Abolitionist archive.

Soon, other black-owned newspapers followed.  Among these was Frederick Douglass’ Paper (which had evolved from his previous newspapers), and among the editors of this paper was teacher, writer, and Black Abolitionist, William J. Watkins.

One of the things that makes the Black Abolitionist archive unique is the collection of editorials and speeches by writers who may not be as well known as men like Frederick Douglass.  William Watkins is one of them.  Although he wasn’t born into slavery, he identified strongly with the plight of those who were. He lived during one of the bleakest periods in American history, and, through sheer determination and a powerful intellect, he became a compelling voice for justice that guided an entire race of people through that horrible time.

“The Age We Live In” (included here) is a great example of Watkins’ work.  In it, he describes his generation as the “age of inquiry and investigation.”  He saw among his people a renewed interest in education, research, and betterment. He viewed his time as a “revolution” of progress and enlightenment; and so it was in many ways.

William J. Watkins lived between around 1803 to around 1858.  When historians speak of these years, they tend to focus on the horrors of slavery and the way the country’s economy grew on the backs of the enslaved portion of its population.  But behind the scenes progress was taking place, encouraged and inspired by writers, editors, and journalists working with the power of the written word for the cause of liberation for all.  These were the heroes of this time.  These were the men and women who fought tirelessly for the cause of freedom.  Among these, William J. Watkins stands out as one of the most eloquent and outspoken.  His name has slipped into the cover of history.  This current “age we live in,” however, may be the perfect the time to re-introducing him to the world.

Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Mercy College Newspaper 1970

Mercy College Newspaper 1970

From October, 1941 through April 1989, Mercy College of Detroit offered its academic population news and information through the publication of a bi-weekly newspaper. Although the name of the newspaper changed a couple of times since it first began, the publication continued through the 1988-89 school year. Each issue has been preserved in our Mercy College Student Newspapers digital archive to offer readers an intimate view of student life at Mercy College.

Outer Echoes, the original newspaper title, became Dateline in January, 1970.  In April of that year, the first page of Dateline (shown here) proudly announced that 200 students would graduate that year on Saturday, May 9, at St. Scholastica’s Church across the street.  It also offered something unexpected.

Included in this first page was a parable I’ve heard before in various tellings.  This time the story was presented as a wise philosopher interacting with his students.  The students were jealous of the philosopher’s great wisdom and set out to make a fool of him.  Regardless of the main characters, whether monks or priests or philosophers, the story goes like this:

The students approached an old philosopher and one of them said, “Old man, I  have in my hand a bird. Tell me if it’s dead or alive.”

The student with the bird thought he knew how to outsmart the old philosopher. The bird the student held was still alive, but if the old man replied “alive,” he would crush and kill the bird to prove him wrong. If the old man thought the bird was dead, the student would open his hand and let the bird fly away.

But the old man knew something that these students did not.  The future is undetermined before it is chosen.  The choice in that moment lay in the student’s hands.  Either choice would be proved right: end your future now, or release your limitations and fly free.

The old man replied, “As you wish, my son. As you wish.”

Funny how these stories work.  What was true for students then, is true now.  Graduation opens the way to the future, but it’s up to each student to decide the path.mercynewsblog

Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Annual Slide Rule Dinner

slide11Since 1931, the Engineering and Science Departments have honored outstanding students and alumni with an annual Slide Rule Dinner. My guess is that most of the current students have never seen or even held a slide rule let alone know how to use it. A quick check on Wikipedia notes that for the most part slide rules are more of a collector’s item than for any actual use.


A browse through some of the past Slide Rule programs are some interesting items:

For the 1938 dinner, they had for their entertainment, Frank Venezia and his accordion and Community Singing (nothing in the file on what they were singing)


Some years, it was more than a dinner. In 1940 it was a full day of conferences that ended with a big dinner.


In 1968, students who attended the dinner had to have the program for a chance to get some free tickets to a concert held on campus.


Lately the the event has been a dinner/dance. Guess entertainment by an accordion is not going to cut it any more!

slide20My how times have changed!


Slide Rule Dinner-Date?



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