Author Archives: Pat Higo

Summer School-Not Just for College Students

If you walk through campus during the summer it may look pretty deserted, however, there is plenty of activity going on everywhere else. The University of Detroit Mercy offers a number of summer programs for all ages in all areas from preschool to college age students. If you just type in “summer” in the search box on the UDM home page you will find a host of programs listed such as:























The library archive files have programs of some of the summer offerings that have been held in the past. Summer may be a time for rest and relaxation for some, the process of education never stops.

Here are a couple of courses that were offered in the past:










Commencements of the past at University of Detroit

oldcom2Last week the University of Detroit Mercy sent off its latest set of graduates to their next phase of their lives. It wasn’t that long ago when commencement ceremonies were held a bit later in the year and graduates had to follow more compulsory rules to graduate. Check out the notice in the Varsity News, May 8, 1939:oldcom3

Up until 1966, commencement ceremonies were held a month later in June instead of early May like it is now. This changed when the university changed to a shorter trimester system.


The Memorial Building (now named Calihan Hall) was not built until 1952, so university graduation ceremonies were held in various other venues. Sometimes with the later June dates, they were held in the open air of the stadium. Most of the time it was held in Masonic Temple. Other places included Orchestra Hall, Naval Armory, Detroit Institute of Arts and a few places I don’t think are around any more like Elks Temple and Arcadia Auditorium. Even the time of day the ceremonies that were held would vary-sometime in the evening, sometime in the afternoon. Might have been the location that dictated when they were held. Browse through the commencement programs in our Special Collections page for places and dates as well as a listing of the graduates.


Not all the students of the university graduated in the same ceremony. I can’t tell from the commencement programs when the Law and Dental Schools started their own separate ceremonies from the McNichols campus schools. During the early 60′s, there were separate ceremonies for the Dental Hygienist and Secretarial Science graduates. I guess since they were not four-year degree programs, they needed their own ceremonies.

Other traditions that are associated with the university’s commencement ceremonies are the Baccalaureate and breakfast. The Baccalaureate originated in European universities and has been a part of the Jesuit tradition for centuries. The program usually included an invocational hymn by graduates, an address by a prominent Jesuit professor or administrator and benediction.

According to the Varsity News, May5, 1961, “The Mass and breakfast was begun five years ago by Delta Sigma Pi, international professional business fraternity, especially for C&F graduates. It attracted about 50 persons that year” The next year it opened up to all students and it just grew from there.

Some of the other senior activities have come and gone, like the Senior Prom and BobLo boat cruise, but the Baccalaureate, breakfast and commencement ceremony have stood the test of time and will probably be part of the university tradition forever.




Golden Memories for the Class of ’66

66com1At every commencement, the university invites alumni back for their 50th year reunion. Here is just a sampling of some of the events they would have experienced as students at the University of Detroit and Mercy College of Detroit.

For UD students, some of the memories will include the Spring Carnivals and maybe being in the class taught by Mrs J.O. Smith, now better known at the novelist Joyce Carol Oates.


There are the well known personalities that would be on campus such as Michigan Governor George Romney to give a speech on his trip to Viet Nam (which in a later speech used the term “brain washing”) and Louis Armstrong and Carlos Montoya for the Town and Gown Celebrity Series.



For the students at Mercy College, it was the occasion of the College’s 25th silver anniversary of its founding.

Wards Conference Center was open for business as the new student center for all kinds of activities with its ballrooms, dining rooms and  food services.


habit1The Sisters of Mercy were also responsible for the design of the new habit that would be used for a short period before they adopted the dress of the layperson.

The Speech and Drama Department kept busy with such productions as “The Skin of Our Teeth” and “Sound of Music”.

Mercy College had just recently started to enroll men at the college. In 1966 they formed their first fraternitymercyman2Lots of memories-lots of changes over the past fifty years. Just imagine what the class of 2016 will have to look forward to with their fiftieth year reunion!


From Star Basketball Player to Head Coach: Welcome Back Bacari Alexander!

alex1Bacari Alexander played two seasons at the University of Detroit Mercy and graduated from the university in 1999.


Varsity News March 18, 1998














He went on to play with the Harlem Globetrotters for a couple of years and then moved to assistant coaching at University of Detroit Mercy, Ohio, Western Michigan University and University of Michigan. He was named Head Coach at the University of Detroit Mercy in April 2016.

He  is not the first person who played on the university basketball team to return later to become the head coach of the team.

cali1Robert Calihan was All-American at the University of Detroit in 1939-1940, and led the Titans in scoring for three seasons. After graduation in 1940, he played with the Chicago Gears and was a regular with the Detroit Eagles and helped win the National Basketball League title in 1941. He returned to the university as head coach of the basketball team in 1948 and remained in that position for the next 21 years. As a coach, he accumulated 303 victories and four post-season tournament bids, while turning out some of the most talented players in the country like Dave Debusschere and Spencer Haywood. After his tenure as coach, he became the Athletic Director for the University of Detroit. In his honor, the Memorial Building was renamed Calihan Hall in 1977.



Hon. Roman S. Gribbs Class of ’52, ’54

gribbs4Roman Gribbs (1925-2016), a much respected former mayor of the city of Detroit and  judge for the Michigan Court of Appeals, was also a very active as a student and alumnus at the University of Detroit.gribbs

As a student, he was President of Student Council, Vice-President Alpha Sigma Nu, national Jesuit honor society, Blue Key member, Senior Delegate for National Federation of Catholic College Students, Sophomore Class President and received the Delta Sigma Pi gold pin scholarship award which is presented to the graduating senior who maintained the highest scholastic average in the Commerce and Finance College during his four years at the college (Class of 1952). He graduated from the University of Detroit Law School in 1954.

At the University of Detroit Mercy, the College of Business Administration inducted him in to the 2011-12 Hall of Honor given to exemplary individuals who have given much to their profession, to their communities, to the College and to the University:

“In addition to having a successful private practice, Ray was an Assistant Prosecutor and Sherriff of Wayne County before being elected Mayor of Detroit in 1969.  As Mayor, he is perhaps best remembered for leading the City from a time of turbulence into an era of healing, and for his national leadership on the issue of federal revenue sharing.  Widely respected as a jurist, he became a circuit court judge in 1975 and was elected to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1982.  Judge Gribbs’ professional activities include membership in the Advocates Bar Association, the Detroit Bar Association, the Catholic Lawyers’ Society, the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan Judicial Institute, the League of Women Voters of Michigan, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Michigan Conference of Mayors, and the National League of Cities.  A former instructor and past Trustee of the University of Detroit, he has been active with the Michigan Youth Commission, the NAACP, the National Urban Coalition, the Old Newsboy’s Goodfellows Fund, Friends of the Archbishop of Detroit, the Colorado Institute, and the Piast Institute.”


Nancy Niepoth Commerce senior and Ray Gribbs, Commerce sophomore go over plans for raising funds for the proposed student activities building (1950)


Dr. Stewart of student affairs, assistant dean (right front) at the reception for Korean vets at the Rakham Memorial. UD representitives, left to right Mary Jo Mauer, Women’s League, Ray Gribbs, Law School, (Back left to right) Dick Welsh, student council president, Craig, Law School (1953)




UD Football is alive and well-on video!


It had a few false starts and detours along the way but at last you can now watch the University of Detroit football team in action. It is not the whole game, and you may only catch a glimpse of the band and cheerleaders, and there is no sound, but hey, half the fun might be to call your own play by play action. Additional films will be added, and if you can ID some of the unknown games, let us know! You can catch the action on the UDM Libraries/IDS Special Collections-Football Collection page under “Game Films”:



Past UD Presidents Portraits


If you have ever been in the President’s Dining Room in the Student Center, you probably noticed a wall of portraits of past presidents of the University of Detroit, Mercy College of Detroit and University of Detroit Mercy. The first 18 portraits of UD presidents were done by a student at the University of Detroit, LaSalle Mayes. He was a student in the College of Arts and Science in 1957 and had worked on the portraits for almost two years. Originally they were hung in the library and later moved to the President’s Dining Room. Mayes did the first 18 of the 24 President drawings, a Sister of Mercy, Sr. Marie Henderson drew the other six which includes the Mercy College of Detroit Presidents.


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