The President’s House at University of Detroit


Although it was called the “President’s House”, it was not the residential place where UD’s president lived. The mansion located on 1771 Balmoral Drive in the Palmer Woods district was donated to the University of Detroit in 1968 by Mrs. Alfred J. Fisher. Since there was already a building on UD campus called the “Fisher” building for administrative services, they did not want to have people confused as to which “Fisher” building that a meeting was being held.


The President’s House was used to hold religious activities for small groups, high level academic affairs, and conferences for professional groups, faculty and administrators of the university. It would not be used for fraternity or student government affairs, dances or parties. The mansion had 16 rooms suitable for meetings, a chapel, ballroom, and game room. A separate building housed an all-weather swimming pool. The number of people that were to attend an event at the President’s House was limited so as not to interfere with the residential nature of its location. Car pooling was strongly encouraged.


At the time of the donation the value of the house was listed as $350,000. The university sold the property in 1975 for $67,000 on a land contract. The annual expense of maintaining the property of about $15,000 (which included a live-in caretaker, and heat), was just too expensive for the university. A couple bought the property, however there are letters in the files to indicate that they didn’t keep up the payments of $500 a month after a couple of years, so it sounds like the bank had to take over the property.

Grand Prix in Detroit:When UD had a prime view of the race


The first few years when Detroit held the Grand Prix, the race course route was through downtown Detroit, right past the University of Detroit Law School campus.  There were a lot of problems running Formula One cars through the narrow streets and eventually they moved the venue to Belle Isle. However, while it was held downtown, the university took advantage of its location for fundraising and public relations.

It took nine months of planning for three full days of racing to provide food and entertainment for all the UD guests during the event.

Here are some of the stats that went into the 1987 Grand Prix preparation: prix3From the 1990 Grand Prix:prix2









Trophies and whatever happened to the “Ideal Co-ed”?

In looking for stories to write in this blog, I would often go to a file and just look for something with pictures. The file on trophies did not have a lot, but in trying to check into one of them found a bit of a mystery.


All the trophy pictures appear to be taken around the same time-mid 1930′s. The two tall ones don’t have any names or identification inscribed on the nameplate, one can only guess that they have something to do with golf and track and field. Only because there is another golfing type trophy that has “Presidents Trophy, University of Detroit, Alumni Association” label and I think it says “John P. Scallen Award” that would lead me to think that the two unidentified trophies might also be connected to the Alumni Association. John P. Scallen was a prominent alumni and major booster of the UD athletic department.

And then in the file there is this trophy given to “Marjorie Burns, Ideal Co-ed, U of D -’36″


At least during her freshman and sophomore year, she was one very active student in various student organizations. The 1935 and 1936 Tower Yearbooks have quite a list of activities that she participated in as more than just a member- she held some important leadership roles and in a couple of cases the first co-ed to to take on those roles!


But at least as far as the Tower Yearbook goes, the only other listing for her is as a senior in the 1937 Tower Yearbook and then only her name, no picture. Did she double up on credit hours during her junior and senior year-which left no time for any student activity? Did she even graduate? Her name is not listed in the commencement program for 1937 or 1938. Did she graduate under a married name? So what happened to the “Ideal Co-ed”?


Golden Memories for the Class of ’65

65tower1Each year at commencement the University of Detroit Mercy welcomes back former students for a fifty-year class reunion. For the class of 1965, here are a few items they might remember:

  • Maybe they were one of the 8500 who attended one of the last public appearances of Robert Frost at the Memorial building in November 1962.


  • Listen to Johnny Mathis at the 1963 Spring Carnival sing “Misty”.


  • Remember where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated, November 22, 1963.65grad


  • February 1964, Basil Rathbone gave a lecture and reading of some poetry and dramatic scenes at Mercy College of Detroit.


  • Did they know phone calls on campus were handled by a switchboard! According to an article in the May 22, 1964 Varsity News, some 25,000 calls are made each month from the university. (Wouldn’t be surprised if that many calls were going through in one day now!)


  • Two new “duplicators” were installed in the UD library. They had to use dimes, otherwise with nickels, the machines would jam. About 2,000 copies were made in the first two weeks. (See Varsity News, October 30, 1964)


  • 65grad2Its been 50 years since UD announced the end of varsity football. Unhappy students took to the streets to express their anger.


  • Students at Mercy College of Detroit put on a production of the “Sound of Music” in March 1965. It was directed by Albert Zolton, faculty member of Mercy College.


  • How many students at UD would know that if they had an English class with Mrs. J.O. Smith, as the instructor, that she would become better known as Joyce Carol Oats, famous author of such novels as “them” which won the 1970 National Book Award for Fiction.

65grad3So what memories will the Class of 2015 have fifty years from now?

Congratulations and Best Wishes for University of Detroit Mercy’s Class of 2015!







Carney Latin American Solidarity Archives (CLASA) Collection

carney3Housed in the University of Detroit Mercy Archives is a collection of documents, media and books related to the conflicts in Central America, mainly during the 1980′s.

Fr. James Guadalupe Carney, who attended the University of Detroit before deciding to become a Jesuit Priest, worked extensively among the poor campesinos in Honduras until he was expelled in 1979 for his activities organizing cooperatives. Later, in 1983, he “disappeared” while serving as chaplain to a revolutionary army which had just crossed the border from Nicaragua into Honduras. Documentation collected from the Freedom-of-Information Act (FOIA) and other correspondence with the Federal government by family members to locate their missing brother is part of the information housed in the archives.

The archives also serves as a resource for the former Michigan Inter-faith Committee for Central American Human rights (MICAH), the Central American Solidarity (CASC) and the Organization in Solidarity with Central America (OSCA). There is a large collection of reports, bulletins, newsletters, journals, ephemera, films, etc. most of it from the 1980′s about issues in Central America.

There is a special collection of books on the politics, philosophy and religion affecting Latin American culture and history housed with the documents. All material in the CLASA Collection is open to the public by appointment.

carney2 carney1carney4

In addition to the CLASA collection, the UDM sponsors a number of events on campus, bringing in speakers to discuss events and issues about Latin America.



Mystery pictures

Often when going through the archives files, there are photos with no identification as to who, what, when, where or why the pictures were taken. Sometimes you  can make a good guess if you can identify a person in the picture or if the file has some kind of label to identify the activity. But then you get a picture like this Renaissance looking couple in a file labeled “President’s Cabinet-Group photos”


In all the other photos in that file, people are dressed in formal black ties and gowns in a setting of a banquet room, so where should this picture be filed? I have absolutely no idea! Pretty sure it has nothing to do with the Presidents Cabinet.

Then there are those pictures with some vague label “1980′s” and you can tell the location – in this case in one of the rooms of Mercy College’s Ward Conference Center. But what is the girl doing standing on the chair wearing a dress of some sort like she is rehearsing for a beauty pageant with that sash?


Then there is always the question as to who took the picture and how did it end up in our files? I suppose now with everybody owning phones that takes pictures, there will be billions of pictures that in a few years, will be as much of a mystery as these are today.


The UDMercy Bookstore-Old and New

The University of Detroit Mercy Bookstore on the McNichols campus has had more than one location. I have not been able to identify the first location-but from the pictures dated 1949, it was in the the lowest level of some building judging by all the pipes running along the ceiling.

bookstore1 bookstore2



It was later moved to the lower level of the Briggs building. That building was not built until 1958, so those earlier pictures could not have been taken in that building. It was there until at least 1970. That year on March 1st, there was a major fire set in the bookstore that caused $185,000 worth of damage. It was determined to be arson, but I have not found anything in the archives to indicate that they ever found who was responsible for the fire. There was even a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who set the fire.


1965 University of Detroit Book Store located in the basement floor of the Briggs building

At some point after the fire, the book store was relocated to its current location in the Student Center Building. The main building was dedicated in 1955 and the addition to it in December 1, 1970.



Easter Greetings!


Rev. Dowling was a talented artist , but he was not the only member of his family with artistic talent. This Easter card from his father Edward Francis Dowling, shows that there must be something in the genes that gets passed on from father to son.


When March Madness came to Detroit


The University of Detroit Mercy has hosted a few NCAA basketball tournaments in the past. The first was 1988 and a second time in 1991 where the games were played at the Pontiac Silverdome. There was also a third time at Ford Field in 2008, all as the Midwest Regional Basketball Championships. In 2009, the university was the host at Ford Field for the Final Four where the championship game saw University of North Carolina beat Michigan State. I think that was really hard to take if you consider Ford Field as being the “home court” for Michigan State.

marchm1It was recently reported that Detroit would be the location for the first- and second-round games of the 2018 championship in the yet-to-be-built Detroit Red Wings arena. There was no mention as to what school would host the event, but I am sure University of Detroit Mercy would be more than happy to lend their expertise and experience with past basketball tournaments and host the event.

Page 11 of 24...910111213...20...