Mercy College of Detroit Women’s Basketball Team

mercybb1aWhile the rest of the sporting world is focused on the March Madness of the NCAA Basketball Championship, I am going to write about a team few people probably even knew existed-Mercy College of Detroit women’s basketball team. I would also guess even fewer people would know the team name: Crusaders. The colors for Mercy College were blue and white. The colors for University of Detroit were red and white, so when the two schools merged, UDMercy colors are now red, white and blue!

Their first coach was Sr. Agnes Mary Mansour from 1964-65 to 1969-70 and 1971-72. She would later become the president of the college from 1972-1982. I may not know much about sports, but I doubt there are any college presidents that can claim to have been a basketball coach at their own college! Under Sr. Agnes as coach (or SAM as she was often referred to) the team had a won-loss record of 78-37 and one tie. Maybe the Detroit Pistons should look for a nun to coach their team. Except for a couple of years, all the MCD women’s basketball teams had winning seasons.

So what teams did they play against? In the 1973-74 season: University of Michigan-Dearborn, Siena Heights College, Oakland University, University of Windsor, Marygrove College, Madonna College, Macomb Community College, Mary Manse College (Yeah, I never heard of them either!), Concordia Lutheran College, Schoolcraft College, and Wayne State University (ended the season with 10 wins, 7 losses). The home games were played at either the Mercy College Gymnasium or at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Farmington, Michigan. At the athletic banquet at the end of the 73-74 season, various awards were handed out and according to the presentation script in the file, almost all the members of the women’s basketball team were in the nursing program. The 1973-74 Women’s Basketball Team: Mary Carmody, Joanne Ingalls, Ginny Kennedy, Kathy O’Connor, Evelyn Schmuckal, Sue Shagena, Chris Shekoski, Linda Timney, Ann Wickenheiser, and Mary Winter. To all those team members that are still around-Happy 40th Anniversary!


Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian

Eta Zeta Sigma and Kappa Beta Pi-First Sororities at the University of Detroit


March 16, 1928, Eta Zeta Sigma initiation. Taken on Woodward near Six Mile Road

Eta Zeta Sigma became the first sorority to be organized at the University in 1919-20 school year. Membership was restricted to women students of the school of Commerce and Finance. The first sorority function was a Christmas party at one of the University parlors. The sorority was organized to promote college spirit among women of the University and to foster true loyalty. In the 1929 Tower Yearbook, there is a description of some of the initiation rites to train the “neophytes” in the ideals of self subordination and sacrifice. “Riding “kiddie-kars” selling mud pies on the main thoroughfares, and playing marbles in the streets, are a few of the brain-children of the initiators used in the past. The remarkable thing about selling the selling of mud baked goods is that the attractiveness of the salesladies often makes up for the deficiency in the value of the product, and the male victims of their wiles inevitably fall and pay out their change like boule players at Ostend, incidentally adding cash profits to the initiation.” Eta Zeta Sigma became Zeta Chapter of Phi Gamma Nu in 1931.

Later in the school year of 1919-20, Kappa Beta Pi Legal Sorority, of the Women Law Students at UD was installed in May 1920. It was the first national women’s organization to be install at the University of Detroit.


The last item in the archive files is dated in 1966. A search on the internet seems to indicate that the sorority may have ended sometime in the 1970′s.

There are still many other sororities on the UDM campus. Check them out here.

Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian

The Irish Connection at University of Detroit Mercy


Spirit of Mercy sculpture on McNichols campus in Health Professions building

Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, was born in Dublin, Ireland. After her parents died, she moved to live with Protestant relatives. She became a household manager and companion with friends of the relatives, the Callahans, a wealthy and childless couple. When they passed away, she inherited a considerable fortune which she used to open a house to shelter and educate women and girls. From that first House of Mercy in Dublin Ireland in 1827, the Sisters of Mercy community grew beyond its roots in Ireland to the United States and in 1941 established Mercy College of Detroit.

Beginning in 2014, UDM nursing students can take a course in Dublin, Ireland to experience the life, work and history of Catherine McAuley. Students in the program will examine and compare the cultural beliefs, values and health care practices of the Irish with those found in the United States.

But this is not the first program the university has had in Ireland. In 1968, U of D’s history department offered a chance for juniors to spend a year studying at the University of Dublin. The trip was set up for juniors majoring in history, philosophy and English. For this initial pilot program, Father Herman J. Muller accompanied twelve students and was also a guest lecturer in history. Today the Study Abroad programs go all over the world to such countries as Poland, Italy, Mexico, China and Cuba.


Ireland ca 1968


Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian


1990 University of Detroit Dental School Yearbook

Except for 1976, the U of D Dental School had their yearly activities included in with the annual Tower yearbook editions. The Tower yearbooks ended in 1988, but the Dental School put out their own yearbooks for a few more years.  I don’t think anyone does yearbooks any more which is too bad. Something like Facebook can only go so far in maintaining the kind of memories that comes with the printed copy of a yearbook. Its hard to tell from the picture, but there is a “1990″ embossed on the front cover. Just think, one massive CME (coronal mass ejection) could wipe out all the electronic data and the paper versions would be the only thing left for people to view past histories.


Just browsing through the pages, you can’t help but wonder what some of these students are doing now. Did they all graduate and pass their exams to go on to have successful careers? A few of the faculty that I knew have since retired or passed away. There is a picture of Pam Zarkowski, who is currently the Provost and VP of Academic Affairs at UDM, shown as a department chair. She must have a “Dorian Gray” picture hidden in some closet because she does not look like she has changed much in the last twenty plus years since that picture was taken.dental3 I think her picture would show her sleeping. Whenever I see her on campus she is just a blur, going from one meeting to another.

With all the high tech gadgets we have now to record memories-paper is still the best. You only need the sun to view it.

Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian






Mardi Gras Time!

mardigUniversity of Detroit used to have big Mardi Gras celebrations with parades, dances , and  elect a king and queen to reign over the festivities. In 1967, as part of the Town and Gown concert series, Al Hirt and his band from his New Orleans Bourbon Street Club played on campus in the Memorial Building (now called Calihan Hall). I guess I am dating myself, but I always associate Al Hirt with Mardi Gras like Guy Lombardo with New Years Eve.












The 1967 Mardi Gras had something that must have been unique: Mardi Gras Queen, Barbara Hildebrand got to wear a $250,000 necklace for the weekend activities. That was back in 1967-think of what something like that would cost now! I think they had some armed guards along with the Mardi Gras King, Jerry Rudy, keep a close eye on wherever that piece of jewelry went.


UDM Spring Break and Ash Wednesday this coming week:

Celebrate Responsibly!



Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian

Celebrating Winter? Enough Already!!!

Record snow, record low temperatures and a new term “poplar vortex” that only meterologists ever used, has even us native Detroiters  anxious for temperatures just to get above freezing! For anyone who is new to this area, this has not been a normal winter. Unlike the residents of Atlanta, Georgia, a couple of inches of snow in Detroit is not a reason to panic. We do have to put up with some extra long drive time, but at least the traffic moves.

1951 Soph Snowball: L-R Rita Romanski, Ray LeBlanc & Madeline Knorr

1951 Soph Snowball: L-R Rita Romanski, Ray LeBlanc & Madeline Knorr

During the more normal (?) winters, the sophomores at the University of Detroit held an annual Soph Snowball in November from about 1920′s to the 1950′s. Hundreds of couples would dress in formal wear and gather at a local hotel ballroom and dance the night away with, on some years, TWO orchestras. Sometimes part of the ticket price was donated to a local charity. You can read the details of the work that went into the Snowball in the Tower Yearbooks.

In March 1993 UDMercy had a Snow Person Contest. Unless we get a major warm-up in temperature, they could do this again!


I just wish Spring would hurry up and get here.

Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian


Valentine’s Day: Male vs Female

valentinesI thought since this blog would come up on February 14, I would find some nice Valentine’s Day article in the student newspapers. Did not expect it to be such a problem! Such a difference when I looked through the student newspapers of Mercy College of Detroit and the University of Detroit. The predominately female Mercy College paper always seemed to have a Valentine’s related item, but not true for the UD student newspaper. For example in 1975, Mercy had this nice big editorial type cartoon  for its Valentine’s Day issue. vnvalentine-4The same year the February 14th issue of Varsity News had at best, a couple of advertisements for diamond rings. Not a single mention about it being Valentine’s Day.  Such an obvious gender difference is hard to miss and it was not an isolated incident for just that year.

Times have changed-at least the current Varsity News has an article that has combined Valentine’s Day with Black History month. There is an item about a program being presented on Valentine’s Day by Roy Finkenbine, director of the Black Abolitionist Archives, on love stories of slaves. The more current Varsity News can be found here:

You can check it out the older issues of both student newspapers on the Special Collections page.



Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian

Black Madonna Statue at University of Detroit Mercy

madonna1In 1968 the University of Detroit created the Special Projects Office to assists students who had been considered unprepared to successfully negotiate the college curriculum. The  Project 100 students in the program met and discussed the need for the University to become more relevant to black students. These discussions led to the decision by the students that a statue of the Black Madonna and Child would be a symbolic representation of their presence on campus. When they met with Rev. Malcolm Carron, President of the University, he informed them that the University traditionally  depends on the generosity of its benefactors for all art objects. He encouraged them to initiate their own campaign for the necessary cost to erect the Madonna.madonna2

The students commissioned a sculptor, Gino Testaguzzi, and raised $2500 to cast the six-foot bronze statue.  The statue was dedicated on September 21, 1969 in the presence of over 400 representatives of all faiths, nationalities and colors. His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, Archbishop of Detroit, was principal speaker at the unveiling. At the conclusion of the short service, Cardinal Dearden pointed to the statue: “It symbolizes black culture helping to represent artistically the fullness of Christianity”

The original location for the statue was in front of the Briggs building. It has since been relocated between Briggs and Commerce & Finance Buildings. In my opinion, that is a better place for it because it is a quieter place where you can contemplate its beauty and significance on a more personal level. Of all the artwork on campus, the Black Madonna and Child, is my own personal favorite.




Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Libraraian




Chinese New Year-The Year of the Horse

china1aOn my calendar, January 31, 2014 is Chinese New Year. I thought I would take this time to note some of the items that are in the archives that have a Chinese influence. The most notable is the 1933 Tower yearbook, the entire edition has a Chinese theme. What has got me really puzzled is “Why?”  Most of the other yearbooks do not seem to have much in the way of a theme the way this one does. As far as I can determine by looking through the student pictures, I do not  see a student that looks Asian. That is not the case today-there are lots of students from China taking classes here on campus. In fact they make up the largest group of international students at the university. They even have their own student organization.















I did a quick browse through the history of events during that year, nothing stands out as being a major event in China. Hitler was coming into power and US was coming out of the depression, nothing much about the far east.

It just may be that there has always been a fascination with the culture of the Orient. The Junior Prom in 1928 gave all the gentlemen in attendance a silver cigarette humidor with a Chinese dragon design on the cover and for the 1929 J-Prom a set of 4  silver hor d’eurve trays featuring a Chinese dragon was presented.




To all our Chinese students

Happy New Year (新年快樂)




Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian

Ski Club at University of Detroit 1951-1973

ski1According to the Varsity News, the UD Ski Club was first formed in October 1951. The skiing was done at Cadillac, Michigan, Pontiac Ski Club, Snow Valley at Boyne Mountain, Caberfae and West Branch. They even had an occasion to travel outside of Michigan to Aspen, Colorado, Blue Mountain Ski Resort near Collingwood, Ontario for a four day ski trip and Mount Tremblant located in the Laurentian Mountain range, Quebec, Canada.

All students regardless of experience could join the club. Some of the more experienced skiers would participate in the Michigan Collegiate races against Michigan Tech, U. of M., Wayne State and Michigan State.

In spite of its name, the Ski Club had other activities other than skiing, they also had indoor activities like  square dances. During the warmer months, their activities included swimming, water skiing, hiking, and mountain climbing. The Ski Club also sponsored a “reliability run” which is done with automobiles-not skis. This is a contest in which the participants in each car try to follow an established course by solving a series of clues. To prevent racing, an average speed will be announced and participants would be checked periodically along the route with score points being deducted for being over or under that speed. Participants in the runs were expected to bring flashlights, dictionaries, almanacs and a sense of humor. ski2

It was a very popular club with as many as one hundred members taking part in its activities. But alas, it seems much like the Riding Club, membership must have dwindled down from a hundred to about a dozen die-hard ski fans. The last group picture I can find is in the 1973 yearbook. The Ski Club would have had plenty of places to ski this year-except I wish it wasn’t in front of my house!

Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian

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