Buildings gone but not forgotten

A couple of weeks ago, David Baxter, Ph.D., a former student of U of D sent me an email asking if the archives would like the dedication plaque from Foley Hall that he had salvaged from the junk pile when the building was gutted for renovation back in 1976. He had kept it all these years in his office at Walsh University where he served in various teaching and administrative positions. He had retired and thought we would like to have it for the university archives. I could not say “YES!” fast enough! Foley Hall was not on the main McNichols campus, but was located just north of Florence on Livernois. The building used to be the Palmer Hotel and was initially purchased for the purpose of being the women’s dorm. The rooms, however were too small to accommodate two women and eventually it was used to house a restaurant on the lower level and faculty offices for the English Department. It finally got in such bad condition it was condemned and torn down in 1985.

Some of the other UDMercy buildings that are no longer around include:

Dinan Hall: Built in 1915, located on E. Jefferson Ave. At various times it housed the College of Engineering, Law and Dentistry. It had to be torn down in 1963 to make room for a ramp leading to the Chrysler Expressway.

UD Stadium (Dinan Field): Ground was broken on June 1922. It had a seating capacity of 20,000. In September 27, 1929, the University of Detroit opened its football season against De Paul University in what was the first game to be played in Detroit under artificial lighting. The football program ended in 1964, not long after, the stadium was torn down during the summer of 1971.

Administration Building, Mercy College of Detroit: The first and central structure on the Mercy College campus the Administration Building, completed just in time for the beginning of classes in Fall 1941. Besides administrative offices it also had classrooms and the campus chapel. Not long after the campus was sold to become the Northwest Campus of Wayne County Community College in 2007, the building was torn down. The stained glass windows of the chapel were relocated and can still be seen in the College of Health Professions building on the McNichols campus.

Just as a final note: on the corner of Livernois and McNichols, there was a building where the streetcar would make a turn-around. Perhaps as a sign-of-the-times, the little building is long gone, but if you have an electric vehicle there are a couple of charging stations on campus that you can use to charge up your electric car.

While buildings may come and go (a new Students Fitness Center has been built and Dental School has a new location on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd), the memories will linger on.

Before there was Email, Twitter, and Texting-Telegrams sent to University of Detroit

Before there was the internet to send messages, the telegram was the most efficient and probably the cheaper way to correspond over long distances. The UDM archives has a collection of over 50 telegrams between John P. Scallen (attorney and UD alumni), and Charles (Gus) Dorais while negotiating terms to become the next football coach of the University of Detroit Titans. The telegrams date from January 23, 1924 to March 23, 1925. Some of the telegrams were very short such as at note that a letter had been sent or day and time of arrival at some city. A few would state a date and time when a long distance call would be made to make sure that he would be there to receive the call. Some were a little longer with some problems that came up, such as Dorais’ wife who seemed to have some concerns about moving to Detroit. Knute Rockne, close friend of Dorais, also sent a telegram about the move to become the next football coach for Detroit.  While Dorais was coach, the football team had a record of 113 games won, 48 lost and 7 tied.

Another telegram of some note in the collection came from J. Edgar Hoover. He had to decline a request to be the speaker for the 1951 commencement. At the time the university was celebrating its 250th birthday and in the letter inviting him, it was also noted that, “some six to seven hundred (students), will go immediately into one of the military services.” The letter by the University president goes on to say “It is my conviction that this crisis is more moral than military. The role of education in this moral crisis is exceedingly important….I am especially anxious to have a commencement speaker who will rightly interpret the crisis and counsel and inspire our young people to go forth as effective citizens and leaders.”

I am not sure which “crisis” or “emergencies” is happening during this period that might involve the FBI. A quick wikipedia search of that time period list items like the Cold War,  Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur is relieved of his command by Harry Truman and the trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Come to think of it-is there ever a time when there is not some kind of national crisis going on?

Old Memories of New Beginnings

Its the start of a new school year and I am taking the time to reflect on all the different things I have posted on this blog this past year. If there is more about U of D than there is about Mercy College, it is not just because they are an older institution; material from Mercy College is sadly, simply not available. I like to be able to put pictures with the stories I find, and there are not a lot of pictures of Mercy College activities. If there are any Mercy College alumni out there with memorabilia, I would love to hear from you. One plea through the alumni magazine Spiritus did turn up an old Mercy College Junior Prom dance booklet. Who knew such a thing even existed!

You can only get so much from the student newspapers and yearbooks. Ahhh yearbooks–they don’t do those anymore. That is too bad because you lose a sense of what things were like back in the good old days. Also from an archival perspective, paper still last longer than the digital media that people use now.

The archive files are full of hundreds of stories yet to be told.   For some things I have pictures but no clue as to what year it might have been taken or just a picture of campus life, but not necessarily any story connected like this one with a couple of coeds back in 1928 having a snowball fight.

You can read more details on the books, newspapers, yearbooks, etc. that have been published about the university that is available on the Special Collections page. I hope this blog in the past year has shed some light on some of the more interesting parts of the history of University of Detroit, Mercy College of Detroit and the combined University of Detroit Mercy.

The President’s Cabinet-University of Detroit

The President’s Cabinet was established ” To encourage the active interest and participation of alumni and friends in the maintenance of excellence of higher education at the University” Each year the President’s Cabinet held an awards dinner in which a medallion was awarded, “To honor those individuals who, through creative leadership and extraordinary accomplishments, are contributing to the maintenance of the highest ideal of the American way of life.” Over the years individuals from education, business, government, religion, sports, science and the arts have been honored, as one speaker put it, ” for recognition (of) those individuals whose lives are striking examples of what can be accomplished with knowledge, commitment and God-given talents.” Among the first to be recognized by the President’s Cabinet: Max Fisher (businessman and philanthropist). Bob Considine (journalist), Edward Fisher (VP General Motors), Ernest Breech (Executive Ford Motor Company  and Trans World Airlines), George H. Love (Executive Consolidated Coal Company and Chrysler Corporation), and Whitney M. Young, Jr. (Executive Director, National Urban League).

1968 Max Fisher

Some of the other notable people that have received the award: Walter Reuther (UAW President), Ogden Nash (Poet), Sixten Ehrling (Conductor, Detroit Symphony Orchestra), R. Buckminster Fuller (Architect),Colonel James A. McDivitt (Astronaut), Gordie Howe (Professional Hockey Player), Joyce D. Brothers, Ph.D. (Psychologist, Television Personality, Author), George Romney (CEO American Motors and Governor of Michigan), Rev. Monsignor Clement H. Kern (Pastor, Most Holy Trinity Parish),  Gene Kelly (Actor), John J. Sirica (Chief Judge, U.S. District Court), Rosa Parks (Civil Rights),  Benny Goodman (Musician and Bandleader), William “Smokey” Robinson (Singer, Songwriter and Record Producer), Elmore “Dutch” Leonard (Author), Dave Bing (Professional Basketball Player and Business Executive) and Neal Shine (Journalist).

1975 President's Cabinet Recipients

1980 President's Cabinet Recipients

1981 President's Cabinet Recipients

1989 President's Cabinet Recipients

For a more complete listing of all honorees see the section on “University Honors” on the library’s Special Collections Page.

There was also an impressive list of guest speakers at the awards dinner which included: Ray Bolger (Actor), Art Linkletter (Radio and TV Personality), Dan Rather (Journalist and TV News Reporter), Pat O’Brien (Actor), Dennis Day (Singer, Radio, TV and Film Personality) and Hal Linden (Actor)

Mercy College of Detroit also had a similar award which will be posted on this blog at a later date.

Speech and Drama Department at Mercy College of Detroit

One of the courses offered at Mercy College through the Speech and Drama Department was a class on “Direction”. Each student was responsible for producing, directing and selecting a one-act play, casting the roles, setting up rehearsals, positioning and moving the characters on the stage. Albert Zolton and James Foote, associate professors of speech and drama, and David Pellman, instructor of speech and drama would act as supervisors as well as consultants to the student play directors.

One-acts were not the only project from the Speech and Drama Department.

Full Broadway musicals were also produced with members of the students and faculty playing key roles in a stage production. Some of the musicals produced included: Kiss Me Kate, My Fair Lady, Zorba the Greek, Anything Goes, Sound of Music, A Funny Thing Happened of the Way to the Forum and Showboat. For some of these plays a 20-piece orchestra comprising members of the Scandinavian Symphony Orchestra provided the music. Cast members were not just Mercy College students and faculty, they often included husbands, wives, brothers and sisters of Mercy College staff. Request for volunteer help in all areas such as costumes, scenic and stage crew, and ushers went out to all departments. What better way to see a free show!

Fisher Administrative Center

Programming for the Fisher Administrative Center  began in September 1963 and groundbreaking for the  building took place on December 17, 1964. Gunnar Birkerts and Associates of Birmingham were chosen as the architects. The 50,000 square feet structure was to consolidate the administrative offices that were scattered among several other buildings around the McNichols campus: Engineering, Commerce and Finance, Chemistry, Science (which is now the School of Architecture), Briggs, Library and Student Union Buildings. The official dedication took place on September 29, 1966, which was a few months later than originally planned, but weather and construction issues moved the completion date from February to September.

The Fisher was considered to be the visible port of entry for campus visitors since, at the time, 60 percent of the vehicles that enter the University grounds came from the south via the John C. Lodge Expressway. I am not so sure this is still true. At one meeting I heard that more people come on campus through the McNichols entrance, which would make sense since the University address is 4001 W. McNichols Road. Now with all the mapping systems people use through the internet, the Livernois entrance could get passed up.

According to the student newspaper,  Varsity News, the Fisher Administration Center “will harmonize compositionally with the existing campus buildings.”

Hmmmmm, I am no critic of architectural designs, but I don’t see how the building fits with the Spanish architectural theme of most of the original campus buildings. To me it looks more like a giant radiator!

What do I know-AIA gave it an award in 2003: “The award recognizes architectural design of enduring significance and is conferred on a project that has stood the test of time for at least twenty-five years.”

Someone once told me that the reason the Fisher building is black was because at the time, most of the the old buildings were so dirty that they thought it was the normal color and the new building would fit right in. Well, if you check the pictures of Lansing-Reilly getting cleaned in 1990, it is easy to see why they would chose black for the exterior of a new building.

Bishop Fulton Sheen

Bishop Fulton Sheen made at least two appearances in the Detroit area for Mercy College of Detroit and the University of Detroit. He was one of the speakers for the McAuley Auditorium Series on May 23, 1949. He was presented by Fr. John F. Finnegan of the philosophy department, friend and former classmate. He spoke on the Spiritual Crisis of Our Time and some signs of hope in the crisis.

Bishop Fulton Sheen and Mary Lucille Middleton, Mercy College President

On June 16, 1960, he was given an honorary degree by the University of Detroit at their 77th Annual Commencement. His honorary degree was given in recognition of his work in radio and television. Communication was the theme in his commencement address: “All communications begin with words, not action…The very essence of Christianity is: ‘the Word became flesh’…You are communicators of truth and love.”

1930 University of Detroit Dynamic Club Pin: A Mystery Organization

I get notices from our ebay account of items related to the University of Detroit Mercy. I went ahead and picked up this pin and thought I would research it later to see what this club was about. There is nothing about this club mentioned in the Varsity News or Tower Yearbooks during that period of time. I can find a lot of clubs – but no Dynamic Club. Attempts to find out its origin from the seller only adds to the mystery. The seller found it while digging a hole in a garden in Los Angeles California. How it got from Detroit to California is anybody’s guess. Here is a listing of the clubs I did find (minus all the fraternities, sororities and the various professional societies like engineering and architecture for students).

Glider Club (with Grasshopper Club for rookie glider pilots)

Flyers Club

Jesters Club

Toledo Club

Cleveland Club

Alpena Club

Motorcycle Club

Glee Club

Adspirers (Advertising Club)

Frosh Co-ed Club

Dramatic Club

Filipino/Philippino Club

Grand Rapids Club

Symposium (Philosophical Society Club)

Cooley Club (Law School)

Faculty Club

Saginaw Club

Cosmopolitan Club

Hamtramck Club

Wilkes-Barre Club

Spanish Club

Spanish-American Club

UD Golf Club

National Defense Club

Chess Club/Chess & Checkers Club

Camera Club

German Club

Aeronautical Club

Dinan Co-ed Club

Buffalo Club (N.Y.?)

Kadaver Klub

Mt. Clemens Club

Senior Girls Club

A subset of one of these clubs or with the High School or Alumni Association? Does anyone have any idea?

University of Detroit Football Team of 1946: Return of the Veterans

In the process of collecting  UD memorabilia from wherever-including ebay, I got this lighter commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1946 football team. It was given “Compliments of Chuck & Ann Baer June 5, 1976″. Charles Baer was the Head Football Coach in 1946. A little background about this team would show why this team seemed to be extra special. According to the 1947 Tower yearbook, this was the first real post-war team. It was the first Titan team that contained a representative number of war veterans.

Both of team co-captains were regulars of the 1942 team before heading off to serve in the armed forces. Bob Ivory entered the Army Air Force in July 1943 where he served as physical training instructor. He was discharged in February 1946 with the rank of sergeant and played guard on the football team.  Bill Hintz had been chosen as captain of the 1943 football team, but before September came around, he enlisted in the Navy and UD had also suspended varsity football because of the decreased wartime enrollment. While in the Navy, Hintz spent time in the Pacific with an amphibious outfit. He was discharged in June with the rank of lieutenant and returned to the lineup as receiver.

The season ended with what I would consider a pretty respectable record of six wins and four losses.You can check out all the football programs and news from Varsity News, the student newspaper on the library portal Special Collections.

GO TITANS!

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