1908 Construction of the Old Gym

Every once in a while, I come across things that have not seen the light of day in probably a hundred years. Nobody here  knows about it and maybe nobody cares. But back in 1908, somebody cared enough to take a picture and that should count for something. It’s not like today when just about anyone with a cell phone will take a picture of anything and probably should NOT take a picture at all of somethings!

The following pictures are about the old gymnasium on the downtown campus at the rear of 651 East Jefferson. The pictures are of the excavation site for the gymnasium that was to be built (from the notes on back of the pictures, the old “ambulatorium” was being torn down), during the summer of 1908. On back of the picture with the trees notes that the “Trees in rear are sidewalk trees on Larned St.”

gym1 gym2 gym3

The Student Fitness Center that opened on the McNichols campus in 2012 is a far cry from the old gym.



University of Detroit Gun Club


Back in the late 1940′s, the University of Detroit had a Gun Club. It was originally founded in 1937, but it was discontinued until after the war in 1948. Understanding the fine points of marksmanship and the mechanics of a wide variety of firearms was the primary aim of the club.

The 1949 Titan rifle team would participate in competition with other schools. ” In these matches the teams fire from four positions: prone, sitting, kneeling and offhand.

Five men fire 10 shots at each target. A bullseye gets 10 points, while the rest of the scoring ranges downward to nine, eight, seven and six points. Riflemen use .22 rifles which are single shot, semi-automatic with rear and front sights and no scopes.

Firing is done 50 feet from the target with 10 minutes allowed for each position.”


It was not just men who were members of the club, there is a 1948 news article in the file about a woman in the Gun Club. The “best student on the University club is a modern Annie Oakley, Jean MacDonald. She fired a 99.5 average in last year’s Hearst Rifle Meet.” In fact the 1953 the Tower Yearbook has the first listing for the Girls’ Gun Club! Don’t know what happened to the men in the regular “Gun Club”, but in the 1954 Tower Yearbook the women in the group renamed it “Coed Rifle Club”. My guess is that all the men that would have been in a Gun Club were involved with the ROTC that was now on campus. Any mention of a Coed Rifle Club disappeared and in its place the 1956 Tower Yearbook now has”U of D Rifles”, purpose: Army drill team.



The Inauguration of a University President

inag1While the world will be watching as the United States inaugurates Donald Trump as the President of the United States, I thought I would take a moment to review what went on when the University of Detroit Mercy inaugurated its most recent president, Antoine Garibaldi in 2012.

Family, friends, faculty, board of trustees, alumni and all the local dignitaries came together to celebrate the university’s heritage and reaffirm its mission to the community.

It turned out to be a very nice day for the event-even if it was Friday the 13th! There was a procession from each of the schools into Calihan Hall where the formal ceremony was held. Gifts were presented and speeches were made and everything went as planned. It will be interesting to see if everything will go as smoothly when Mr. Trump is inaugurated as the new President of the United States. Wonder what his first tweet will be!

All the activities, photos, media coverage and a copy of the program can be found here on the university’s page on the inauguration.







“Old Winter has Come Again, Alack”

“Old Winter has Come Again, Alack”

One of the best topics for conversation when nothing else is on the table for discussion is the weather.  Weather discussion offers you an endless supply of metaphor, an easy connection between strangers (who doesn’t enjoy talking about the weather?), and a huge area for opinion of one sort or another. It also offers a great way to ease into heavier subjects, such as poverty and the misery of the poor.

During the 1800s, the press offered the African population (both enslaved and free) a source for discussion of common interests, a sounding board for frustrations, and a connection to others in similar circumstances.  From this desire to connect grew several prominent black newspapers (a column from one of those newspapers, the Provincial Freeman, is shown below). And while these newspapers were dedicated to a specific audience, the editors knew that this media offered access to those who might best be able to help with social issues. In an effort to “keep an eye” on the black population, readers were often among the white community (mostly among white government officials).  In this way, black newspapers claimed a potential for understanding and perhaps a way to promote the cause of freedom and gain a powerful ally for change.

The article shown here from the Black Abolitionist Archive, is a great example of the way in which newspaper writers of the day were able to weave social commentary into banal conversational exchange.  The writer reminds readers that even though the seasons change, poverty is always there, and is always the same.

bbawinterContribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician




Close your eyes and for a few moments, take a quick trip with me back to 1968.  Could you visualize it?  Even if you were born after this time, the history of the ’60s is a pretty dominate part of the story of social culture.  Colorful time, wasn’t it?  The Vietnam war was in full swing, people young and old were taking to the streets to protest an unjust conflict, Nixon was about to become the 37th president, and the planet was in peril from a polluted and uncaring world.  Yet all this trouble, all the gloom of an unsettled global social climate, was seemingly balanced by the small things people managed to value in their lives.  A good education was one of these things.

And being in school was not just a way to get out of being drafted or meeting suitable marriage partners.  It was also a way of making life meaningful when everything outside the campus gates seemed to be falling apart.  The students of the day were determined to change the world… and this is what they did.

The 1968 Tower Yearbook focuses on the student of this period, the way they looked, played, studied, and dreamed.  The attention here is on those who worked to make sense of a senseless time, to gain knowledge that would allow them to make changes and help create the future we know now.  They paved the way and redefined dedication, honor, and freedom.  And while they may look and dress and communicate differently today, that drive and quest for knowledge still defines what being a UDM student really is.


Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

The Merry Christmas Time, 1860


The Merry Christmas Time 

There are only three small entries in the Black Abolitionist Archive associated with Christmas, so I chose this one. While this holiday was important to an enslaved people learning about the celebration of this Christmas story from the periphery of the Christian families who enslaved them, the way they celebrated this holiday was different. The celebration of any special occasion during this time was focused on Church, prayer, thankfulness, and finding joy where they could.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. In this essay (shown here), published in the Weekly Anglo-African on December 29, 1860, the writer expresses nicely what this period of time in this particular year meant to the average “Anglo-African” family. To them, it was about providing their children with a way to bring out the smiles, putting aside worries about the tense political climate to be with friends by the fire, and to focus on the poor who had far fewer blessings.

Often, it seems, you can read between the lines of these essays to discover something interesting, something of the true expression in the writer’s thoughts.  This essay is about more than a simple holiday “feel good” declaration.  It holds the seeds of discontent that would, in 1865, burst forth from a horrible war and into the end of slavery.  This was the beginning of a much longer fight for true freedom, but the truth of this couldn’t be known at that time.  While reading this essay, it’s a good idea to remember the times, think about the history, and bear in mind the struggles going on outside the walls of that newspaper office. In 1860 when this was written, the stirrings of war in an unsettled country were just about ready to move the battle forward.

Since this one isn’t long, I’ve included a transcription with the image below:

“The Merry Christmas Time

Far away from the sun, on the very verge and rim of his orbit, when a pound additional of centrifugal momentum would cause old earth to secede from the planetary union and plunge us all into a dimmer abyss than threatens South Carolina, what a nice, warm, healthful, cheery institution is this merry Christmas time.

We old folks sit cozily by the fire, pipe in hand, stirring our hot lemonade and sweeping the vistas of the past with telescopic eyes, now merry with pleasant, or brimming with sad reminiscences. How much better — don’t frown good wife! — how much better the doughnuts, the olekoks and the kroellers tasted when New-York was all this side of the stone-bridge at Canal-street!  Better, yes better, for teeth and digestion and stomachie capacity were then at an enormous premium. We can distinctly remember two dinners three teas — not counting those that fell out with us by the way — and the enormous supper comfortably put away on Christmas day and evening.

But the merry Christmas time is for the young. It is the special hour for muscular Christianity on the part of the young men, who speed over immense distances in a twinkling of time in search of dimpling cheeks and gladdened eyes — awaiting with shy dissent their welcome coming. How the poor fellow trembles, fumbles in is pocket, crumbles the package in his nervous hands, chokes as he vainly essays the well conned speech, and wishes himself through the floor or ceiling.

Merry Christmas is the children’s day! How long expected, how gladly welcomed by them. Hear their sweet voices, their pattering feet, witness their joy in gifts, their braveries, their graceful rompings and big eyed wonder. Throughout Christendom their tiny voices send up a not unwelcomed choral song to Him who has said ‘Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.

The merry Christmas time should be a season for other things beside merry making. There are precious and gentle duties which can be performed at no other time so well nor so gracefully. ‘The poor ye have always with you.’ And the poor are never so poor as at this season of the year. The special class to whom we now allude are those who have struggled honestly and faithfully in the battle of life but on whom the sun of success has failed to shine. They started out along with us, have labored as hard, perhaps harder than we, they have always kept up appearances — but oh how difficultly do they keep the wolf from the door!  Or there are those whom in our youth we knew well to do and surrounded with their Christmas comforts with their young — now, alas gone before them — as our playmates, but whom swift age has overtaken and grim poverty. To either of these classes, too proud to ask, this season affords a graceful opportunity to give what we know is needed without fear of refusal. Half a load of coal to old Uncle A., or a fine fat turkey to old Aunty B., — how well she knows how to roast it! — or, a pair of plain warm blankets to old Mr. L., would be gifts twice blessed.

Reader, with the means or even the possibility to give, you cannot imagine until you have tried, how much these little benevolences add to the joy of the merry Christmas times.”

Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician


Ethics Bowl

ethicsbowlEvery year the University of Detroit Mercy students take part in a national contest named “Ethics Bowl” The Ethics Bowl is inspired by TV’s College Bowl, but modified rules adapt the game to the subject of ethics. In Ethics Bowl, a moderator poses questions to teams of three to five students. Questions may address ethical problems on classroom topics (e.g. cheating or plagiarism), personal relationships (e.g. dating or friendship), professional ethics (e.g. engineering, law, medicine), or social and political ethics (e.g. free speech, gun control, etc.). Each team receives a set of ethical issues in advance of the competition, and questions posed to teams at the competition are taken from that set. A panel of judges rates answers in terms of intelligibility, focus, depth, and judgment. No specialized knowledge in ethical theory is required to compete in or judge an Ethics Bowl.

The competition is one of the few events at Detroit Mercy that draws participants from virtually every part of the University. Many students who initially compete for extra credit in a course are surprised at how much they enjoy Ethics Bowl, and often enthusiastically return to compete in subsequent years. Judges and moderators are drawn from faculty, staff, administration and alumni, many of whom return every year. Plus, the first-place team has the honor of representing the university at a regional Ethics Bowl and may go on to compete in the national Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, which takes place at the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics in February.


No Shave November


For several years back in the 50′s, the University of Detroit Spring Carnival held a beard contest. There were categories such as Full, Unique, Van Dyke and a Special Award to the best recreation of an historical beard. The prizes included Remmington Shavers and Grooming kits by Remmington. Afterwards (back on campus) there would be a shaving contest in which there was a footrace (20 yards) to the judges stand to line up for the smoothness test by King and Queen of the Carnival.


Photo from Detroit News, May 5(?), 1958

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