The following history and a subsequent alumnus perspective were written by Tom Herstedt class of ’65, with contributing excerpts from an earlier history, “Rooted In Hope,” written by Sister Mary Hortense Kohler O.P. The DC alumni greatly appreciates Tom’s efforts and we look forward to participating in his challenge to later students to complete the “history” with our own input and updates.
THE HISTORY OF DOMINICAN COLLEGE
Dominican College had its beginnings in the need for more teachers in the parochial schools operated by The Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Sienna. In the fall of 1935, when St Catherine’s High School was ten years old, the order started their own facility for the education of postulants to become the those needed teachers. From this idea was born St Albert’s Academy the predecessor to Dominican College.
The first teachers were Sister Demetria Meyer, Sister Josephine Riordan, Sister Fulgence Frantz, Sister Ada Marie Harner, Sister Margaret Mary Miller and Sister Celeste Kunkle. In January, 1936, after completing her graduate work at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., Sister Dementia became the first Dean of St. Albert’s Academy.
During these early years the quality standard set to measure the new school’s success was acceptance by the University of Wisconsin. This was achieved in 1936 when the first year of study was certified by the University. In 1937 the sophomore year was accredited to the University. They now had an accredited junior college.
With a goal of becoming a four year institution the curriculum was expanded to a third year in fall of 1937. In advising the school the third year had been accredited the university committee recommended postponing adding the fourth year until they were able to enlarge the size of the student body. While the school operated with only three years, it was necessary for sisters with senior standing to transfer to other schools to complete their degrees and become certified as teachers.
To increase the size of the student body as recommended, it was decided to add secular students. In the fall of 1938 eight girls were admitted to the college. Most of these girls were recent graduates of St Catherine’s High School.
Night classes were added the same year. Thus teachers who were teaching on a certificate but did not have a degree could work toward their four year degree while still teaching. The teachers in the night school included Sister Dementia, Sister Josephine, Sister Fugence, Sister Anaclete, Sister Celeste, and Sister Mary Hortense.
The school of music of St Albertus was acclaimed for training in the Gregorian Chant. Parishes all over the area served by the order owed much to the St Albertus School of Music.
In 1946 St Albertus became Dominican College but it was still not the college that later students knew by that name. In 1947, as returning GIs took advantage of the GI Bill’s free education benefits, schools all across the country had over-crowded classrooms. In response to this national need Dominican College opened its doors to male students for the first time in 1947. The men were only part of the school for a short time as Canon Law does not permit co-education within convent walls. The order did own the houses that shared the block with St Catherine’s but these were needed for other purposes. The school returned to its former role as an all girl school in the 1951 school year.
Sister Albertine Berberich, who become the college president in 1952,. felt the college should be represented at the first meeting of the Wisconsin Federation of Independent Colleges in 1954. The result was that Dominican College became a charter member of that organization. The Federation’s purpose was to encourage private financial contributions from Wisconsin Corporation to meet the operational costs for non-tax-supported liberal arts colleges.
The Dominican College Alumni.Association was formed under the supervision of Sister Gerold and the first meeting was held as a banquet on April 9, 1954. Margaret Druse was selected as the first president and Mary Pincikowski was chosen as the first secretary. A year later the association amended it’s by-laws to admit the men who had attended the college in the years 1947 through 1950.
Later in 1954 it was decided that the services of Sister Albertine were needed as Vice Principal of St Catherine’s High School and Sister Rosita Uhen was selected as the new president of the college.
In the fall of 1955 Dominican College again became co-educational when 15 men were matriculated. This was made possible by accommodating them in Freshman Hall. The college remained coed for the rest of it’s existence. The construction of a new college building was still a dream and no more.
The order owned a piece of land on three mile road that had originally been purchased in 1929 in hopes of using it for an athletic field for St Catherine’s High School. In 1955 a sign was placed on this land stating that it was the future home of Dominican College. Later in the year with the help of Real Estate Broker Milton F La Pour the college was able to buy another piece of land on Erie Street north of four mile road. The land at Erie Street and Three Mile Road was then sold. This transaction was important to the future of the school since the first piece of property was only about half the size of the final site. After this purchase the original piece of land at Three Mile Road was sold. In 1958 a city wide million dollar fund raising was launched.
The expansion of the college into Freshman Hall was not an adequate addition when the school went co-ed. Fortunately the building of a Holy Name School made their old building available for other uses. The pastor, Fr. Schneider, consulted the trustees of the parish and then made this building on Villa Street in Racine available for Dominican College rent free. Many alumnae will remember the campus as consisting of the borrowed building, a few houses turned into class buildings, the small library located in a wing of the convent and limited housing for female students only.
With careful planning, a few carpenter’s tools and some paint brushes the sisters and some volunteer labor transformed the former parochial school into the “new” main building of Dominican College. The building now contained the administrative offices, laboratories, student lounge, and several large classrooms. The library was still inside the convent in a wing that opened onto the garden.
The fact the school was operating in a borrowed building may have served as an added incentive to expedite the next move. The Community Council, the Advisory Board, and the sisters now agreed it was time to act on the goal of a permanent campus on the shores of Lake Michigan. After a professional survey showed Racine was ready for such a move, the Dominican College Development Program was begun in February 1957. They began with a period of public relations activities and then in 1958 the fund drive began. The fund drive didn’t swing into action until Mr. William W. Wadewitz (CEO of Western Printing) agreed to serve as chairman. On April 18, 1958 at a dinner meeting of all the leaders in the campaign a goal was set, raise one million dollars to build the first building.
During the same period Dominican College was making progress scholastically as well. The State Department of Public Instruction approved a the college’s plan for the training of teachers of secondary education. In 1957 the college became affiliated with the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. Dominican had the help of Dr William C Conley of Marquette University in preparing for accreditation by the North Central Association. The college also joined the Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges. And in ’57 DC was incorporated under the laws of Wisconsin with the legal name of Dominican College of Racine, Inc.
Sisters Mary Cleopha and Rosita Ulen, president of the college, were appointed to oversee the development of the new campus. They worked closely with the architects and others and were responsible for decision making in connection with the new development. The first physical signs of progress began in fall of 1958 with the felling of trees, the building of new roads, the excavating for the building foundations and the dropping of huge stones in the construction of a sea wall and jetties to protect the property from the ravages of the lake when it becomes angry. When classes for the 1959 school year began, the first issue of the school paper showed Sister Rosita seated in the drivers seat on a bulldozer and claimed this had been her summer job.
On December 14, 1958, 350 people, including many benefactors, gathered for the formal ground breaking ceremony. Monsignor Edmond Goebel, Superintendent of Schools for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, blessed the site. The chrome plated shovel used in the ceremony remained on display in the showcase at the student entrance until the closing of the school. Many people raised money through hard work and sacrifice. There were bake sales, gift shops, and hundreds of other ways to bring in small sums as well as some large donations from business and industry. Johnson Wax Company had a list of causes for which they would match contributions made by their employees. Sam Johnson ordered that the Dominican College Building Fund be added to that list. He and Mrs. Johnson also made generous gifts of their own. Webster Electric donated all the equipment for the language lab. The list of donors was very long and included many from the communities surrounding Racine in addition to local contributions. Protestant businessmen and individuals added their financial support because it was clear to many all would benefit from having this school available.
The architects for the building were Barry and Kay of Chicago and Nelson and Company, Racine were the general Contractors. There were certain milestones that served to mark progress in the construction. April 7, 1959 the well diggers struck water at the 1125 ft level. The cornerstone was laid on November 15, 1959, by Fr. Jordan Aumann O.P. of River Forest, Illinois.
In September of 1960, 21 months after ground breaking, Dominican College opened its doors at the new campus to 363 students. The facilities included administration offices, 32 classrooms, a chapel, a speech therapy clinic, an electronic language lab, 12 student-teacher conference rooms or offices, the school library, student lounge, the bookstore, cafeteria, and convent. The administrative staff included Sister Mary Cleopha, general counsellor and member of the Board of Trustees; Sister Rosita, president; Sister Samuel, academic dean; Sister Theodore, registrar; Sister Anne, assistant registrar; Sister Mary Catherine, dean of students; Father Daniel G. Roach O.P., assistant dean of students; Sister Barbara, business manager; and Sister Helen, librarian.
Four priests, Fr. Damian T Sheehan., O.P., Fr Chysostom H Geraets,O.P., chaplin; Fr. Daniel G. Roach, O.P., and Fr. Mathew D. Hynous, O.P.; twenty seven sisters, Sisters Theodore, Celeste, Mary Catherine, Mary Hortense, Elaine, Mary Anthony, Rosaria, Cecelia, Samuel, Josepha, Ada Marie, Monica, Seraphica, Flavia, Rose Albert, Regina, Madonna, Gabriel, Anne, Denise, Pierre, Marie Bertrand, Christopher, Philip Marie, Dominic Marie, and Walter Reginald and four laymen Rex Capwell, Reinhadt J. Feucht, Gilbert Geraghty, and Allen Salzman made up the teaching faculty. Sister Pricilla was in charge of food services and Sister Koska was in charge of maintenance.
The schools cooperating for observation and directed teaching (for student teachers) were the parocial schools of Racine, the public schools of Racine and of Kenosha and the public schools of Racine County. In June a self study was submitted to the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. In December inspectors from that organization visited and the College was accredited on March 28, 1962.
I relied heavily on Rooted in Hope by Sister Mary Hortense Kohler O.P. in writing the above history of the early years. I remember her as a dedicated servant of Christ who used her unique teaching style.
Everyone’s experiences are uniquely their own. If you and I were students at DC at the same time we in effect may have experienced two different schools. Then there are situational differences. Were you a commuter student or lived on campus? Are you Catholic or of some other Christian tradition? Or perhaps you were or are a Muslim or you came to DC as a recent convert to Christianity. Did you work while going to school, or were you able to go through school without needing to work. Did you participate in one or more on campus organizations or activities? Where were you in the transition from a student body of only postulants to a campus not only with lay students but encouraging those of other religious backgrounds to participate in the school?
In the next section I speak about the school during my years at DC and my experiences during those years. There will be a third section to this history. That’s the part you, the alumni are encouraged to write. Describing the school and your experiences there will be your contribution.
In a real sense the final chapter of DC can not be written yet. The school has been closed for thirty years now. The contribution of Dominican College to society doesn’t end as long as one of DC’s alumni are in this world contributing something positive to society in a way they might not have been able to do without the education they received at Dominican College of Racine.
Perspective from Tom Herstedt
Suppose for a few moments that ‘The Edge” is still standing and you and I are part of a group of alums gathered there downing a few of what made Milwaukee famous and reminiscing about what is was like when we were in school. Since you probably were a student at a different time you will need to fill in for yourself your part of the conversation.
Just stop each time the topic changes and think about one the memories important to you. Here we go.
I was a student at Dominican College during the 1960 and 1961 school years and again in the 1965 school year. If you read part 1 of this history you are aware these were years of exciting changes. My perspective on the school is affected by who I am and by my previous experiences. I attended the University of Wisconsin, Kenosha Extension for two years before coming to DC. Some semesters I worked part time and went to school full time. Others I reversed this and was a part time student and worked longer hours. I also took time off to work and save some money so I could come back and finish. During this entire period I lived at home with my family in Kenosha and commuted to school in Racine. This makes college a different experience from the full time student living on campus and not having to work.
From time to time during this commentary I will mention other factors that might make my perspective different than yours. I have no desire to offend but rather to simply be open about why I feel my experience was somehow different than the original concept of DC.
Now that you have an idea of my perspective –back to my comments on the school. As we have seen in this history over the years the school changed from a teacher preparatory college enrolling only postulants to a school including some female laity, and then later to not only becoming co-ed but having many more lay students than religious. As the school grew the purpose remained to provide a Catholic education to future teachers. That included training lay teachers as well as sisters. The school reached out to the community and welcomed those who were not of the Catholic faith to also obtain their education at Dominican. I was one of those who responded.
By reaching out to the community inviting those not associated with the Catholic Church a more diversified student body was created. Some people feel this was essential to having a well rounded liberal arts education. During these years, although the amount of student housing on campus was slowly increasing, the majority of the students were commuters who lived at home with their families. Often they drove mostly in automobiles well past their prime.
By way of example, at one time my own well experienced car was in for repairs and I rode with another student. He had group of regular riders so it was crowded with one more person. The car was a elderly Chrysler product, a convertible. But this was winter and the top was had as many holes as the best Swiss cheese. I was told that later this same Swiss Cheese topped Chysler product suffered a brake failure at an in opportune moment. It was parked in the parking area in front of and above the patio outside the dinning area at the time. No one injured but lots of broken glass and other damage.
Some of the students were able to buy a new or late model car by choosing one of the late model European cars beginning to appear on the market as Europe continued its recovery from WWII. Fortunately some of these brands have disappeared not only from our shores but from the world. Like the German ‘GOGOMOBILE or the infamous DKW. Those of you who studied German with Sister M Josepha will translate Deuches Karr Works as German Car Factory but most of the owners knew the letters DKW really stand for DAMN KRAUT WAGON. The DKW was so crudely built that it gave new meaning to the term basic transportation.
Just as the temporary coed period accommodated WWII veterans, we now found many of the married male students were veterans of the Korean War. It was again the GI Bill that helped finance an education for these students.
For the commuter students whether they were GIs, recent High School graduates, or working people looking for a better way of life through improving their education, life was very different from that normally portrayed as traditional college life for those living on campus. Many of the wives of GIs worked full time so that their husbands could finish school. There were also many students, both GIs and others who worked full time themselves and carried as many credits as possible but usually less than a full load.
Traditional students developed a social life that reflected their status as students. It’s different for the non-traditional. They have obligations outside of school. Such as jobs, family obligations, friends who are not in school who have different priorities wanting you to join them in their recreational and social activities. Among the problems they faced were what to do with their hectic schedule when the boss expected every employee to work overtime and the worker student needs to study.
The school changed as it grew. The borrowed building on Villa Street added some unique experiences. In the student lounge area there was a big counsel radio like all homes had before TV. It worked well most of the time. However, the volume was controlled by mischievous elves. Some of the students liked to listen to Paul Harvey late in the morning at a time when there were several classes in session elsewhere in the building. Normally this would not be a problem until, about one or two days a week, the elves would suddenly and without warning turn the volume turn all the way up. A fist firmly and suddenly applied to the side of the cabinet reduced the volume to the low level at which the students had been listening. By this time they had unintentionally disturbed every class in the building. (the old radio did not get invited to the new campus).
One evening in fall there was a beanie burning party in the Villa street building. The actual beanie burning was to be in an oil drum trash burner in the alley outside the building. Someone had brought in a phonograph and sister Gabriel was having trouble getting it to work. I was able to save the day by identifying and re-attaching a loose wire.
In spring of the last school year in this temporary home an art class, knowing the building would disappear replaced by a church parking lot, spent a beautiful spring day sketching the old building. (I wonder if any of those sketches have survived).
The first year in the new building I was to take part in the freshman initiation. When we moved from one home location to another in rural Racine I became separated from the other cars. I had an Arab Palestinian freshman student in my car blindfolded. When I stopped at a gas station for directions a sheriff’s car drove up. I went to their car to ask directions. Soon I was leaning against the car told to “spread um”. They had seen my student in the car and were taking no chances. The fact that ‘Mo’ spoke English poorly didn’t help matters. Then he made matters worse by trying both German and Arabic on the officers. After they verified my story by radio contact with another deputy who was a part time DC student himself, they turned us loose and gave us directions to the hayride that finished the evening’s activities.
The only student organization I was a part of from this period was the “International Club” that began and continued for two years in the old quarters and was still active when I left school at the end of the ’61 school year. When I returned in the summer of ’64 that club had died and in fall some students were trying to revive it. The International Club that ran from 58 through 61 had three Chairmen of which I was the third. Frank Corrie was the Chairman for the opening of the ’62 school year but I do not know what happened to the club after that, only that it was gone by the summer of 64.
Several other student organizations came into being. The Booster Club was born after DC acquired its first athletic team, ‘The DC Lakers Basketball Team’. One wag put up a sign to recruit members of the Booster Club that said “ Join the Booster Club— Be an Athletic Supporter”. I believe that was up for two days and the second day when it came down, and one of the male students had an unpleasant talk with the dean about his sense of humor and what was in good taste.
1964 being an election year two new clubs appeared. The DC Young Democrat Club and the DC Young Republican Club both tried to bring all their candidates for major offices to the college and had considerable success. Both President Johnson and Barry Goldwater sent their regrets that their schedule could not be changed that late in the campaign but both clubs were able to bring their candidates for governor, senator, and for the US Congress to DC.
Being true to my claim to be an independent voter I was part of the group of students welcoming each of the candidates from both parties to the campus. I picked up Senator Proxmire, famous for presenting his ‘Golden Fleece Awards’ , at the airport, and drove him to the campus. Sister Rosita, as college President, welcomed him and invited me to have lunch with her and the senator.
In addition to the above there were other organizations for students including one sorority and one fraternity. Some of the student organizations reflected the nature of the school as a Catholic institution. CCD was one of these. They were students who volunteered in the parishes as teachers.
After a period of work and no school I came back to DC during summer school in the summer of 1964. I was determined to graduate this time and applied myself more effectively than earlier. As a history major and a senior I found I had the advantage of very small classes. One of my oral presentations impressed someone and I was asked to give it again over the mid day break. I was surprised to see I had drawn a number of faculty to my talk and a few students had apparently been persuaded by their teachers to attend.
Shortly after this presentation I was surprised to hear a member of CCD invite me to join their organization and help them teach. She had heard that I was a good teacher of religion and could help. I had to explain that as far as teaching religion was concerned I am sure I would not fit into her plans. She still didn’t understand until I spelled it out for her that I am a Lutheran and teach in a Lutheran Sunday school. That does not qualify me to teach Catholic doctrine at a parish school.
Our International Club arranged for speakers who either were from a foreign land or who had knowledge of a foreign land to give at talk at the school. All students and faculty were invited to attend. We had no budget so we had to talk people into speaking for free. On one of these occasions I arranged for a speaker and the school got a phone call from the speaker afterward wanting to know why he had not received his stipend. I was in trouble because I had not made it clear to the speaker who was a UW professor that I was requesting he speak gratis. After eating some humble pie and apologizing to the professor I was let off the hook.
We sometimes had programs for members away from campus. One man who had a collection of rugs and other artifacts from the Middle East invited us to his home to see his collection and to hear him discuss his experiences there. Another time a student who was one of the GIs was invited us to his home. Japanese wife who had only been in this country a few weeks, treated us to an authentic Japanese tea ceremony. She was dressed in the traditional Japanese manner.
Since the student lounge in the Villa Street building was essentially a room with seating and a radio some of us, if we had a long period without a class, would go down the street to a neighborhood café for coffee and to shoot the breeze.
Some of what are now called the ‘non-traditional students’ found it very difficult to keep up their studies, meet their financial obligations and meet their family obligations. Among these were the previously mentioned GIs. Most Korean Vets going through school on the GI Bill had obligations to families that are not part of the image of college life as portrayed in the media.. Many of the GIs were married. We also had a few people who worked full time in one of the factories in Racine or Kenosha who were part time students. Unfortunately a strike at J I Case finished the college career of one on my married school friends. I do not know if he ever got a chance to come back. He and his brother both had hoped to leave factory life for a teaching position. I thing they would have been good teachers as they seemed to be the kind of people who cared about the students. It would not have been just a better job.
We had a number of students from other countries even in those early years. One with whom I was acquainted was a Christian who came from India and had been raised in a non-Christian faith. The first year in the new building the number of foreign students had a slight increase. We had one Moslem. We had one German born student and one recent U.S. citizen who was originally from Poland. Later with the new building we had an increase in the number of students with origins outside the US along with an increase in the size of the student body.
In the new building we had a beautiful new library but prior to that the library was in still in one wing of the convent. Male students were asked to use the entrance closest to the library and go straight to the library on entering and straight to the exit on leaving. That kept us from getting into areas where males were not permitted. The available library shelf space was not adequate. The faculty said they had books and money designated for the purchase of books that they could not use because of lack of space. This was said as a partial explanation for the vast difference between the old and new libraries. With the increase in space some of those resources on hold were put to use.
When weather permitted sisters used the garden areas as a place to walk while praying or while in meditation. Lay students especially males were asked to not be in that area after a certain time. Until the move to the new building this limited how lay students access to the library as their only point of entry was from the garden entrance.
As a Lutheran I had a unique experience while in the library one day. I was studying when I heard a great deal of commotion in the hall with the sound of many running feet. I looked out and saw nuns, novices and postulants running down the hall, toward the chapel. I thought there must be an emergency so I asked what was going on. They said they had just heard that a new Pope had been elected and they were hurrying to the chapel to pray.
I understood why they were elated but did not have any idea how important this event would be for all, Catholic and Protestant as this was the election of John XXIII who made a difference for us all. For just one example the ecumenical movement gained greatly from decisions he made. Not to treat it lightly but some of us went from heretic to ‘separated brethren’ very soon after.
Vatican Two and the resulting growth in ecumenism made a difference in how Catholic and Protestants interacted. Gradually the tasteless jokes began to disappear. You seldom heard the “There was a priest, a minister, and a rabbi” type story after the change in relationships. Much more has been and is being accomplished in acts of Christian charity because we cooperate instead of compete.
It made a difference at DC including in some little things and some that were important. In 1958 school year the School roster was published with students listed alphabetically but divided in three separate lists. Catholic lay students, Religious, and Non Catholic. A few years later a group of non-Catholic students were asked to meet with a faculty member and the topic was ‘How can DC encourage more non-Catholic students to attend DC. One of the suggestions was to make non-Catholic student feel more welcome list the students in two groups not three. Just religious and lay students. As I put it a few miles south you would be a Non Lutheran at Carthage College or at McKendree College a non Methodist and so on. Not long after this was adopted.
In summer school in 1964 I enrolled in a course titled “The History of the Reformation”. Sister M Hortense, who taught the class knew I was Lutheran and asked if I was in the wrong classroom. She was surprised to find I had enrolled in her class. Later when we each had to prepare a paper on one aspect of the reformation I chose to write on the Catholic Reformation. There were several sisters in the class and one of them chose to write on the Lutheran reformation. We each had to present out paper orally. We then were to accept questions from the audience to defend our paper.
When the sister who wrote on the Lutheran Reformation was up front preparing to present her paper I made a show of taking out a note pad and said I was taking careful notes and she better get it right. When it was my turn I was in the front of the class waiting to begin. None of the sisters who were students in the class entered the class until the last minute. This was unusual as they were normally among the first to arrive. When they entered the were carrying scrap lumber and placed at the base of the lectern and cautioned me to be careful what I said.
Sister Hortense was afraid I would be offended but times had changed. I few years earlier they would not have joked. It wasn’t until years later that I found out (when doing some genealogical research) my Swedish ancestors had come to the USA as refuges fleeing Phillip the Second when he brought the Spanish Inquisition to the low lands of Spanish Netherlands. Those of you who were history majors may see an irony in this considering the subject this class was studying and the title to the paper I presented.
Students worked at what ever was available. I clerked in a paint and hardware store. One student found housing that he paid for literally with toil of his back. The household where he stayed that year was owned by a man who raised cabbages. At harvest time the student picked cabbages until he had earned his room and board.. He said he never wanted to see another cabbage as long as he lived. The last I heard of him he was teaching school in Racine. He found other housing arrangements the following year.
Okay the bar is closing now. It was fun getting the chance to relive those days for a few minutes. Perhaps we will meet again some day. Bye now.
In 1958 as I walked down the hall toward Sr. M Samuel’s office in the wing of the old convent that served as the administrative offices of old DC, I saw a series of portraits of what looked to me as very stern and even a little frightening woman in old style habits. I was a protestant who had never spoken to a nun and I had for years heard my Catholic playmates tell exaggerated tales of mean classroom teachers who were permitted to use corporeal punishment and often exercised the privilege.
In 1965 when I graduated and went off into the world to see what I could accomplish with my degree I found myself a little sad at leaving behind some trusted and respected teachers who were also people I felt were my friends.
If you live in or Near Racine or you get back occasionally stop by the new convent adjacent to the property of the former campus. A few of our former teachers may still be there and if they ar they would enjoy hearing from you.. Remember you are the product of their life work. You the graduates of Dominican College are what is left when the school itself is gone.
Tom Herstedt Class of 1965
March 23, 2004