Author Archives: Linda Papa

ROTC at U of D

In 1963, a lot of colleges and universities (as well as some high schools) were offering Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). As part of the Morrill Act of 1862, federal land granted to states for the establishment of institutions of higher learning required that military training be provided as part of their curriculum. Protests that took place during the 1960s over the Vietnam War and the violence associated with all wars, however, influenced the decision to drop ROTC from many schools including the University of Detroit.

In 1963, a student dressed in ROTC military finery was still an impressive sight on campus. The military was part of our national identity and participating in this culture even when the country was not at war was almost a rite of passage for young men during this time. A uniform offered a great way for a young man to appear more committed to the welfare of his country, and more serious about his future. This was the early sixties and in this new decade the patriotic residue of the fifties had not yet completely worn off.

In the 1963 Tower Yearbook, there’s a section devoted to photographs showcasing the ROTC, including the then annual military ball. Uniformed cadets are shown marching in formation on the football fields, sprinting across the campus to make it to class on time, and standing at attention behind the ladies at the ball.

This year seemed to mark the end of innocence for the country and the student population at U of D. The clearly defined line between right and wrong, good and bad, masculine and feminine would soon be blurred, erased, and redrawn.

Military Ball 1963 (image 151)

The 1963 Tower Yearbook was unique in many ways.  There’s a lot to explore from this snapshot of 50 years ago.  Take a look!

Artist in the House

An artist is defined as “a person who creates art.” Defining “art” is a bit more challenging. I think everyone who knows Maurice Greenia, Jr. can attest to how creative he is. His life reflects his creativity and, to me, this describes what an artist really is.

Maurice is a native of Detroit and has worked at the University of Detroit Mercy Libraries/Instructional Design Studio since 2001. His work grows out of the city itself. The introduction on his archive tells us:

“Thousands of people see his work every year, but many do not know the artist or the multitude of formats in which he works. This site is aimed at the preservation of his work, some of which cannot be physically preserved, and is viewable only in photographs; the chalk drawings on the old Hudson’s Building being a prime example of work preserved only photographically. But to try to define what his artistic production has been and continues to be is almost impossible. Browse through the site and see the range of creativity in medium and expression, ranging from poetry to drawing to sculpture, with many stops along the way, and often involving found objects.”

Digital Special Collections is pleased to offer a collection of Maurice Greenia, Jr.’s art work that spans over 35 years. Explore the images in twelve collections ranging from black and white drawings, to painted magnets, to a publication titled “The Poetic Express.” This archive is constantly changing, growing and evolving … just like art itself.

Blue Drawing, image 50, Color Drawings Collection

War and Graduation

In 1943 as the United States felt the financial pressures of supporting the war effort during WWII, the University of Detroit had to make some serious choices regarding funding. So many graduates during this time were going from the academic classrooms into a war torn world, it seemed vitally important to acknowledge their accomplishments. As the war likely occupied the thoughts of all in attendance that graduation day, the entire university faced an uncertain yet hopeful future.

In a sense, the 1943 yearbook foreshadowed the hardships faced by a lot of institutions of higher learning during this time. The University pledged its support of the war effort and provided a place for military training and organizations. One of the first pages in the Tower Yearbook for 1943 honored those former students who had already given their lives in service to their country. Soon, these new graduates would likely be drafted into what was believed to be a holy cause.

Yet the 1943 Tower Yearbook would be the last published until 1947. This break in publication would not happen again until the final days of the Tower.

1943 Tower Yearbook

The Tower Yearbook collection in our digital archive is a great place to spend an afternoon! So much history awaits the visitor there.

Digitized Yearbooks (1986 and 1987)

The UDM Libraries/Instructional Design Studio is pleased to announce the release of the 1986 and 1987 digitized Tower Yearbooks into our digital archives.

The styles have changed, the faces have changed, the way we viewed the world has changed, but since the 1986 and 1987 Tower Yearbooks were originally published, the tower itself and the exterior buildings surrounding it have pretty much stayed the same. It’s interesting looking back on those years through the pages of these yearbooks to realize that students then are basically the same as they are now: fun loving, intelligent, and eager for “great things.” They may have worn different clothes and played different games (there’s an obvious lack of technology in these pages that we now see on campus), but the faces of those students then offer the same hope for the future that is evident on the faces of students now.

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out the digital yearbook archives. You can find some amazing images and history all the way back to the first yearbook publication in 1923.

The Value of Yearbooks

The first yearbook for the University of Detroit (called Red and White) was published in 1923, twelve years after Detroit College officially became a university.  In its new status, the University of Detroit began with a focus on creating value.  The founding Fathers knew the value that yearbooks offered and so they became an important part of shaping U of D’s history.  The yearbooks produced during these early years represent not only the fun and friendship of the time spent at good old U of D, but they are also public records, documented history, and fine representatives of the school itself.

The Yearbooks allow us to trace the growth of the university from its first graduating class, to its important place in the country’s list of academic centers of learning.  With this guide we can trace the influence of dominate social causes, economic fluctuations, political influences, religion, and gender issues.  Each yearbook becomes a collection of links to the past, whether someone is researching her family tree, or gathering information on trends in higher learning.  Now that so many schools are making digitized yearbooks available online, it’s easier for even the mildly curious viewer to spend hours wandering through the pages of history this way.  Who we are now, and who we once were, contribute to the shaping of future generations of UDM students.

Maiden voyage of Red and White Yearbook

These days there’s a concern among social theorists about the overall cultural effect of this digitized age.  They wonder whether relying so much on computerized versions of history will somehow take away from the value of the records of the past.  Isn’t the hardbound book “better” than the digitized version?  Doesn’t the paper version of our yearbooks offer a better, more long lasting record of the experience we’re trying hard to preserve?  Maybe the answers here lie in the areas of preservation and accessibility.

Not long ago there was an interesting documentary on the Discovery channel regarding an archeological discovery made in Egypt.  In this program, an archeologist who had just entered a recently discovered Egyptian tomb was being interviewed about his find.  The interviewer asked if gold, jewels, or precious metals had been found inside … whether the discovery included “anything of value.”  The archeologist explained in his excited enthusiasm that what they’d discovered was more precious than any jewel or precious metal; they’d discovered information, a tangible link to the past.  This connection was far more valuable than any form of monetary wealth since what we learn from our past contributes to the knowledge we have of who we are in the present – how far we’ve come, and how far we can go from here.  When we record our history, we create our value to future generations, and this value includes how we live our lives.  Written records like school yearbooks not only provide a snapshot of who we are in social terms, but who we are as a culture – as a university, a community of learning.  Yearbooks are a huge part of a valuable social record of human understanding about the world and our place in it.

The Red and White yearbooks were renamed the Tower soon after their first publications.  The cost for the thick, glossy, 350 plus page tomes, however, began to drain the school’s coffers.  University financial cutbacks, the Second World War, and eventual lack of interest produced thinner and thinner books until the Tower’s final publication in 1988.  Those who fought to keep it going managed one last publication called Catapult in 1992, but then it was silenced forever.

Visitors to the library’s Special Collection page, however, can revisit those glory days of the Tower’s publication!  Preserving this history is digital form allows us to continue to share the university’s legacy with the world.

From its “maiden voyage” to its final chapters, the university yearbook is an historic record of great things.


The education process for most people begins at a very young age. Unless you’re very clever and your parents are devoted to forming your social intelligence earlier, you probably start Elementary or Grammar school when you are six years old. Those early days are usually taken in stride until at some point you realize this is going to be a commitment for years. At the end of the long road through that process, you can finally walk out of the classroom and into the working world.

At graduation, the years of dedication and commitment, reading and testing, listening to lectures, taking reams of notes, and understanding critical thinking and guidance can now be left behind you as you finally put to use everything you’ve learned. Graduating is an achievement and should be celebrated. And there’s a long tradition to this!

For hundreds of years graduates have been honored for their “rite of passage” through their years of education with a traditional ceremony that those who have graduated before you have enjoyed. As each graduate walks across the stage to receive his or her diploma, they are following the footsteps of thousands who have gone before them.

The commencement ritual includes specialized robes, caps, tassels, and school associated colors. A bagpiper leads the procession of graduates as they trace the path from the campus grounds to the gym or auditorium where the ceremony will take place.

Check out the commencement 2012 booklet in our Commencement archive. The back page offers information about the meaning and history of the various academic regalia. Each booklet holds history, however, and it’s interesting to trace these booklets from how they look now backwards to the first booklet in our collection of the graduating class of 1887 (already the eleventh).

1887 Commencement Booklet

To “commence” is to begin. Although this is the end of a long journey, it is the beginning of entry into the social world. You have made it! You have arrived!

Please visit our Commencement archive for more information on this rich history.

Football at U of D

New programs have just been added to the University of Detroit Football Collection archive!  Come check out the latest additions:  1957 program for the game between U of D and the Air Force Academy, and the 1959 program for the game with Xavier College.

Organized football began at the University of Detroit (then known as Detroit College) in 1896.  It quickly became a popular aspect of the school for students, faculty, and administration, as well as the local community.  As the team evolved, the game went from a rough and tumble brawl on a muddy field to a polished and important part of college life.  Interest soon ensured that fans were kept informed about the players names and season statistics.  Add a bit of artwork and some advertising, and a first quality printed history of the game emerges.

This continually growing collection of pamphlets and memorabilia is now available digitally.  The archive offers viewers not only a colorful evolution of football at the university, but a history of the school itself. From small college to growing university, the archive allows viewers to track this progressive change over a span of 68 years (football was discontinued at U of D in 1964) from a football fan’s perspective.

Each year is represented in digitized football programs containing the names and information regarding players, along with a selection of audio interview files, advertisements from local businesses and supporters,  and, on occasion, a bit of poetry.  Take the 1924 program for example.  That year the season collection begins with the September 27 game against Alma College.  For 10 cents a copy, fans received a full page poem by Edgar Guest on Teamwork (written, we are told, especially for this game), a list of new rules for College football games, a reminder to vote for Joseph A. Martin for mayor (a U of D alumni!), along with the words to the various fight songs to be sung during the game.  Scrolling through the pages of this brief program, viewers can see a sketch of the long gone stadium, an image of the latest model of La Measure’s Dry Cleaning delivery truck, and review the schedule for upcoming games.  The program also reminds readers that ice cream is “the Vigor Food” and the Nunn-Bush shoes are for “He-Men”.

But what is most amazing to this writer is the “uniform” worn during this time (evidenced by the team portrait below from a 1921 program).  Although sports technology had advanced enough to consider player protection, it seems shockingly slight by today’s standards.  Leather helmets were padded to help prevent injury; and padded pants, shoulder pads, and thermal shirts were included with good intentions.  Players also wore cleats on leather shoes, great for distance but not so great for contact with other players.  The uniform also included the “must have” kidney pads worn around the waist, along with gloves and ankle bracers.  And while these very important pieces of football attire were not too expensive for the time, not every player could afford the complete outfit.

Players in these early football years were a hardy lot.  They endured the bloody injuries, the broken noses, the scratched skin of any fighter.  And being a true gladiator for the school was worth the scars and “old football injuries” they carried into adulthood.

From the 1920 Football Program

We are adding to this archive all the time.  Come take a look at some amazing images from UDM’s archived football history.

News History

In 1918, while the country was focused on the misery of WWI and the devastation of the Spanish influenza epidemic (said to be the worst in U.S. history) there was a desperate need for a reliable distribution of information.  With so much upheaval and uncertainty, newspapers around the country offered a way to connect individuals with vital details concerning the seemingly fast moving changes taking place in the world.  The value of this form of communication was also recognized by the University of Detroit, and in that year (on January 30), the Varsity News was born.

It wasn’t only that the need was there to connect U of D’s growing student and faculty population, however.  There’s something of the essence of community included with being part of a university that can’t be expressed in any way other than a newspaper.

With all the digital advancements taking place these days, it’s really interesting to note that the Varsity News in its original form endures.  This is more than just entertainment or even communication … this is about representing in tangible form the whole of the university’s existence.  A newspaper unites, includes, expresses and helps provide an identity to who we are.

There’s a difference between providing information and communicating with readers.  The News offers that connection, that communication, and that relationship feels more like a handshake than a memo.  Behind every one of the articles is a student who has stood in the shoes of each and every reader, who knows those eyes that peruse the page.

Varsity News 1918

Sydney J. Harris, American journalist, once said, “Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”  The Varsity News, from its beginning until now, offers great communication.

See more issues of the Varsity News in our digital archive.

Dyngus Day on April Fool’s Day! No Joke!

On Monday, April 1, something very strange occurred: Dyngus Day (a traditional Polish-American holiday celebrated on the first Monday after Easter) and April Fool’s Day (traditionally celebrated each year on April 1) fell on the same day.  According to Professor James T. Callow, who’s Folklore Collection is among the more interesting offerings in our digital archives, this is a rare event.  It’s quite unusual for these two celebrations of mischief to fall on the same day.

What is Dyngus Day?

Tradition has it that Dyngus Day celebrates the lifting of the restrictions associated with Lent and Easter.  During the Monday following Easter, local boys would chase the local girls with pussy willows to whip the backs of their legs and buckets of water to splash them.  These days, Dyngus Day is still celebrated in some areas of the country with a focus on the Polish-American heritage of the community. The pussy willow whips and buckets of water have now been replaced by polka music, traditional food, a lots of laughter.

And April Fool’s Day?

While a bit more popular, April Fool’s Day is also associated with the lifting of restrictions surrounding the Easter holiday.  People around the world delight in a day filled with practical jokes and hoaxes.  As long as the joker shout’s “April Fool!” as part of his or her deception, harmless tricks can be played on others all day.

Combining these two celebrations may be a bit risky, but merriment is assured in one way or another.

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

The Folklore Archive currently contains ” … 42,000 folklore traditions taken from field notes gathered by UDM (formerly University of Detroit) students as part of their course work…”  Materials in the archive were gathered between 1964 and 1993.

Valuable Package

On June 7, 1849, an amazing tale of one man’s courageous flight from slavery was published in the Emancipator, one of many black abolitionist newspapers in circulation at the time.  The editorial is titled, “Thrilling Narrative,” and in it the author tells the story of Henry Brown who escaped slavery by having himself shipped to freedom in a sealed crate.  His ordeal almost cost him his life, but earned him his freedom, the admiration of all who heard his story, and the nickname Henry “Box” Brown.

“With the assistance of a friend, arrangements were made for him to escape in a box, which was to be forwarded to friends of the slave in Philadelphia, carefully marked as a valuable package.

The friend who assisted him in his plot, took all his money, about $80, and his clothes. Brown could offer no objections, though it left him penniless. Yet with a Roman heart, he was true to the fixed purpose of his soul; he was on his way to liberty.”  (found on page 2 of the archive post for Henry Box Brown)

Read more of Henry Box Brown’s story and others in the Black Abolitionist Archive.

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