undergraduate days in gothic limestone

As an undergrad, I went to a tiny, Catholic college in Detroit: Marygrove College. At the time, it was part of a large consortium of Catholic colleges in the Detroit area, including the University of Detroit, a Jesuit university where I took most of my classes (it’s University of Detroit-Mercy now).

I’m thinking about this because I received an issue of the latest alum enewsletter, which contained a bit about the Marygrove campus being included in the Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project. So, since I love collections like this, I followed the link so I could see that they have.

Here is Marygrove’s main building, the Liberal Arts building, built in 1927:

Marygrove College, Madame Cadillac Hall, Denk Chapman, Detroit, MI

Pretty spectacular. When I was there, one of my jobs was working for the special events office where we rented various parts of the college out for weddings and conferences. For this, I had a set of master keys, which means I had access to the entire campus (or access to the keys for the part of the campus that weren’t on the master key). So I came to know just about every square inch of the two main buildings—this one, and Madame Cadillac Hall which, when I was there, housed the education department, conference rooms, and the kitchen and dining rooms as well as various ballrooms and the refectory, etc.

My favorite place to go to get away from stuff was the belltower. Spectacular views from up there—along with the bats and the birds and the wind. I just had to remember to cover my ears every 15 minutes, when the clock chimed. I also used the steam tunnels a lot, especially during one particularly brutal winner. And, of course, we raided the kitchen. I spent a great deal of time on the fourth floor of this building, which was the art department. I also spent a lot of time in the powerhouse, which was where the pottery studio was housed, tucked away in the back woods.

Here is a photo of a room in Madame Cadillac Hall, called Denk Chapman:


Madame Cadillac was the original dormitory building, but by the time I was there (1973-77), a new, hideously ugly dorm had been built and this building was used for classrooms, conference rooms, and eating (the project doesn’t show the photo of the student dining hall—which is not nearly as pretty as the one they do show). The text that goes with the photo suggests that this room is used as a place for students to hang out. Not while I was there—students were allowed in there for special events or to work at these special events. It was one of my favorite rooms, though—it’s hard to tell from this, but it was a warm and inviting room just to sit and hang out or read. I had the key, remember, so I could—it was a good place to study and a lot more comfortable than the library or the dorm.

The former dorm rooms in this building (I lived in one of them during my last semester at Marygrove because I could due to the nature of my job—saved me a bundle on room fees) are beautiful, with oak and porcelain and tile floors and leaded glass windows. There were only two student residents all the time I was there—me, for that one semester, and another student who lived in what were formerly the dean’s quarters along with her young daughter. There were two entire wings of rooms used for artists studios in some cases, or for retired nuns who did not want to live in the convent. Mostly they were vacant, and silent. Almost enough to make you believe in ghosts.

It was an interesting time to be a student in a Catholic universtiy system. The younger nuns were shedding their habits and, in some cases, their vows. Liberation theology was just starting to take hold. A lot of guitar Masses. Catholic missionaries went abroad not to proselytize and convert, but to teach and tend the sick and help start businesses. We were mostly the children of blue collar workers and the solidly middle class and more often than not bewildered by the difference between Catholicism on campus and our home parishes. My first philosophy class, taught by a Jesuit at University of Detroit, freed me from religion, oddly enough. It was still a Catholic school, though—one of my closest friends had to leave school because she became pregnant without being married.

I don’t have any nostalgia for my undergrad days. Not even grad school days. That’s not to say I think I didn’t get a good education—I did, superb, in fact. It’s just that I was glad to be done with each phase of school. Ready to move on. I guess I’ve always been more interested in what happens next. I still am.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/20/07 at 10:19 PM
Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

Next entry: hodgepodge

Previous entry: about time we played hooky again

<< Back to main