Cultivating a sense of place: Aquinas College Historical Commission shares college’s past

the cook carriage house, 1914

The Cook Carriage House, 1914. The building was once U-shaped. An inscription on the original photo reads, “Horses on the left, cows on the right.” / Courtesy Ryan Wendt

Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Ryan Wendt

Are you reading this article in the Moose? Did you know that the building once had a third wing and was the Albertus Magnus Hall of Science until 1960? Or maybe you’re sitting in the library. Did you know that the space around you was once an estate built by the head of the American investigation into the sinking of the Titanic? If you’ve walked by Holmdene, you might be surprised to learn that Theodore Roosevelt spent a night there in 1914. Any place you go on campus is likely to have a surprising story in its past, and the Aquinas College Historical Commission is on a mission to share those stories.

The Aquinas College Historical Commission began in 1996 under Sr. Jean Milhaupt, a former archivist and English professor who had been teaching at Aquinas since the 1940s. Gary Eberle, former English professor, assumed leadership in 2002; in 2017, Peer Tutoring Services coordinator Jill Straub took his place. The commission’s primary goal is to preserve and promote the history of the school through a variety of events. Its 10 members, which include current staff, a Marywood sister and a current student, promote this mission through a variety of means.

The Commision is currently working with the college archivist, Jennifer Morrison, to update historical photo displays across campus. Members curate a Facebook page (which includes throwback posts from this very newspaper) and information on the College’s official website. Guided tours of campus buildings are offered in the summertime. The Commission also nominates awardees for the Celebration of Saints (formerly the Hall of Fame Gala), which recognizes former students and employees plus one Dominican Sister who have left lasting positive impacts on the community. Lectures by members and visiting historians are also organized by the group.

The Commission’s largest undertaking at the moment is an ongoing talk by Ryan Wendt, a Commission member and Campus Safety employee. Entitled “The Yesteryears of Aquinas College Buildings and Estates,” the presentations give an extensive background of the school informed by Wendt’s personal research. Part one, covering the time period of 1875-1950, took place during the fall semester. Part two, 1950-1990, will be hosted during the fourth quad of this year and the final segment on 1990-2020 is planned for the fall.

Both Wendt and Straub feel that the commission’s work is valuable for students. Wendt loves to tell the stories of those who used these buildings before us; the knowledge adds a new depth of perspective to everyday travels through campus.

Straub adds that she finds “a sense of comfort in knowing what the past was like in a certain place,” something that many of us could certainly use now and then.

About the Writer:

45198424_349831512435226_2338936578337931264_nElizabeth Walztoni is a sophomore majoring in Geography with a minor in writing. 

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