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GU History: 1946-1960

A guide to the history of Gonzaga University


In addition to space problems at the collegiate level during the war years, Gonzaga also faced a shortage of space to house the High School program. Beginning in 1941, Gonzaga leased from the city the site of the Webster Elementary Grade School, which had closed due to lack of students. (The neighborhood was mostly Catholic and the children attended St. Aloysius School instead). Unfortunately, the building was gutted by fire in April 1945, which forced the high school back into the Administration building.

Webster Grade School

Webster Grade School, home to Gonzaga
High School, 1941-1945; Photo courtesy
of the Jesuit Oregon Province Archives

Campion Hall
Campion Hall (Barracks), 1947

By the academic year 1946-1947, with all-time high record enrollments for the high school and university, the Administration Building could no longer adequately provide classroom space. Occasionally, high school classes were taught on the stairs with the teacher on the platform below. That year, President Francis Corkery was able to purchase a number of sections of

Gonzaga High School
Gonzaga High School located in
barracks next to DeSmet Hall, 1947

barrack-like frame buildings from the abandoned Baxter Hospital in Ephrata, Washington. With some renovations, the barracks, named Campion Hall after a Jesuit savant, housed 100 college students. Additional barracks were redesigned to house the High School program in 1947. By 1954 the new school building was finally completed and the high school, now called Gonzaga Prep, organizationally and physically left campus for its own site.

First group of women students
First group of women
students admitted to
Gonzaga, 1948

Following the end of World War II, Gonzaga’s enrollment returned due to two factors: the G.I. Bill and co-education. In the fall of 1948, Gonzaga enrolled female students for the first time in 61 years. Previously, women had been attending its professional schools such as law, education, and nursing and others, but now they could attend the undergraduate courses. With seventy-five women registered in the fall of 1948, the female coeds (outnumbered 29 to 1) entered a somewhat hostile environment. The decision to permit women was met with some opposition by the Gonzaga community.

First Crimont Hall
First Crimont Hall
was a house, 1951

The admittance of women created a few physical problems such as lounges, and housing and dining facilities. In 1950 a new lounge was constructed for women in the Administration Building. Women were not permitted to eat with the men in the dining room until 1950. For the first two years, there were no residential facilities for women. Female students were required to live with relatives until Crimont Hall (a house) was opened in 1951. After Madonna Hall was built in 1954, this temporary residence was replaced following the construction of the dormitory Crimont Hall in 1965, which was built on the site of the original house.

women students participate in the WAA
Women students participate
in the Women’s Athletic
Association, 1960

After being admitted, the women students participated in recreational activities, but not intercollegiate, with the exception of the ski club, which allowed four women to participate during the first year of coeducation. In the late 1950s, under the name Women’s Athletic Association (WAA), female students played basketball, volleyball, golf, softball, tennis, archery and swimming. Eventually, the women’s basketball and volleyball teams battled against nearby opponents. In the 1960s, women competed in the Pine League in basketball, volleyball, tennis, and badminton. This led to Gonzaga joining the Northwest College Women’s Sports Association (NCWSA) and later the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). In the mid-1970s Title IX required all universities to offer equal athletic opportunities for men and women.

Marilyn Stanton
Professor Marilyn Stanton

Another addition to campus in the 1950s was the hiring of women professors and administrators. The first Dean of Women, Mrs. Catherine Rochlitzer, served between 1949 and 1953. Prior to the 1950s, a few women taught classes in music, English, and other subjects as instructors. One of the first women to be given the rank as Assistant Professor was Lucille Lake, who taught in the English Department in the mid-1950s. Two other significant pioneer women professors were Lydia Savedoff, who became an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1956, and Marilyn Stanton, who after being an Instructor of Piano became in 1960 an Assistant Professor in Biology. Over the years the number of women faculty has increased. In the fall of 2006 there were 123 full-time female professors, comprising 36% of the faculty. Additionally, two of the six Vice Presidents and two of the seven Deans are women today.

Spurs, now the Setons, 1957

In response to meet the needs of the growing number of women, Gonzaga announced in October 1951 the formation of Spurs, a national college women’s service group affiliated with the Intercollegiate Knights. Initially, the organization accepted 35 freshmen and sophomores. In November 1989, the group decided to break from the National Spurs so that it could function more effectively. They were forced by the national organization to change its name. The group adopted the name “Setons,” after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton because of her example of leadership and service.

Dillon Hall
Dillon Hall, now
Herak Center for
Engineering, 1949

With the School of Engineering growing out of its space in the Administration Building, a new engineering building was constructed and dedicated in 1949. It was named Dillon Hall, after Gonzaga President Francis C. Dillon, S.J. Faced with Indiana limestone, the $500,000 structure housed expensive equipment, including lathes, testing equipment, and airplane and marine engines. The main floor contained heavy equipment and chemical, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering laboratories. Classrooms, lecture halls, and faculty offices occupied the upper floors.

National Collegiate Boxing Champions
National Collegiate Boxing
Champions, 1950: Coach Joey
August, Jim Reilly, Carl Maxey,
and Eli Thomas pose with mascot,

In spring 1950, Gonzaga was co-champions of the National Collegiate Boxing tournament. Coached by Joey August, Carl Maxey was the 175-pound champion; Eli Thomas was the top middleweight champion; and Jimmy Reilly added team points in the semifinals. Citing eligibility changes by the Pacific Coast Conference and a short schedule forced the administration in 1952 to discontinue boxing. Thus, Gonzaga was forced to eliminate boxing in the very year that they seemed to be the favorites to win national honors again.

President Truman
President Harry Truman presents
ROTC standard to Gonzaga
President Corkery, 1950

On May 11, 1950, President Harry S. Truman visited Gonzaga University to receive a Citation of Merit. His arrival was the first time in Gonzaga's history that the nation’s highest official spoke on campus. Truman came to Spokane after attending the dedication of the Grand Coulee Dam. A huge platform was placed on the quadrangle near the Administration building facing the engineering building. Over 4,000 spectators watched President Truman received his Citation of Merit from President Francis Corkery, S.J. for his "moral stand in world affairs." Truman gave a ten minute speech stressing equality and dignity of man before God and the need to eliminate injustice and achieve lasting peace.


COG building before
addition, 1954

In the spring of 1952, Gonzaga students advocated the construction of a student union building. They complained about the current conditions in the rickety canteen (formerly St. Al’s church with one spire). They believed that a new student facility would attract prospective students and would be the hub of university activity. By 1953 the students’ voices were heard and fund raising began for a new student union building and women’s dormitory. In October 1954 a contest was held to name the student union building. The winner received $15 worth of coffee, one cup a day for a year. Senior Dick Noble and Fr. John Martin penned the term “Circulus Omnium Gonzaga-orum, meaning roughly “a meeting place of all Gonzagans.” It was abbreviated to “COG.”

Madonna Hall
Madonna Hall, 1950s

The Cog was built and dedicated on October 24, 1954 along with the first women’s dormitory, Madonna Hall. To finance the building a $760,000 loan was made through the federal government. Dedicated in honor of Mary, “model of Christian womanhood”, this dormitory housed 150 women in 78 double rooms.

Crosby Library
Crosby Library, about 1960

By the 1950s, Gonzaga’s growing student population created a need for a library building. Bing Crosby contributed to the library building campaign by organizing a television show and giving the production rights to Gonzaga to secure funds for the library. The Bing Crosby Edsel Show, starring Bing, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Bob Hope, and Rosemary Clooney, aired on CBS on October 13, 1957 and received an Emmy Award. Through his efforts a new $700,000 library was constructed and dedicated as a memorial to the Crosby family on September 29, 1957.

Welch Hall
Welch Hall, about 1957

Although the barracks in the 1940s had provided temporary relief from space constraints, Gonzaga needed to replace them with adequate housing. Consequently, another dormitory was built. Named Patrick Welch Hall after a Spokane pioneer, the new building housed 150 male students and cost $606,312. (This price was four times as much as DeSmet Hall in 1925.) The dedication of the hall came days following the inauguration of Gonzaga’s 20th president, Fr. Edmund Morton, S.J.

Frank Burgess
Frank Burgess, 1960

From 1958 to 1961, Frank Burgess played basketball at Gonzaga. By his senior year, he was an All-American athlete, Gonzaga’s first, and the nation's leading scorer. He scored 2196 points while at Gonzaga. Graduating in 1961 in education, he played basketball in the American Basketball League for a couple of years and then returned to has alma mater to study law. He obtained his law degree in 1966. He practiced law in the Tacoma, WA area and held several positions. In 1981 Burgess became a U.S. Magistrate and in 1994 a United States District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Senator John F Kennedy
Senator John F. Kennedy at Gonzaga’s
gymnasium, 1960

Gonzaga Law School held its first Red Mass on September 18, 1959. Based on a ceremony rooted in fourteenth-century England, the Red Mass was meant to mark the opening of the English Parliament, which coincided with the beginning of the university academic calendar. In the United States the Red Mass is held before the start of each U. S. Supreme Court term. GU President Edmund Morton SJ remarked at the first Red Mass that the event would invoke a blessing on the courts, teachers, students, and lawyers during the upcoming school year.

In early 1960, John F. Kennedy visited campus on his campaign for President. He met with dignitaries and gave a talk in the Gonzaga gymnasium.

Dr Franz Schneider
Dr. Franz Schneider

At this same time with the arrival of Fr. Neil McCluskey as Dean of Education, Gonzaga began to move towards the standards of other universities in regards to faculty salaries and professionalism. Franz Schneider, professor of English and honors program director, led the charge to create a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and write the first Faculty Handbook that would incorporate the basic principles of the AAUP.




Updated March 2015


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