College of Racine Records, 1936-1975


The history of the College of Racine dates back to 1864 when the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic established St. Catherine's Female Academy in Racine. A normal school was added to the Academy in 1888 to train young women of the community for the teaching profession. In 1924 St. Catherine's High School was built in Racine and the Academy closed, but the normal school continued to operate until 1935 when St. Albertus Junior College replaced it.

In January 1935, Sister Demetria Meyer became dean of St. Albertus Junior College and secured accreditation by the University of Wisconsin for the first year of the curriculum. In 1937 the sophomore year was accredited and a third year was added to the curriculum. Examiners considered that the addition of a fourth year would be unwise at that time in light of the small enrollment at the college. Nevertheless, the college expanded its program by admitting secular students and offering evening classes for teacher education. In the belief that a four-year liberal arts college was needed in the Racine area, St. Albertus Junior College added a fourth year in 1946, changed its name to Dominican College and admitted fulltime lay students for the first time. Eleven fulltime students and approximately 100 evening students attended the college that year and the State Department of Education granted approval to the college to confer the Bachelor of Science degree in Music and Education. The first graduation ceremony, held in 1948, had six graduates.

Also in 1948, the college established an Advisory Board, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Moses Elias Kiley, to plan future development of the college. Charter members of the Board were Ben Bleakley, president of the First National Bank and Trust Company; attorney George Gilday; the Reverend Monsignor Edmund J. Goebel; Mrs. Oliver Pfeiffer and Mrs. Roy Spencer, both active members of Catholic women's organizations; and George Wheary, president of Wheary Incorporated.

The 1950s constituted a decade of consolidation and rapid expansion for Dominican College. Sister Albertine Berberich became president in 1952. Prior to that year the prioress general of the Racine chapter of the Dominican Sisters was ex officio president. Sister Rosita Uhen succeeded Sister Albertine as president in 1954, and the following year the college became coeducational on a permanent basis. As enrollment increased and plans for future development were formulated, it became clear that the college facilities were crowded and inadequate. In 1955, the Congregation of St. Catherine of Sienna purchased 25 acres of lake frontage, five miles north of Racine, as a site for an expanded campus. Overcrowding was relieved temporarily when Holy Name School in Racine made its premises available to the college on a temporary basis in 1956.

In the following, year the college became affiliated with Catholic University of America and it was incorporated under the state laws of Wisconsin as Dominican College of Racine, Inc. Also that year the college started the Dominican College Development Program to raise funds for the new campus. William R. Wadewitz, chairman of the board of Western Publishing Company, provided leadership and greatly enhanced the fund drive when he became its chairman in April 1958. Ground breaking for the new campus was held on December 14, 1958, followed by the laying of the cornerstone less than one year later.

The college moved to its new campus in September 1960. Enrollment had reached 363 full and part-time students and the faculty consisted of more than 30 nuns, two priests, and a layman who served as business manager. It received accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1962. In the same year, the college purchased 62 adjoining acres of land with two large buildings and converted one of the buildings to a women's dormitory. Campus expansion continued with the purchase of the Breakers Campus Center and the construction of Wadewitz Hall for men in 1966, the completion of an addition to Johnson Hall for women in 1969, and the construction of the Theater/Gymnasium Complex and the Center for Continuing Education in the early 1970s.

Management of the college was transferred from the Dominican Sisters to an independent nondenominational board in 1968. That year Sister Rosita resigned as president and was succeeded by Thomas C. Stevens. In 1970, the college underwent a major administrative reorganization, involving restructuring of administrative positions and responsibilities, and replacement of the traditional academic departments with four broad divisions. In September of that year, Mt. St. Paul College, a seminary operated by the Society of the Divine Savior, closed and its academic program was moved to Dominican College, where it became known as the “New Division.” In 1972, a program offering a Masters of Science Degree in Education was introduced, and the college changed its name to the College of Racine. In 1973, it joined the Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities and introduced the Racine Plan, a year-round academic program of six short terms.

Despite increased enrollment and a growing respect for the college's innovative academic programs, the college faced serious financial difficulties by 1974. Several factors contributed to these problems, including construction of the Theatre/Gymnasium Complex without long-term financing, high interest rates for short-term loans, a decline in the stock market, a rapid increase in operating costs, and a reduction of contributed services. On March 15, 1974, the college filed bankruptcy papers. Numerous members of the administration, faculty, and student body undertook the task of raising 1.75 million dollars needed to keep the college operating. A merger with Lewis College in Lockport, Illinois also was attempted. All attempts failed. The college held its final commencement ceremonies on June 8 and a few summer courses were held until August. Eventually the college property was divided and the buildings were sold.

More detailed histories of the administrative offices precede each series.