Inspired by the ambitions of Milwaukee’s first bishop, John Martin Henni, Marquette College opened in September 1881 on a hilltop overlooking the city’s expanding downtown. Named for the great explorer and missionary of the American Midwest, Pére Jacques Marquette, the institution’s educational foundation drew upon the well-developed, clearly-elucidated traditions of the Society of Jesus. After twenty-five years as a small, liberal arts college, Marquette blossomed into Wisconsin’s largest private university through its affiliation with the Milwaukee Medical College in 1907, the purchase of two, privately-owned law schools in 1908, the establishment of a engineering college that same fall, and finally, the opening of journalism and business programs in 1910. By this time, the institution had moved from its original hilltop site at Tenth and State streets to Grand Avenue, alongside the Church of the Gesu. Soon Marquette set a course toward coeducation, the first Catholic college/university in the world to make this choice. Marquette’s reputation as Milwaukee’s university grew steadily during the 1920s, accompanied by the school’s first building boom.
Dependent from its earliest days upon tuition income, the school struggled through the hardships of the Great Depression and enrollment disruptions of World War II. With the end of that conflict, however, Marquette came into full glory, becoming by the late 1950s the largest Catholic university in the country.
The quarter of a century preceding the school’s centennial celebration in 1981 was highlighted by an urban renewal program that transformed the campus neighborhood, by the appearance of a lay-dominated leadership core, and by an outspoken student body experiencing every emotion of the 1960s and 1970s. Based on a complete rereading of the university archives, this volume depicts the first one hundred years of Milwaukee’s Jesuit University, with an emphasis upon the themes of student life, administrative decision-making, and Marquette in Milwaukee.
Dr. Thomas Jablonsky, a member of the Department of History at Marquette, is the Harry G. John Professor of Urban Studies. Born and raised in Chicago, the author completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at California State University, Los Angeles, and his doctorate in American history at the University of Southern California where he subsequently spent nearly two decades before coming to Marquette University in 1995 as director of the Institute for Urban Life. Milwaukee’s Jesuit University is the third volume in the Urban Life Series, published by Marquette University Press.