By Stephanie Plowman, Special Collections Librarian
SPOKANE, Wash. – In 1932, the Gonzaga University Glee Club, directed by Lyle Moore, began to tour the Pacific Coast. After that, the choral group typically traveled up to 5,000 miles a year. The Glee Club’s all-time highlight occurred in 1949, when it performed with alumnus Bing Crosby on ABC radio. For three decades, the Glee Club flourished under Moore’s baton. By 1958, Gonzaga administrators decided to curtail its activities so its members could spend more time on their studies.
The impetus to start the Men’s Glee Club was the hiring of new Gonzaga President Rev. Daniel Reidy, S.J. in 1927. Fr. Reidy appreciated the importance of music and created a School of Music. This new school offered a Bachelor of Music degree. Lyle Moore was among the 13 music faculty hired. Moore also started the Bulldog Pep band, which played for a few years. For two years, the Music School was housed in Goller Hall, the University’s former infirmary.
Rev. John Keep, S.J. replaced Reidy as president in 1930; his four-year tenure was fraught with financial concerns. In a Spokane Chronicle article in November of 1930, Fr. Keep announced the University had received overtures from another city to relocate there. He said Gonzaga could no longer support both a university and high school. The article went on to note that Spokane cannot afford to lose Gonzaga: “It is a great institution now; it will be far greater in the days that are to come.” The threat to leave lasted for a couple of months before being forgotten.
Fr. Keep, in seeking ways to keep Gonzaga solvent, decided the School of Music had not paid for its own way and restructured it as a department. Fr. Keep also organized a School of Coaching, which held its first sessions in the summer of 1932. Graduate manager William Mulligan and three eminent coaches were hired: “Hunk” Anderson, head football coach at Notre Dame; Gus Dorais, head coach at University of Detroit (Gonzaga’s head football coach from 1920-24); and track coach and trainer Mike Butler, also from Detroit. Two dozen coaches from colleges and high schools participated.
That same year, Fr. Keep appointed Rev. James Linden, S.J., as the Regent of the School of Law. Fr. Linden began a series of lectures on Catholic apologetics on campus. The public was invited to these six lectures, which helped prepare the way for Fr. Linden’s first radio series, which lasted for 10 years.
According to Rev. Wilfred P. Schoenberg, S.J., in his detailed Gonzaga history titled “Gonzaga: Seventy-Five Years, 1887-1962” Fr. Keep nervously guarded Gonzaga’s meager financial resources in the early 1930s as he waited for prosperity. He introduced cost-saving measures in areas such as maintenance, printing and publicity, athletics, fuel, and even food for the Jesuit community and residents. Students were not allowed to publish a yearbook. Despite these measures, the University still had great debt, some stemming from students’ inability to pay tuition. Also, the football program continued to operate in the red; football led to $32,421.59 in losses during the 1931-32 academic year. However, Gonzaga’s idea to cut the program was met with great opposition by Spokane businessmen.
Gonzaga’s financial strains caused great health problems for Fr. Keep. In October 1934, while lying severely ill at Sacred Heart Hospital, students kept a 24-hour prayer vigil for several days. Fr. Keep recovered, but remained in poor health and was transferred to the new novitiate at Sheridan, Ore. The same year, Rev. Leo Robinson, S.J., became the next president to navigate Gonzaga through the continuing financial crisis.