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A Look Back at 1956-57 to See Forward to Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary

(From left) John Donaghue, student body president; Gale Benoit, junior class president; and Fr. Art Dussault, S.J., director of expansion, inspect the new 27-inch TV donated by Bing Crosby. The set was controlled remotely from the unit Donaghue is holding. Photo and story courtesy of the Gonzaga University Archives.

Looking forward to Gonzaga University’s quasquicentennial celebration (125th anniversary) in 2012, @Gonzaga continues its monthly series counting back to its founding year, 1887. This series began in September (2010) when we looked back six years to the 2004-05 academic year. Each subsequent monthly story looked back another six years. In this issue, we travel back in time to view highlights of the 1956-57 academic year.

1956-57

By Stephanie Plowman
Special Collections Librarian

SPOKANE, Wash. – The fall of 1956 saw two major building projects occurring simultaneously on campus to meet the needs created by Gonzaga’s growing student body population. One immediate need was for a library building. Gonzaga contacted Bing Crosby, who agreed to help raise the funds.

In August 1956 Bing attended an impromptu ground-breaking ceremony. Later, he organized a television show and gave 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 Oct. 13, 1957 on CBS and received an Emmy Award. Thanks to Crosby’s efforts, a new $700,000 library was constructed and dedicated on Sept. 29, 1957 as a memorial to the Crosby family. (The facility is now the Crosby Student Center.)

Another need was adequate housing, although the military barracks used in the 1940s had provided temporary relief from space constraints. Another residence hall was built with construction beginning in the fall of 1956. Named Patrick Welch Hall after a Spokane pioneer, the new dormitory housed 150 male students and cost $606,312 (four times as much as DeSmet Hall cost to build in 1925). The October 1957 dedication came days following the inauguration of Gonzaga’s 20th president, Father Edmund Morton, S.J.

Another need was to remodel the COG, the student center, which was opened in 1954. A new TV lounge was sorely needed and, once again, Bing was contacted and donated a 27-inch set for the room located in the COG basement. The room was dedicated in January 1957 and included the new TV set, which was encased in a cherry cabinet. The TV was completely remote controlled, which was important as it had no dials or knobs. The directions to use the television were located nearby. The new lounge rules included the admonition: “No food or drinks, use ash trays, and turn off lights and TV set when not in use.”

In March 1957, Michael Galo enrolled at Gonzaga as the first of two Hungarian transfer students to pursue a formal education through a scholarship program. Communist troops forced Galo and others to leave their homeland in efforts to suppress a revolution the previous year. Galo arrived in the United States just one month before coming to Gonzaga. He planned to study chemistry formally after a couple months of studying English.  His campus interpreter was a Gonzaga cook named Valentine Karley.

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