By Stephanie Plowman
Special Collections Librarian
SPOKANE, Wash. – By 1908-09, Gonzaga College was in its 22nd academic year. Nine students received a Bachelor of Arts degree on June 18, 1909. Approximately 475 students attended Gonzaga College. The majority were in the high school and preparatory divisions. Gonzaga offered four courses of studies: The College, the Academic or High School Department, the Commercial Department, and the Preparatory or Grammar School Department.
The College Department offered the usual four-year liberal arts course of studies leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree. The Academic Department offered three years’ coursework to prepare for college. The Commercial Department offered a complete business education with classes including bookkeeping, typewriting, stenography, and mathematics. The Preparatory Department introduced younger students, grades three through five, to the study of history, reading, spelling, mathematics, and geography through class drill.
Tuition and boarding for each of the two terms was $150. Day scholars were charged $25 a term. There were extra charges for music lessons, and for the use of a piano, typewriter, library and an apparatus for chemistry or natural philosophy. Diplomas for graduates cost $10.
The boarding students lived in the Administration Building (now College Hall) on the fourth floor in two large rooms. Each student had a bed, table and chair. Students had to get up at 6 a.m., attend morning prayers, breakfast and Mass before class at 8:45 a.m. The day was structured with classes, study breaks, lunch, dinner, and bedtime at 8:30 p.m.
When not in class, students participated in intramural sports, debate, sodality, plays, military cadet corps, and music. The intramural sports league was called Junior Yard Association. JYA football, basketball, baseball teams sported such names as the “Midgets,” “Stars,” and “Tyroes.” The students also found recreation in the billiard rooms located in the basement and first floor east end of the Administration Building.
Gonzaga College owned an extensive museum collection on natural history and Native Americans. Jesuits working at rural missions had brought many items to the college. Community members donated others. The 1908-09 “Gonzaga Catalog” printed that year’s donation to the museum. Items included biological specimens, marine shells, a U.S. coin from 1809, a mud turtle, Egyptian relics and coins, and petrified bone of a mastodon.
Gonzaga College’s president in fall of 1908 was Father Herman Goller, S.J., who had been president since 1905. Fr. Goller was well regarded by the students and Spokane community. According to Fr. Wilfrid Schoenberg’s history of Gonzaga, “Gonzaga University: Seventy-five Years, 1887-1962,” Fr. Goller had an optimistic outlook on things.
Despite this optimism, his tenure as president experienced a very traumatic term. Under his watch, there was a severe case of typhoid fever at Gonzaga in April 1906. With more than 25 students infected, President Goller decided on May 2 to terminate the academic year and send the students home. In all four students and one priest died from the outbreak. So overcome by grief, Fr. Goller personally accompanied the body of one boy back to Nez Pearce, Idaho. Initially, the officials thought that the source of the outbreak was from the well. It turned out the disease was caused by the water in the plunge or swimming pool in the basement of the Administration Building.
After the outbreak of the influenza on campus in 1906, President Goller sought to build a separate infirmary building to better handle medical emergencies. Completed in 1907 at the cost of $30,000, the new infirmary was a pressed-brick veneer building, with a chapel, doctor’s office, 13 private rooms and four wards for patients. The basement housed the kitchen and dining room. At full capacity, it held 33 patients. The building was eventually named “Goller Hall” in 1941 to recognize President Goller.