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1912 Silver Jubilee Anniversary Marked Gonzaga’s Transformation from a College to a University

Posted on November 14, 2012 in: @Gonzaga, A Look Back, Academics, Alumni, Events, Feature Stories, Spotlight
Members of the Silver Jubilee Graduating Class of 1912 stand next to St. Aloysius Church, 1912. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.

Members of the Silver Jubilee Graduating Class of 1912 stand next to St. Aloysius Church, 1912. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.

By Stephanie Plowman
Gonzaga Special Collections Librarian

SPOKANE, Wash. — As Gonzaga marks its 125th Anniversary with special events through May 2013, the University’s tradition of celebrating its founding every 25 years continues unabated. Gonzaga’s Silver Jubilee, a three-day fete in 1912, launched this unbroken string of celebrations, and marked Gonzaga’s transformation from a college to a university.

In preparation for Gonzaga’s Silver Jubilee, June 19-21, 1912, large U.S. flags draped the main entrance and sides of the Administration Building. Inside the building, reception rooms, corridors, and classrooms blossomed into a wonderland of color and beauty with a profusion of cut flowers and palms. Underscoring the significance of the occasion, Pope Pius X and Most Rev. Francis Xavier Wernz, general of the Society of Jesus, sent their blessing to Gonzaga.

Students Day, Wednesday, June 19, began at 9 a.m. with a Solemn Mass of Requiem for the Departed Members of the Faculty and Student Body celebrated by President Louis Taelman, S.J. Student awards were issued in the afternoon, followed by the evening Commercial graduation (for business courses such as bookkeeping and commercial law) in which 18 diplomas were conferred. Spokane Superior Court Judge J. Stanley Webster delivered the graduation address.

Alumni Day, June 20, opened with a Solemn High Mass for the Living Members of the Faculty and Study Body, followed by a reception and luncheon. Field day exercises included an all-class track meet and a 5-mile run through town, which was amended to a 3.5-mile run when a violent dust storm with winds gusting up to 48 mph enveloped Spokane.

One-thousand badges bearing Gonzaga’s seal on a royal blue ribbon were distributed on June 20, 1912. Photo courtesy Gonzaga University Archives.

The weather did not stop the annual Alumni Banquet, which began on schedule at 5 p.m. That evening, the Gonzaga Dramatic Society presented the Silver Jubilee Play at the Spokane Auditorium. “Vincentius: Or Under the Shadow of the Cross,” written by Gonzaga Professor Alexander Cody, S.J., included elaborate costumes from San Francisco, and received rave reviews.

Gonzaga Becomes a University
University Day, Friday, June 21 marked the day Gonzaga became a university. The Mass of St. Aloysius Gonzaga marked the occasion. Most Rev. Alexander J. Christie, Archbishop of Portland, delivered the Silver Jubilee sermon. A clergy jubilee banquet followed in St. Aloysius Parish Hall for 155 guests from throughout the Northwest and British Columbia. In his address, Washington Gov. Marion E. Hay praised Ensign Robert Monaghan, who received his education and character training at Gonzaga. Spokane Mayor William J. Hindley, who said he represented the entire City of Spokane in recognizing Gonzaga’s great work, bid Gonzaga God’s speed as a university. As the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra played “The Star Spangled Banner,” the audience rose to its feet to honor flag and country.

That evening, a long line of cars gathered downtown and at 7:30 p.m., while the Gonzaga band performed, the Silver Jubilee Parade started at Bernard Street and proceeded west down Riverside Avenue to Monroe Street, circling the Robert Monaghan monument. The parade, led by Col. W. R. Abercrombie, was followed by a police platoon. Col. C. W. Penrose and his Fort George Wright staff were mounted, followed by the Gonzaga band. The Knights of Columbus formed an honor guard to the cap-and-gown-clad graduates, and Gonzaga alumni followed. The parade also included city, county and state officials, distinguished clergy, Gonzaga faculty, judges, and other professionals.

After the parade, a program at the Spokane Auditorium Theatre opened with a selection by the Gonzaga Orchestra, composed for the occasion by Gonzaga Professor Gerard Rugers. Then, the 37 candidates for the master’s and bachelor’s degrees were presented on stage. The orations by members of the graduating class dealt with the problem of socialism. A thunderous applause arose after a reading of Gonzaga’s amended articles of incorporation. Francis J. McKevitt delivered the valedictorian address and Most Rev. Edward John O’Dea, Bishop of Seattle, addressed the graduates. Academic medals were presented, and a performance of the National Anthem crowned the Silver Jubilee.

An editorial in the June 20, 1912 issue of the Spokane Daily Chronicle noted the historic moment and carried the headline, “Measure a Thousand Years of Prosperity for Spokane’s Grand Young University.” It noted: “Gonzaga College was great. Gonzaga University will be greater….  Mighty universities are not built without effort or without cash. No algebraic formula or geometric diagram is needed to show that every gain in Gonzaga’s strength is a gain in Spokane’s strength; every increase in Gonzaga’s prestige is an increase in Spokane’s prestige; every new building erected, every department added, every student attracted, every year of prosperity enjoyed by this institution means an advance toward fulfillment of the Inland Empire’s splendid destiny.”

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