By Stephanie Plowman
Special Collections Librarian
SPOKANE, Wash. – The idea for the Gonzaga University Setons, a women’s service club, began with Jack Gilligan in 1951. Gilligan, president of the Gonzaga Knights of the Kennel, a men’s service club, thought Gonzaga should start a branch of the national women’s service group the National Spurs, which was affiliated with the Intercollegiate Knights.
The 35 initial members of the group donned blue caps, which were their honor badges, and called themselves the “Zagettes.” Members served as ushers and sold programs at basketball games and boxing matches. They also helped out with the debate tournament.
According to the Gonzaga Bulletin on Aug. 2, 1953, having an “interest and desire to serve your school are the only qualifications for the Zagettes.” Recognized as a service club with the Associated Students of Gonzaga University (ASGU), the members took part in school functions such as Campus Days and sponsored student dances such as the Halloween Sock Hop.
After a probationary period, the group received final recognition from the National Spurs in February 1955 as its 27th chapter and began wearing the Spurs logo.
In 1972, the group decided to break from the National Spurs to function more independently but retained the name “Spurs.” By 1989, however, the group voted to change its name to “Setons” after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity, due to her shining example of leadership and service.
Over the years, the service projects performed by the group – at times with the Knights of Gonzaga – have included a wide range of fundraising activities such as the annual Charity Ball, muffin sales, pancake breakfast, dance marathon, and carnation sales. Group members also served as ushers for University events, such as Mass of the Holy Spirit and Commencement. The Knights and Setons of Gonzaga are related sophomore organizations that provide service on demand to the Gonzaga and Spokane communities.
Since 1951, the Spurs and later the Setons created a scrapbook to document each year’s highlights. These volumes contain photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and biographies of members. The scrapbooks provide information about the organization and insight into its members. The Gonzaga University Archives in the Foley Center Library house the scrapbooks from 1951-2001 with a few missing years.
In October 2011 many of the former members returned to campus for a reunion. Zagettes, Spurs, and Setons enjoyed meeting each other and sharing stories of their experience.
Although the name and members have changed over the years, the main purpose of this women’s service organization continues. Today’s 30 sophomore members of the Setons of Gonzaga continue the tradition of service started in 1951.