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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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CLARKE UNIVERSITY. Clarke was the first liberal arts college for women in the State of Iowa and home of the nation's oldest small college computer science program. Clarke College was named for Sister Mary Frances CLARKE who came to Dubuque in 1843 at the invitation of Bishop Mathias LORAS. On July 5, 1843, St. Mary's Female Academy opened on the northwest corner of Third and Bluff near ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL. The students enrolled in the school were daughters of many of the region's most prominent men.

By 1846 this school was so overcrowded that residents were moved to St. Joseph Prairie where St. Joseph's Female Academy on the Prairie was established. Transportation between Dubuque and Key West proved impractical, and in 1858 the Academy was returned to Dubuque. Its new location was in a building on 14th Street. In 1859 the name of the school became Academy of the Sacred Heart.

In September 1868, one hundred fifty students and the sisters moved into the Wellington mansion which became ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY at 13th and Main STREETS. Ten years later, again plagued with overcrowding, another and what became the final move was made.

In 1878 Mother Clarke purchased 11.5 acres containing three mines near the summit of Seminary Hill on Old Mineral Road (now West Locust). Two miles from the city, the area seemed remote, but the price of two hundred dollars per acre plus three hundred dollars for the MINING rights was paid, with Dubuque industrialist Augustin A. COOPER guaranteeing the loan. MT. ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY was established in 1881 with boarding students from St. Joseph Academy transferred to the new school. (1)

Fridolin HEER, architect of the DUBUQUE COUNTY COURTHOUSE, designed the first building on the campus of the new Mount St. Joseph's Academy. This building, later named Margaret Mann Hall, was chosen as the administration building and also housed a convent, dormitories, and classrooms.

Overcrowding soon led to the need for additional space and the construction of Rose O'Toole Hall that opened in September 1884. This building provided needed classrooms and living space along with an Assembly Hall and library boasting panels of Iowa walnut and white oak floors. The first Catherine Byrne Hall was built in 1894 as a guesthouse. This eventually became an art studio, music hall, dormitory, and finally science building. The building was demolished in 1965 for room to construct the computer center.

Postcard. Photo courtesy: Mike Larkin
Mount St. Joseph Academy and College housed its first seventy-two students in Margaret Mann Hall. In 1901 it became the first liberal arts college for women in the Midwest and received its charter from the State of Iowa on January 12, 1913. (2) The first bachelor of arts degree was conferred in 1904. The Sacred Heart Chapel in Mary Bertrand Hall with its focal point of twin spires and an extension for library and study hall was completed in 1902. In 1908 Eliza Kelly Hall was constructed as a fine arts building and linked to Margaret Mann Hall with a beautiful corridor eventually used to display class portraits.

The curriculum was reorganized in 1913, and degree work changed from a three to four year program. The North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools gave the college accreditation in 1918.

Cacheted cover from 1944
Mary Frances Clarke Hall was dedicated in 1924 as a residence hall. Recreation for the residents came from the theater, union, SWIMMING POOL and gym named for Terence Donaghoe and completed in 1928. The same year the Academy closed, and the college was renamed Clarke College in honor of its founder. In announcing the change of name, officials noted that "Mount St. Joseph" was a name commonly used for colleges and junior colleges around the United States while "Clarke College" would be the first use of the name nationally. (3)

Recognized for its academic quality, Clarke added graduate level studies in 1964 and granted its first master's degree in 1967. The same year following the example of other Catholic colleges, Clarke replaced its lay advisory board with a legal board of trustees. In July 1979, nine men received graduate degrees, the first males to receive degrees from the institution in its 124 year history. (4)

Clarke became coeducational in the spring of 1979.

Clarke's computer science program, established in 1964, was begun by the renowned Sister Mary Kenneth KELLER. On October 11, 1997 the schools new language laboratory was unveiled to the public. It featured twenty computers and was paid for, in part, with a $90,000 grant from the federal government. The lab was named in honor of Sister Lucilda O'Connor who taught Spanish at the college for forty-three years. (5)

In 1970 the size of the college nearly doubled in campus area with the purchase of the Bradley property on Clarke Drive adjacent to the school. Prior to the purchase of the 51-acre tract for $200,000, the college covered 58 acres. (6)

Photo courtesy: Diane Harris
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

In 1984 a disastrous fire swept Clarke College destroying the administrative offices, chapel, library, and art and music halls. Administrative offices of the President Catherine DUNN, who took office eleven days before the fire, were set up in Mary Josita residence hall. Dedication ceremonies for the new buildings were scheduled to occur with the 1986 Homecoming celebration beginning on Friday, October 17.

Beginning in 1976 Clarke presented an Every Woman's Day Award following a benefit luncheon used to raise funds for scholarships to nontraditional-age students.

In June 1992 Clarke unveiled a $15 million over five year "Partnership in Quality" fundraising campaign. The money was to be used for the construction of a sports complex and other programs. The WAHLERT FOUNDATION began the campaign with a $500,000 donation. If Clarke could raise $3 million by the end of the year, the Foundation pledged another $500,000 so that the sports complex could be constructed. Clarke had already raised $2 million. Clarke President Dunn called the building "the missing link." No other four-year college in the state lacked a sports and recreation complex. The plans also called for $1 million for the renovation of buildings, $1 million to enhance computers and technology, $500,000 for the library, $3.5 million for operating expenses, $3.5 million to increase the endowment for faculty and staff improvement, and $2 million for the endowment for student scholarships. (7)

Clarke officials announced in October 1992 that the school would be offering a new major in physical therapy beginning in the fall of 1993. (8)

One year later in October 1993 officials and community members gathered to dedicate a 9-foot statue to Sister Mary Frances CLARKE. The statue was donated by the SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (BVM), an order founded by Sister Clarke who taught at the school. The statue was created by Doug Schlesier, a professor of art at Clarke. Catherine DUNN, BVM and president of Clarke, said the statue was to remind everyone that "they were there to serve." (9)

Amid the social unrest in Dubuque, Clarke College investigated its own commitment to multi-culturalism in 1993. A University of Iowa consultant spoke with Clarke students in 1991 and 1993. In late August 1993 faculty members met with the Johnnie Sims of the University of Iowa's office of student support services and Sister Virginia Spiegel, a Clarke assistant professor of psychology and chairperson of the school's multicultural committee. Recommendations to improve the school's climate included hiring a minority student advisor, develop more classes with multicultural elements, budget for a mentor program and increase the number of minority students on campus. (10)

The JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS and Clarke began a partnership in 1996 that provided credit and non-credit college courses for plant employees. Each semester the college offered five to eight courses in computer science, business, communication at general education at the plant. Non-credit courses included workshops in Spanish, Japanese culture, and math. In 1997 Clarke also began offering a new master of science in management program. The program was being piloted at Deere and was to be offered at Clarke in 1999. (11)

In May 1997 Sister Catherine DUNN announced plans for the next five years. The first goal was to increase the enrollment to 1,400 students. The school had seen nine consecutive years of increase. A three-story apartment was planned for the corner of West Locust and Clarke Drive to house one hundred students. The second goal was the construction of an addition between the Kehl Center and Mary Frances Hall. This addition would house a cafe, lounge, game room, student organization center and meeting rooms. Additional construction projects included renovation of Mary Josita and Mary Benedict residence halls, Catherine Byrne Hall; at addition to Byrne Hall to provide sixty-five faculty offices; expansion of the library; and construction of gateways to identify the campus. The third goal was to expand fundraising activities. (12) On September 2, 1997 the Dubuque City Council on a roll-call vote taking less than a minute approved amending Clarke's institutional district making room for five construction projects that the college would start by 2002. (13)

In 1997 the Tri-Colleges, University of Dubuque, CLARKE COLLEGE, and LORAS COLLEGE chose to end operating the Tri-College Education Department begun in 1986. Among the reasons for the change was different mission statements, governance, and salary structures. Clarke responded to the change by hiring two additional faculty members for the 173 education majors. The department also announced that it would be focusing on inclusion, the practice of educating special education students as much as possible in the regular classroom. Cooperation between the three school continued. If particular courses were not available on the campus of one school, they could be attended at either of the other two schools. A library system that linked all three campuses still existed and a shuttle service ran between all three campuses. (14)

The new master of science degree in management program piloted by the John Deere Dubuque Works generated more interest than the college anticipated. In response, the start of the program was begun in 1998 instead of 1999. The 36-credit program combined work experience with academic theory. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools notified Clarke that both this master's program and master of science degree in nursing had been accredited. (15)

In May, 2010 the college's Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of renaming the college to Clarke University effective August 1, 2010. At the time of the announcement, other news was also released. The university within the next five years would have a new science facility, athletics facility and gateway to the campus. President Joanne BURROWS stated that Clarke had operated as a university without the university distinction for several years. In addition to many undergraduate programs, four graduate programs and one doctoral program, a second doctoral program--doctor of nursing practice--was being planned.

In 2013 Clarke was granted approval by the Higher Learning Commission to offer a second master's degree in business--the Master in Organizational Leadership (MOL). This degree was unique from the university's Master's of Business Administration in that it was offered through a partnership with Dardis Communication--a developer of professional leadership and coaching programs.

In January 2015, Clarke announced that it would field a football team for the 2018 season. University trustees voted on January 30, 205 to add football to the intercollegiate sports program. The team would be part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Recruiting would start in the summer of 2017. (16)

In 2015 the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE, Clarke University, LORAS COLLEGE, and the Northeast Iowa Community College were named to the 2016 Military Friendly Schools list by Victory Media. The list designates the top 15 percent of colleges, universities, and trade schools that do the most to support military service members, veterans, and their spouses as students and ensure their sucess on campus and after graduation. (17)

The visual identification of the university has changed. In 2017 the announcement was made that at the start of the 2017-2018 academic year the sports teams would be known as the "Clarke Pride." The replaced "Clarke Crusader" was adopted by the school in 1977. A knight was dropped from the logo in 1997 and replaced with a medieval flag. University president Joanne BURROWS attempted to change the nickname completely, but after a contest was held the flag was replaced with a lion. Support for changing the name from Crusaders, due to the history of the word," grew in 2015. A list of 111 options were developed with the list reduced to three: Pride, Golden Lions, and Wild. (18)

See also: Mary St. Clara SULLIVAN (Sister)

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Sister Mary Edward Dolan with television personality Fran Allison.



1. Freese, Mildred, "St. Joseph's Ends Long History," Telegraph Herald, June 5, 1959, p. 19

2. Gallagher, Mary Kevin. Seed/Harvest: A History of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Archdiocese of Dubuque Press, 1987, p. 57

3. "Mount St. Joseph Now Clarke College," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, September 9, 1928, p. 2.

4. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, December 31, 1967, p. 18

5. Krapfl, Mike. "Clarke's New Language Lab Scuttles 'the Drab," Telegraph Herald, October 12, 1997, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19971012&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. "51 Acres Are Added to Clarke Campus," Telegraph Herald, March 4, 1970, p. 1

7. Krapfl, Mike. "Clarke Sports Complex Appeal Goal $15 Million," Telegraph Herald, June 3, 1992, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19920602&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. Krapfl, Mike. "Physical Therapy Degree at Clarke," Telegraph Herald, October 7, 1992, p. 3A

9. Eiler, Donnelle. "Statue Honors Founder," Telegraph Herald, October 10, 1993, p. 3A

10. Krapfl, Mike. "Clarke Minority Students Polled," Telegraph Herald, August 30, 1993, p. 3A

11. Bergstrom, Kathy. "Clarke, Deere Partnership Provides Skills, Students," Telegraph Herald, December 2, 1997, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19971202&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

12. Krapfl, Mike. "Clarke Plan: More Students, More Elbow Room," Telegraph Herald, May 16, 1997, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970516&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

13. McDermott, Brad. "Council Gives Nod to Clarke Expansion," Telegraph Herald, September 3, 1997, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970903&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

14. Krapfl, Mike. "Teacher Education Evolves Three Ways After Tri-Colleges' Split," Telegraph Herald, January 18, 1998, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19980118&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

15. "Clarke Ahead of Schedule in Adding Degree Program," Telegraph Herald, January 19, 1998, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19980119&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

16. "Clarke to Add Football," Telegraph Herald, February 1, 2015, p. 13A

17. "Clarke, Loras, NICC, UD, UW-P on Pro-Military List," Telegraph Herald, November 12, 2015, p. 3A

18. West, Brenden. "Clarke Announces Nickname Change," Telegraph Herald, February 3, 1895, 1B