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UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE

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Adrian Van Vliet, seated on the right, with early students (1858-1862) of the "Van Vliet School" which became the University of Dubuque. Photo courtesy: University of Dubuque
Dubuque College and Seminary became the University of Dubuque
UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE. One of Dubuque's TRI-COLLEGES. In 1852 the German Theological College and Seminary, first of its kind west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, was founded by Rev. Adrian VAN VLIET, a German Presbyterian minister, as a preparatory school for Presbyterian ministers.
Image courtesy: Meghann Toohey: Serials, Digital Management and Archives Assistant, University of Dubuque
Image courtesy: Meghann Toohey: Serials, Digital Management and Archives Assistant, University of Dubuque

Van Vliet began the school believing that scores of German immigrant farmers and miners coming to the region would eventually establish homes and need ministers for their churches. He trained Jacob and A. Kolb for the ministry in the basement of his church at 17th and Iowa STREETS, later the site of Our Lady of Lourdes Convalescent Home. Van Vliet's school was unique by modern standards. He provided the students with board, room, and books without charge. As the number of students gradually climbed to eighteen, Van Vliet saw that his annual salary of $400 would no longer cover expenses. At this point, he began charging two dollars per week for board and room and purchased two buildings near the church to be used as dormitories and a kitchen.

For its first twelve years, the school was the private concern of Van Vliet. In the spring of 1864, however, its supervision came under the control of the Presbytery of Dubuque. The school was then given its first formal name, "The German Theological School of the Northwest."

The Presbyterian Church of the United States officially assumed control of the school in 1870. One year later Reverend Jacob Conzett was chosen as Van Vliet's successor. The school at this time had eighteen students. Still in need of more space, the institution was transferred to a brick building on the north side of 17th Street. This was to be the home of the school from 1872 for the next thirty-five years.

Under the leadership of Dr. Conzett, the school cleared itself of all financial debt and developed an invested capital of over $50,000. The enrollment increased to twenty-four students taught by three full-time and two part-time professors. Dr. Cornelius M. Steffens, appointed financial secretary in 1902 and later president, guided the school into expanding its curriculum. In 1905 a liberal arts college and academy were established. College degrees were first granted in 1906.

The University of Dubuque (circa 1938) long before its tremendous building campaign. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
The college was moved to its present location on University Avenue in 1907. Among the first buildings constructed were McCormick gymnasium, Steffens Hall, and Van Vliet Hall. The college placed special emphasis on teaching principles of Christianity and democracy to the hundreds of students it accepted. In 1911 the college became coeducational.

The college became known as the German Presbyterian Theological School or the Dubuque Theological German College and Seminary. By the start of WORLD WAR I, pressure had already begun to admit students who were not German.

In 1916, in response to the war, the word "German" was dropped from the name of the school, and the name Dubuque College was adopted. Other reactions to the war included the use of more English in the classroom and a change in the title of the academic magazine from Der Seminarist to The Dubuque Student. The magazine, once completely written in German, was given an English title page although much of the content was still written in German.

The college officially became the University of Dubuque in 1920.

Photo courtesy:Cathy's Treasurers,156 Main, Dubuque
In 1925 the university gave up intercollegiate athletics blaming the commercialism of sports. University officials specifically opposed enrolling athletes by offering board and tuition. President Karl F. Wettstone also objected to the coaches' salaries, which he felt, were inflated in comparison with salaries given other department heads. College sports, however, returned to the university in 1928.
Homecoming pin.
China used at the university in 1944. Image courtesy: Katelyn Wolff.
Steffens Hall

The university's honorary rectorship program, begun in 1939 and considered unique in the United States, was actually an old European custom. Archibald MacLeish, three-time Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist and poet, received the thirteenth rectorship in 1977 and the first granted by the university since 1967.

In 1991 the University of Dubuque, with an annual budget and endowment each exceeding $10 million, could boast that 70 percent of its faculty had attained the highest degree possible in their fields. This was an increase from 23 percent in 1970.

Class size has been maintained at between fifteen and twenty students with instruction being given by faculty members. The university has accepted some students with low standardized test scores who have shown potential. Remedial work has then been provided. Retention of first semester freshmen students was increased 9 percent when the university instituted the Freshman Seminar, a two-credit course dealing with topics including money management and cultural diversity.

Athletic facilities have received more than $2 million for expansion and renovation. The Stoltz Sports Center was constructed as an addition to McCormick Gymnasium. The gymnasium, built in 1914, was renovated to included new racquetball courts, indoor pool, Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame, and a multi-purpose playing court.

The University of Dubuque was one of the first colleges in the area to offer an international studies major. In 1991 international students made up 20 percent of the freshman class. An estimated 15 percent of all students at the university came from twenty-nine countries. An additional 8 percent of the student body came from domestic minority groups. Extension programs offered by the university for working nurses seeking an MBA degree were offered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

The goal of the university administration has been to assure that every faculty member had overseas educational experiences. This success has been reflected by the fact that 50 percent of the university's instructors and 100 percent of the seminary's instructors have participated in travel experiences outside the United States. The faculty of the university gained a unique status in the 1970s by being the first in a private institution of higher education west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER to request collective bargaining.

In cooperation with CLARKE COLLEGE and LORAS COLLEGE, the University of Dubuque participates in the Dubuque Tri-College Teacher Education Program. Students earn a degree from one school, although they are able to take classes on all three campuses. Bachelors and master's degrees are offered.

The University of Dubuque seminary trains ministers for all Protestant denominations, but principally for the United Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Degrees offered include the Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Religion. A program for church administrators links a Master of Divinity degree with an MBA from the College of Liberal Arts. Cooperative programs operate with WARTBURG THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY. The Rural Ministry Program introduces students to life in rural America by requiring seminary students to participate in activities that take them into small towns much like they will probably serve in their first ministry. The university's Native American Program conducts workshops on reservations of Native Americans around the United States and has offered scholarships that have been accepted by members of thirty-five tribes.

Unique programs offered by the University of Dubuque include SEED, the three-week Summer Exploration of the Environment program for gifted high school students. In 1991 students from twenty-two states participated in the program while earning college credit. The university's aviation department enables students to earn degrees in aviation management and flight operation. The university's hangar at the AIRPORT has accounted for an estimated 25 percent of the airport's total operations. Those attending the Dunlap Series have heard such distinguished speakers as economists Arthur Bums and John Kenneth Galbraith. A Speakers' Bureau, operated by the university, offers art programs, an international food festival and student speakers from dozens of countries.