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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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COLUMBIA COLLEGE. Plans for the construction of a diocesan college began immediately with the arrival of Bishop Mathias LORAS in 1839. Father Samuel MAZZUCHELLI spent much of his time that year supervising the construction of a college building at the rear of ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL. The stone building, affectionately known as the "Bishop's Palace."

The first students of the college were four seminarians who accompanied Bishop Loras to Dubuque. Gradually the student body taught by Joseph Cretin grew to include local boys of high school age and theological students from various foreign countries. There were even occasionally SIOUX boys and half-breeds from Minnesota.

Not satisfied with the school, Bishop Loras planned a new institution with higher standards. This became MOUNT ST. BERNARD SEMINARY that existed for a short period from 1850 to 1860. Among the challenges it faced during its brief existence was the greater need to provide missionaries in the West.

Bishop John HENNESSY was unable to immediately begin work on another diocesan college in the confusing period immediately following the CIVIL WAR. Instruction was then being given to students at the former residence of Judge Pollock on Julien Avenue (Clarke Drive).

1901/1902 college booklet.

In 1873 a building on West 14th Street constructed in 1847 as a barracks for troops and was used by the SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (BVM) as Dubuque's first hospital during cholera epidemics and later as a young ladies' seminary. Bishop Hennessy decided this would become the new college. The building was renamed MT. ST. JOSEPH COLLEGE and the sisters moved their school to 13th and Main STREETS.

The school opened with forty students. The Very Reverend William Downey, the first president, with four other priests made up the entire faculty. Enrollment increased rapidly. Additional building was done by the Rev. P. J. McGrath in 1878 and Father Roger Ryan in 1882.

In 1893 the college was incorporated under Iowa laws and was approved to confer academic degrees-a privilege first exercised in June 1895, with six of fifteen graduates receiving the Bachelor of Arts degree. Further expansion of the campus continued. In 1914 Loras Hall, the largest of the college buildings, was erected. St. Francis Hall was built the same year and in 1916 a new science hall was completed. A four-year academic program was begun in 1915. In 1917 the college was admitted into the North Central Association of Colleges.

Between 1914 and 1919, when the college became co-educational, the diocesan college was known as Dubuque College. In 1917 a normal school for the training of teachers was announced. Classes were held on Saturday and lasted for twelve weeks so that prospective teachers could receive their certificates in time to obtain a teaching position in the fall.

In 1924 the Columbia College football team was winning the Western Interstate Conference. The banquet in 1925 celebrating the team brought such "Fighting Irish" as Knute Rockne and Elmer Layden to Dubuque.

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald]] In 1920 the name of Dubuque College was changed to Columbia College after a bitter controversy with the DUBUQUE GERMAN COLLEGE over names. Similarly named, the two institutions were often confused. The issue went to district court where Dubuque College prevailed. Before the case was appealed by the Dubuque German College, a compromise was reached. Dubuque College became Columbia College while the Dubuque German College was renamed the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE.

In 1923 recognition was given to the college after it was placed on the approved list of the Schools by the New Yorkk Board of Regents. In 1928 the college was added to the approved list of the Association of American Universities. The college was later renamed LORAS COLLEGE.



1. "Columbia College is 91 Years Old," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 24, 1930, p 43