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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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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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LORAS ACADEMY. The predecessor of Loras Academy was located in the residence of Bishop Mathias LORAS, the school's founder. The first president was Rev. Joseph Cretin, later the first Bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota. (1) Loras moved the school south of the city and it was renamed MOUNT ST. BERNARD SEMINARY. Financial conditions caused the school to fail around the time of the CIVIL WAR.

In 1873 ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY was located at the site of St. Joseph's Hall on Loras Boulevard. (2) The goal of the school was to encourage boys to enter the priesthood. John Patrick CARROLL, became the bishop of Montana. Other graduates who entered the priesthood included Leo BINZ who became the Archbishop of Dubuque. Henry P. ROHLMAN served first as the business manager of the college and was later chosen archbishop. From the classes between 1876 and 1926 a total of 439 students became priests out of 740 graduates. Students unprepared for higher level studies were taught on the secondary level by the college faculty. (3)

A building campaign was started in 1878 and capped in 1884 with a diocesan collection that led to the construction of a chapel, study hall, and rooms for teachers. (4) Archbishop John J. KEANE led more expansion efforts in 1902. A large building was erected which contained classrooms, gymnasium, laboratories, and rooms for students and faculty. (5) In 1910 a combination chapel and auditorium were completed. A gymnasium was completed in 1912. (6)

Columbia Academy "boarding school" postcard advertising a "homey" atmosphere.

In 1894 Father John P. Carroll, the president of ST. JOSEPH COLLEGE abolished the preparatory department and established a combination six year high school and college curriculum. A student entering the high school department was required to have eight years of previous academic work. The secondary program was then set at three years. A four-year schedule was arranged for the high school in 1915 with the first year including grade school subjects. The high school course became a full four years in 1917. In 1918 the combined high school and college departments had an enrollment of 358 students. (7)

COLUMBIA ACADEMY was accredited in 1927 by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In 1928 the high school alone had 324 students instructed by thirteen priests and two lay teachers. (8) Students were called "Columbians." The campus buildings were Science (Hennessy) Hall St. Francis Hall, an infirmary, (Smyth Hall), gymnasium, and auditorium and chapel (St Joseph Hall). (9)

In 1939 the name was changed to Loras Academy. (10)

The high school was both a boarding school and a day school. Located on the college campus, exceptional high school athletes were encouraged to join the college teams. Extra-curricular activities were abundant. In March 1922 the first newspaper, the "CeeAy," was published. In 1939 its name was changed to the "Crest." The "Cinema," the yearbook, became the "Log" in 1939. (11)

St. Joseph Hall at Loras Academy

In 1935 the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) was organized on the Columbia (Loras) Academy campus. The school thus became one of a few high schools and the only Catholic ROTC Honor High School in Iowa. The ROTC program was continued at WAHLERT CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL until the spring of 1963. (12)

Among the many lay instructors at the Academy was John W. CRETZMEYER who served the Academy thirty-two years. He held the position of baseball coach in 1913 and became the head athletic coach in 1920. The Academy students were officially christened the "Gubs" (his favorite expression was "By Gubs"). (13) The coaching of Professor Cretzmeyer annually led to Academy teams participation in the Loyola University Catholic High School Invitational in Chicago. Columbia Academy won the Catholic State High School football championships in 1926, 1927, 1929, and 1930. From 1925 to 1931 Columbia football teams scored 1,027 points against 343 from the opposition. In basketball such stars as Robert MATTHEWS and Merlin J. "Mickey" MARTY brought crowds to their feet with their ability. The rifle team of Columbia Academy was so proficient under the guidance of Sgt. C. A. Peterson that it competed in the 1937 Camp Perry National Rifle Competition. In 1943 Loras Academy won the National Interscholastic Gallery Matches. (14)


In the last twenty-five years of its existence, more than half of the Academy graduates enrolled in college with LORAS COLLEGE receiving about half. (15) A list of Academy students would include David RABE. (16) William McKay entered the field of journalism and became the managing editor of the Paris edition of the Chicago Times. Arch WARD, a graduate in 1916, founded the national All-Star baseball game. Richard Louis MURPHY became a United States Senator and Gerald E. Lyons moved to Washington, D.C. to be the general solicitor of the Farm Credit Administration. Future attorneys who attended the Academy included Francis J. O'CONNOR, Robert KENLINE, and Thomas NELSON. Journalist Louis Schaefle, called the "Little Napoleon" by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, graduated from the Academy in 1926. Don AMECHE went on to fame on stage and in MOTION PICTURES. (15) John James JEHRING found fame in the field of economics. Bill Blake, a corporation attorney, was a Big Ten referee. (17)

With the closing of Loras Academy in 1959, students attended Wahlert. The buildings became part of Loras College.



1. "Last Year for the Aacdemy," Telegraph Herald, August 24, 1958, p. 17

2. Ibid.

3. Driscoll, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Justin A. With Faith and Vision: Schools of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, 1836-1966, Dubuque: Bureau of Education, Archdiocese of Dubuque, 1967, p. 316

4. "Last Year..."

5. Ibid.

6. Driscoll, p. 316

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Meyer, Jeff, "Reflecting Back on the Gub Club," Telegraph Herald, March 20, 2018, p. 8

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. "The Loras Academy Hall of Fame," Online: http://loras.edu/About-Loras/News-Events/News/2013/LorasLinkSeptember2013/The-Loras-Academy-Hall-of-Honor.aspx

13. Driscoll, p. 317

14. "Last Year..."

15. "Land of Lost Souls: David Rabe's America," The New Yorker, November 24, 2008, Online: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/11/24/land-of-lost-souls

16. "Last Year..."

17. Ibid., p. 28