"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Revision as of 20:48, 29 December 2019 by Randylyon (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigationJump to search

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 families. The students were enrolled as day pupils or boarders. (1)

By 1846 this school was so overcrowded that the 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 1849 a fire destroyed all their buildings and possessions. (2)

Returning to Dubuque, the Sisters temporarily moved into St. Joseph's Hall at Sacred Heart School. In September, 1868 Very Reverend Terrence J. Donaghoe purchased the Wellington mansion. The following month the Sisters opened ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY at 13th and Main STREETS. This former home of J. J. Dyer, a local attorney, became a convent for the Sisters and a school for the girls. (3) Under the direction of Sister Margaret Mann, one of the original Sisters who came to Dubuque, the school offered from twelve to fourteen subjects. Music, embroidery, art speech, and exercise were considered requirements of the "refined young lady." The first year there were eight sisters to teach twenty-six students. (4)

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. St. Joseph's Academy became a day school. (5)

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. (6)

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 Mount St. Joseph College became the first liberal arts college for women in the Midwest. The same year graduation requirements were changed. Beginning that year, a student had to enroll in a seven year course of study. This was done "principally to raise the standard of the school." (7) A new $50,000 wing was planned on the western side of the main building.

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 college received its charter from the State of Iowa on January 12, 1913. (8) The curriculum was reorganized that year 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. College officials announced that year an honor society would be organized in the near future for those students whose names had appeared on the honor roll three times during the scholastic year. (9) The Academy closed, and the school 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. (10)

A novel experiment in 1939 became a thirty-year success story. Believing in the possibility of a radio program based on cooking, Mary St. Clara Sullivan (Sister) began the "Clarke Radio Kitchen of the Air" on radio station WKBB. (11)

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. (12)

Recognition of instructors at Clarke included McCall's magazine in 1952 awarding Sister M. St. Clara, BVM, with its "Mike" award honoring "the radio executive performing the greatest public service to women." Sister St. Clara became the chairperson of the home economics department at Clarke College. (13) Clarke's computer science program, established in 1964, was begun by the renowned Sister Mary Kenneth KELLER. On October 11, 1997 the school's 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. (14)

In 1970 the size of the campus nearly doubled 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. (15)

In 1971 Clarke College pioneered advanced placement for high school students in Dubuque. The "Intersect" program offered high school students in their last semester of high school the opportunity to enroll as freshmen at Clarke and earn college credit. The college paid half of the $50-per-credit-hour tuition bill. Some students were able to take as many as nine hours. (16) While unique at the time, the program, developed independently across the United States became part of efforts to give accelerated high school students a variety of opportunities--within the high school or by enrolling in college-- to earn as many are thirty hours of college credit in high school.

Photo courtesy: Diane Harris
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

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.

On May 17, 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 relocated to Mary Josita residence hall. Dedication ceremonies for the new buildings were scheduled to occur with the 1986 Homecoming celebration beginning on Friday, October 17.

The TimeSaver adult degree program began in 1986--the same year new buildings constructed after the fire in 1984 were dedicated. (17)

In August 1987 officials of Clarke and Loras announced their discussions around consolidating the two institutions into a Catholic University. The faculty of Loras opposed the plans claiming a lack of information and not being included in the discussions. (18) The college boards decided at the end of April, 1988 to end consolidation negotiations but continuing to pursue more cooperation in academic program and student activities, shared facilities, exploring a joint graduate program in theology, and joint meetings between the two boards. (19)

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. (20)

Clarke officials announced in October 1992 that the school would be offering a new major in physical therapy beginning in the fall of 1993. (21) A sports complex was opened in 1994.

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." (22)

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 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. (23)

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 piloted at Deere and was to be offered at Clarke in 1999. (24)

Carol Blitgen and the Medallion of Honor. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

In 1998 Carol Blitgen, BVM, a teacher of drama and speech and director of plays at Clarke for thirty-six years received the Medallion of Honor from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. (25)

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. (26) 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. (27)

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. (28)

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. (29) In an article about Clarke's history, it was noted that MERCY MEDICAL CENTER officials worked closely with Clarke's nursing and social work programs with a 'high percentage' of nurses at Mercy being Clarke graduates. (30)

Construction continued. An apartment-style living complex was opened in 1998 and a Student Activity Center in 2000.

Further honor came to Clarke in 2006 when it was notified that it was accepted as one of twenty colleges in the United States, and the only one in Iowa, to take part in a Teachers for the 21st Century program. The initiative directed by the Council of Independent Colleges was supported by a $495,000 grant from the Microsoft Corp. to strengthen teacher preparation programs. (31)

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. In addition to many undergraduate programs, four graduate programs and one doctoral program, a second doctoral program--doctor of nursing practice--was being planned.

The unfinished lower level of the Nicholas J Schrup Library became a new technology space in the summer of 2012. Named the Lingen Technology Commons in honor of Joan Lingen who served in many roles at the university in the last 44 years, the Commons was designed to provide a space for students and faculty. Two classrooms with 24 to 32 computers for instruction were created with gechnology to record and deliver video lectures for online courses. The Commons would also include a video-conferencing room and a centrally located e-earning support desk, 20 computer work stations, scanners and printers. Funding for the Commons came in part from a multi-year, $198 million federal grant. (32)

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 University trustees voted to add football to the intercollegiate sports program. The team would be part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Recruiting started in the summer of 2017. (33)

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 designated the top 15 percent of colleges, universities, and trade schools that did the most to support military service members, veterans, and their spouses as students and ensure their success on campus and after graduation. (34)


The visual identification of the university changed. Support for changing the name from Crusaders, due to the history of the word, began in 2015. 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" adopted by the school in 1977. A knight was dropped from the logo in 1997 and replaced with a medieval flag. After a contest was held, the flag was replaced with a lion. (35)

When Sister Burrows began her tenure at Clarke in 2016, 4% of the students were minorities while the freshman class in 2018 was 24%. The 2018 freshman class was 47% male up from 40% in 2017. (36)

In December, 2018 Clarke officials announced the elimination of six majors. In addition the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree would no longer be available. Citing the announcement as routine evaluation of programs meeting the needs of students, Sister Burrows noted that students already in programs would be able to complete their studies. Majors affected included drama, musical theater, Spanish, art history, environmental studies and religious studies. (37)

Clarke football became a reality on August 31, 2019 when Clarke was scheduled to play Central Methodist University at DALZELL FIELD. It was the beginning of a dream that once seemed impossible. At one time, a popular t-shirt in the bookstore read "Clarke Football: Undefeated Since 1843." Two of the main reasons determining the decision to field a football team were balancing the demographics which had the women outnumbering the men 2:1 and increasing enrollment. Early discussions by a task force in 2011 indicated that adding football would probably increase enrollment an additional 100-150 students and the sport would be self-supporting. When surveys were returned by the students, 82% indicated they would attend games and 63% believed football would enrich their college experience. Bringing the sport resulted in funding new turf fields, an improved weight room, a new locker room, and repurposed dorm rooms--a $4 million investment. Male enrollment increased 40% with the addition of the 85 football players who amassed a 3.0 grade point average during the 2017-2018 academic year. (38) Clarke's football team recorded its first victory with an 18-17 win on October 19, 2019 over Peru State. (39)

See also: Mary St. Clara SULLIVAN (Sister)

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

Presidents of Clarke/Mt. St. Joseph: (37)

Mary Bertrand Foley, BVM, president/superior, Mt. St. Joseph College after 1901 1899-1904

Emiliana Maculay, BVM, president/superior, Mt. St. Joseph College, 1904-1907

Mary Bertrand Foley, BVM, president/superior, Mt. St. Joseph College, 1907-1913

Chonia Cavanaugh, BVM, president/superior, Mt. St. Joseph College, 1913-1919

Gervase Tuffy, BVM, president/superior, Mt. St. Joseph College, 1919-1925

Clara Russell, BVM, president/superior, Mt. St. Joseph College, 1925-1928

Patrice Lacey, BVM, president/superior, Clarke College, 1928-1933

Agatha Farrell, BVM, president/superior, Clarke College, 1933-1935

Antonia Durkin, BVM, president/superior, Clarke College, 1935-1941

Ambrose Mulholland, BVM, president/superior, Clarke College, 1941-1947

Anne Leone Graham, BVM, president/superior, Clarke College, 1947-1957

Benedict Phelan, BVM, president (also superior until fall 1963} Clarke College, 1957-1969

Robert GIROUX, president, Clarke College, 1969-1977

Meneve Dunham, president, Clarke College, 1977-1983

Catherine DUNN, BVM, president Clarke College-1984-2006

Joanne BURROWS, SC, president Clarke College 2006-2010, Clarke University, 2010--2018

Thom CHESNEY, president 2018-



1. "Academy 75 Years Old," Telegraph Herald, October 3, 1943, p. 18

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

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. 313

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., p. 317

7. "Making Changes," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, August 5, 1901, p. 2

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

9. "Mount Girls to Organize Honor Club," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, January 15 1928, p. 22

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

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

12. Wood, Sandy. "Home Ec Career Begins by Chance," Telegraph Herald, February 23, 1975, p. 55

13. " 'Mike' Given Clarke Sister," Telegraph-Herald, January 17, 1952, p. 13

14. 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

15. "51 Acres Are Added to Clarke Campus," Telegraph-Herald, March 4, 1970, p. 1

16. "Trial Run Through Academia," Telegraph-Herald, December 12, 1971, p. 11

17. Hinga, Allie, "An Enduring Education," Telegraph Herald, October 14, 2018, p. 6A

18. "1987," Telegraph Herald, December 27, 1987, p. 26

19. Nepper, Mark. "Merger Nix No Surprise to Some Faculty," Telegraph Herald, May 3, 1988, p. 3

20. 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

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

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

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

24. 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

25. Glindinning, Mary. "The Play's the Thing for this Award Winner," Telegraph Herald, February 12, 1998, p. 19

26. 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

27. 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

28. 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

29. "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

30. Hinga

31. Fuerste, Madelin. "Clarke Tabbed for National Program," Telegraph Herald, April 3, 2006, p. 1

32. Becker, Stacey, "Clarke Plans Tech Transformation," Telegraph Herald, January 31 2012, p. 3

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

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

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

35. Hinga

36. Hinga, Allie, "Clarke to Eliminate 6 Majors," Telegraph Herald, December 12, 2018, p. 1A

37. Fuerste, Madelin, "Clarke College Looks Toward the Future," Telegraph Herald, January 27, 2005, p. 1

38. West, Brenden, "Clarke Football Has Arrived," Telegraph Herald, August 25, 2019, p. 1B

39. Leitner, Jim, "Well-Suited for Hollywood," Telegraph Herald, December 25, 2019, p. 1B