Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Dominican University
Dominican University

Dominican University

The original charter for what would one day become Dominican University was granted by the state of Wisconsin to Santa Clara Academy, which opened as a Roman Catholic school for girls in 1848. The Dominican sisters began teaching college-level courses there in 1901, and, less than two decades later, undergraduate enrollment had climbed to 70 students. The college needed a larger campus. In 1918, at the invitation of Archbishop George Mundelein, the renamed Rosary College settled in River Forest, an affluent suburb eight miles west of Chicago. Though no longer a frontier school, Rosary retained its pioneering spirit, providing free evening courses during the Great Depression and admitting its first African American student in 1938. Political activism defined campus life in later decades as well: students marched to show their solidarity with the Selma, Alabama, civil rights marches in 1965 and their opposition to the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. Students also sought changes on-campus, requesting that academic requirements be reevaluated, seminars provided, and men admitted. The Academic Council acquiesced to student demands in 1971, opening a new dormitory housing 50 male students later that year. The number of accredited graduate-level courses increased over the next several decades, and in 1997 the school chose to acknowledge its graduate programs and honor its founding order by once again changing its name, to Dominican University. By 2000, the school's 70-year-old program in library science was the only such program in metropolitan Chicago and one of two in the state.