Published By: Unknown
Duluth News Tribune
Architect Franklin Ellerbe's design for Tower Hall on the College of St. Scholastica in 1909.
More than a century ago, a Catholic nun stood on the edge of a daisy field at what then were the outskirts of Duluth.
"My dream is that someday there will rise upon these grounds fine buildings like the great Benedictine abbeys," Mother Scholastica Kerst reportedly said. "They will be built of stone; within their walls, higher education will flourish."
What a visionary; for 100 years ago on this very day and at that very spot, six students attended the first-ever classes at the College of St. Scholastica. Today, the college is an institution in Duluth, a proud fixture, serving an enrollment of about 4,000 students. Its Tower Hall is one of our most-recognized and most-striking landmarks. Its quality, nationally recognized educational offering is one of our most cherished hallmarks, contributing to our community's intellectual and cultural wealth.
So, happy anniversary, St. Scholastica, and congratulations on a century of excellence.
"St. Scholastica has never holed up in its ivory tower at the intersection of College and Kenwood," the college's Bob Ashenmacher wrote to the News Tribune Opinion page late last week while sharing the anecdote above and much of the information for this editorial.
Indeed, the college is a major economic engine for Duluth, employing 525 people and operating with a budget of $71 million. Some 3,000 of its graduates still live here, boosting Duluth's quality of life. "And that figure counts only the ones who stay in touch with their Alumni Relations office," Ashenmacher said. "The real number is almost certainly higher. Many fill professional roles in health care, education, industry, the nonprofit world and government."
The college hasn't been shy about investing in Duluth, completing $50 million in construction projects over the past decade, including housing, a wellness and recreation center and a science center expansion.
In the 1980s, the College of St. Scholastica stepped up to reeducate displaced workers in Duluth and on the Iron Range. In the 1990s, it expanded online and evening learning, once again responding to the unique and pressing needs of our region.
With Minnesota Public Radio, the college brings to Duluth national-quality shows and other cultural events.
For two days every year - once in the fall and again in the spring - St. Scholastica students fan out across the Twin Ports, completing community-service projects.
The school is the long-time sponsor of the free Twin Ports Thanksgiving Buffet at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center; the meal marks its 23rd year this fall.
"The list could go on," Ashenmacher said. "But without a doubt the greatest contribution St. Scholastica makes to our city and nation is the kind of learning it provides to its students. It nurtures them in ways that benefit us all. Many of the students come from modest means or face other hurdles. The attention and encouragement they receive results in high graduation rates. That's admirable stewardship of our human capital."
St. Scholastica President Larry Goodwin has talked about his school's education as being "two-fold: of the head and (of) the heart." Its mission statement promises "intellectual and moral preparation."
"Mother Scholastica would be proud indeed," Ashenmacher said, reflecting on how the school has come to fulfill her dream.
All of Duluth can be proud, too, while celebrating with the College of St. Scholastica and marking what we hope is just its first century.