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Fun Facts: Austin Is My Benjamin

The Sorin Oak in 1974.

Amanda Gonzalez

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Brother Larry Atkinson, CSC, is a friendly face on campus who takes his daily task with Campus Ministry to heart. An email from him appears every morning on Horizon with a fun fact about St. Edward’s University.

An alumnus who attended from 1967-1970, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in French with a minor in History. Some of the headlines he remembers most about his time as a student include anti-Vietnam activism. 

In 1994, Atkinson returned to his alma mater, where he is now responsible for promoting Holy Cross Heritage, allowing him the opportunity to teach history and religion. 

His main source of information derives from a book written by Brother William Dunn, CSC, in 1985 to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the university.

The first chapter is called “Austin is my Benjamin,” a biblical reference where The university’s founder Father Sorin, CSC, speaks highly of St. Edward’s University in comparing it to the oldest and largest Holy Cross institution,  the University of Notre Dame, drawing a similarity to Benjamin, who is Jacob’s last-born son and arguable favorite. 

Atkinson said, “I went through and I copied every name and every date, and try to put it in every date that happened, so that every day I can post what is called: ‘TODAY IN HOLY CROSS HISTORY.’” 

These are some of his favorites:

April 9, 1903   “Holy Thursday, April 9, 1903, is remembered in the history of St. Edward’s for the fire of unknown origin which destroyed the main building, fortunately without loss of life.

As Brother Kilian related it, he was leaving the dining room at about 6:20 that evening when his attention was drawn to smoke coming out of the windows of the minims’ dormitory on the east end of the fourth floor.  After spreading the alarm, he and employee James Griffith rushed upstairs and opened the door of the dormitory but were driven back by smoke  The brother knew that there were ‘over a score of grenades’ (fire extinguishers) in the building, but in the confusion no one could use them.”   Altogether, losses were estimated at about $170,000 while insurance amounted to only $33,000. President, Fr. Boland, C.S.C. declared that it would be rebuilt.  They wired the provincial, Father Zahm, C.S.C. informing him of the disaster and asking for permission to rebuild the Main Building and to build a dormitory (Holy Cross Hall) also.  His answer was prompt:  “My sympathy.  Go ahead; have buildings ready for September.”  Nicholas J. Clayton, who had designed the original Main, was hired to start working on plans for the new buildings.

 May 3, 1939   Dedication of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at St. Edward’s by visiting Holy Cross Superior General Albert Cousineau C.S.C.  

 The grotto was constructed by Rev. Bernard Lange CSC, “the third strongest man in the world” oversaw the construction of SEU’s Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a scaled down version of the one at Notre Dame.  At the end of the school year 1931-32 the structure with its vaulted roof was finished.  For economic reasons it was not possible at that time to furnish the shrine with statues of Our Lady and Bernadette.  That was done in 1939.  Others who assisted the project were: Brother Peter Hosinski CSC, the night watchman Jim Farragher, and several students.  Recent renovations  (Floor, Alter, Kneelers) were personally financed by Brothers Egan Hunter  and Brother James Hanson.

 May 12, 1963   Days of Civil Rights  

“There was considerable sentiment for a boycott of Trek, the popular resort across Congress Avenue which refused to serve blacks, including those from St. Ed’s.  As late as 1963, the foreign student adviser was unable to find a restaurant to which he could take a party of Africans who wished to honor SEU’s first African graduate, Duncan Kaniaru of Kenya.”    TREK was a small restaurant and motel with a few rooms.  Today, it houses boutique shops. William Dunn, C.S.C.

 July 2, 1965    Maryhill College and St. Edward’s University

Brother Raymond Fleck, C.S.C., president of St. Edward’s ,and Mother Anna Marie, IHM, superior general of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, announced that women would be admitted to a coordinate college at St. Edward’s University in the fall of 1966. Sister Ann Virginia Bowling, IHM was chosen to be the executive director of the women’s college. Maryhill received its name in Oct., 1965 when the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary approved the name of Maryhill.  The Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross had sent four suggestions:  Immaculate Heart College, Maryhill College, Marycrest College, or St. Edward’s University.

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Fun Facts: Austin Is My Benjamin