DePaul’s History of Doing What Must Be Done

The novel coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a huge challenge to populations around the world as we all try to work together to contain this deadly foe. It is not the first time the world has been in crisis, of course. It is in times like these that we summon the courage and fortitude to do what must be done.

Perhaps the most significant event of the 20th century was World War I, the first mechanized war and the first to have truly global reach. The United States entered this war, also called the Great War, in 1917, and DePaul played its part in rallying the community to support the troops in the field while continuing its tradition of teaching excellence.

Rev. Francis X. McCabe, C.M., DePaul’s third president wrote to “Students! Alumni! Parents!” to challenge the fallacy that “University work is not so important, and that its continuance becomes less imperative during war time. … The very contrary is the truth.” The St. Vincent’s chapter of the Young Men’s Catholic Club published the Lyceum Weekly News to send to soldiers to boost their morale and connection with the DePaul community. And among those serving his country was DePaul’s second president, Rev. John Martin, C.M., who was a chaplain in the American Expeditionary Forces in New Mexico and France.

DePaul students trained on campus for service in World War II.

Sadly, the Second World War proved that global tragedy could strike twice. DePaul was selected as a V-1 training center by the U.S. Navy and saw faculty, staff and students join up. The May 21, 1942, issue of The DePaulia reflects on “1942 – Significant Year.” Its stories talk about air raid rules for Chicago’s Loop, war bonds and stamp sales, Red Cross volunteers, and Lawrence Carr (CSH ’40), who majored in chemistry and physics, return to campus as an ensign in the naval air corps to instruct new recruits.

In modern times, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon building devastated Americans and had reverberations around the world. DePaul Professor of History Tom Mockaitis, whose research focuses on terrorism, said in a recent interview, “We weren’t thinking it could ever happen here.” He recalled that in Chicago, high rises were emptied quickly, military air cover blanketed the city and the level of anxiety was high.

“Americans were very angry and very shocked,” he said. His late mother, who was in her 90s in 2001, put the crisis in perspective for him. “She said, ‘You know what? We had Pearl Harbor. Deal with it.’ And we approached the problem with a new resolve.”

DePaul’s Elizabeth Aquino delivers unused medical supplies to Sinai System and Norwegian American Hospital.

In the current crisis, DePaul is coming together to continue our educational mission while safeguarding the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. We are doing what we have done before, as Mockaitis observed: “People pulled together. That’s something we can focus on and take great pride in. If we all remember that, we might all get along a bit better.”

To learn more about DePaul’s actions during a critical moment in history, we invite you to take an online tour of DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives’ “Glimpses of the Great War: Faith, Family and Community during World War I,” and read an accompanying article from DePaul Magazine, “The Curious Case of Oliver Ward.”

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