Forty years ago President Fr. Douglas Keller, S.J., then president of the University of Detroit Jesuit, made an announcement that surprised many. The school was going to stay in the city and “remain in the present location” on West Seven Mile Road.
Back then Detroit was still reeling from the ‘67 riots. People and businesses continued to leave the city for the suburbs, and there was tremendous pressure for U of D Jesuit to follow suit.
But it stayed.
To remember and commemorate that decision, the school will hold an all-school mass at 10:00 a.m. on January 20, exactly 40 years from the day of the announcement.
“In 1977, the decision to stay was not universally praised, but school leaders of this school community were committed to upholding the mission that is at the foundation of everything we do at U of D Jesuit,” says Fr. Theodore G. Munz, S.J., president of U of D Jesuit. “They had the courage and foresight to recognize that the greatest service the school could provide in this community would be to continue educating young men, both from the city and from across the metropolitan region, to be “Men for Others” through academic excellence, faith formation, and community service and to do so in the heart of Detroit.”
He points out that the school’s path has been much like that of the city itself. “Once the decision was made to stay, this school community rallied to ensure a bright future for our students and the Detroit community,” he says.
Community service is one of the cornerstones of U of D Jesuit.
Today 900 young men in grades 7 through 12 from all walks of life are not only part of a rigorous academic program, they are learning the value of community service.
We’ve written about several of them here.
Students have served as pallbearers for the funerals of unclaimed veterans. They adopted 40 Focus:HOPE families in the Detroit community and raised money and collected gifts to provide those families with food, clothing and presents for the holidays. During Academy’s Pledge Detroit! day, the entire student body donated their time to help the local Detroit community.
All seniors at the school participate in Senior Service, a program where every Wednesday morning during a student’s senior year he is assigned to a community service site. A majority of the sites are within the city of Detroit and range from schools to warming centers to senior centers and food banks.
The school also recently opened its newest addition, an all-new $16-million privately funded, 40,000-sq.-ft. Science and Engineering Center, the first facility of its kind in the area. The facility includes space for its nationally recognized Eco-Car and Robotics programs, and classroom and laboratory facilities for biology, chemistry, physics, and a science classroom and laboratory used exclusively by the 7th and 8th grades.
In accordance with its mission to be of service, it plans to offer classes and camps this summer to allow others in the community to benefit from the facilities.
“The decision to stay on this campus is, to some people, a kind of historical anecdote,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan at the groundbreaking of the new Science and Engineering Center in 2015. “I lived it as a member of Catholic Central [High School. U of D and CC students rode the same bus in the city and we were surprised when we learned U of D was going to stay. I have watched in fascination as investment poured into this campus in subsequent years … and U of D continued to become a greater and greater part of this community and is now an essential part of the fabric of the City of Detroit.”
U of D Jesuit has had its campus on West Seven Mile Road since 1931.