St. Mary's College of Ave Maria University

St. Mary's College 1885-2003:
a historical overview


Rev. Joseph Dabrowski (1885-1903)
Rev. Witold Buhaczkowski (1903-1916)
The academic framework of the Polish Seminary in Detroit took shape over a few years after its formal founding in 1885. By the turn of the century, the seminary evolved into three divisions, indispensable to one another: the classical training in the high school; a two-year philosophy program leading to lay professions in law, medicine and the like; and a four-year theology program for the preparation of priests. Increasingly, the schools found themselves juggling increasingly crowded neighborhoods and the pressure of 300 boarding and day students and 20 resident faculty. The solution came in a bold stroke with the purchase of the grounds and buildings of the former Michigan Military Academy, and the move to the beautiful lakeside property 25 miles northwest of Detroit in July 1909.

Msgr. Michael J. Grupa (1917-1932)
Msgr. Anthony A. Klowo (1932-1937)
Msgr. Ladislaus Krzyzosiak (1938-1943)
Under the European system, the college lacked any identity. In 1927, the schools were organized formally into three four-year departments: SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, St. Mary's College and St. Mary's High School. Between 1930 and 1941, the reorganization of the College entailed curriculum reforms. Courses were offered leading to bachelor's degrees in arts, sciences and philosophy. On Feb. 24, 1941, the schools were officially incorporated by the State of Michigan and granted a new charter. The collective name was changed to "SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, St. Mary's College, St. Mary's High School." Ownership of the schools was transferred to the newly re-named corporation.


Msgr. Edward J. Szumal (1943-1956)
Msgr. Wallace J. Filipowicz (1956-1967)
Rev. Walter J. Ziemba (1967-1977)
During the decades of the 1940s-1950s-1960s, at the urging of Cardinal Edward Mooney, Archbishop of Detroit, the College admitted only candidates for the priesthood. When he opened St. John's Theological Seminary in Plymouth, he allowed seminarians of Polish background to study at the College before going on to St. John's, thus assuring the College of a stable enrollment of 90-110 through the 1960s. In the fall of 1969, a policy was initiated of admitting non-divinity students to the College. One year later, the first women, part-time commuters majoring in theology and Polish, were admitted to college classes; three years after that, college women were residents on campus. By 1976, the number of students oriented to lay vocations outnumbered those in priestly formation. Altered student bodies required expanded curricula and services. To majors in traditional areas (Polish, theology, communication arts, philosophy), a Religious Education major was added in 1976, and majors followed in science, business administration, social science, human services, computer science and psychology. In 1971, the institution's overall governance was changed with the establishment of a Board of Regents for the Orchard Lake Schools and a separate Board of Trustees for each school. In 1976, the College was accredited by North Central Association.

Rev. Leonard F. Chrobot (1977-1987)
Frank J. Anthonis (1987-1988)
Dr. Edward Meyer (1988-1994)
In July 1977, each academic unit of the Orchard Lake Schools was given more autonomy. A new post of Chancellor of the Orchard Lake Schools was established, and each school had its own appointed academic head. Rev. Leonard F. Chrobot was named College president. In 1978, the College inaugurated an ambitious basketball program, recruiting players and playing a more competitive schedule through membership in several small college conferences and athletic associations. In 1987, the college was granted continuing accreditation by North Central. In 1990, a $20,000 grant from the McGregor Fund provided partial funding for the College's new Learning Laboratory to provide computer and video work stations and learning materials.

Dr. Thaddeus C. Radzilowski (1994-2000)
In 1996, Dr. Radzilowski returned from a two-week, 18,000-mile trip to Poland and Albania to initiate an aggressive recruitment program of international students. In 1997, the College and Specs Howard School of Broadcasting Arts in Southfield signed an articulation agreement that allowed students from both institutions to take courses on each other's campus. The College was rated No. 1 with the
highest percentage of small classes (92 percent) in a survey of 423 Midwestern colleges conducted by U. S. News & World Report. In 1998, the College received a 10-year re-accreditation, a first for the College.


Dr. Thaddeus C. Radzilowski (2000-2002)
Dr. Damian Fedoryka (2003)
Effective July 1, 2000, the Orchard Lake Schools Board of Regents created an educational joint venture with Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti responsible for the overall policies and business operations of St. Mary's College. In the fall, the College and Madonna University became partners in offering a master's degree in Business Administration at Orchard Lake. A year later, the College and Madonna University signed an agreement to offer a teacher certification program in secondary and elementary education. In October 2001, the College sponsored a critically acclaimed nine-month exhibit, "The Polish Experience in Detroit: 1870-1950," at the Detroit Historical Museum. In 2002, fueled by a $75,000 grant from the Fides et Ratio Foundation, the College embarked on a Catholic Integrated Core Curriculum based on Pope John Paul II's encyclicals calling for an integration of knowledge, based on faith and reason, from a theological perspective throughout the college's course offerings. In December 2002, Dr. Radzilowski was granted a six-month sabbatical; Dr. Damian Fedoryka was named interim president. On May 3, 2003, the College awarded diplomas to 80 graduates, the largest class in the college's history.

Orchard Lake Center (2003- )

Sr. Rose Marie Kujawa, CSSF (2001- )
July 1, 2003: Madonna University in Livonia and St. Mary's College agree that St. Mary's will become a part of Madonna University. The College will no longer be an autonomous institution, but will operate under the charter and approvals of Madonna University. The take-over was prompted by Ave Maria University's decision to end its three-year affiliation with the St. Mary's College.

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