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The house at 306 Third Street in the late 1970s.

A Living History to Welcome You Home

It’s been home to student, professor and past president. The house at 306 Third Street that now serves as home base for visiting alumni saw more than a little college life even before its present use.

But the building now known formally as The Rev. Ignatius Francis Van Dyke, O.Praem., Alumni House, home to the office of alumni and parent relations, began life with a quite different purpose. It was built in 1916 as the rectory for St. John’s Church, next door.

Once the college purchased the house in 1961, it would provide lodging to a faculty member and then, from 1968 to 1977, to the Rev. Dennis Burke, O.Praem., ’26 following his presidency of the college. In 1978, the Third Street building became the International Culture House. Students specializing in foreign language and foreign culture courses would call it home for a couple of decades.

Alumni director Todd Danen ’77 grew up in the neighborhood on the east side of campus, and he remembers Burke living in the house. “It was before I was a student here. I knew him and my dad knew him well. I was a seventh-grader at the time.

“Then it became the International Culture House in 1978. Because it was after my time as a student, I was never in the building at all then, but I heard there was a heck of a party around 1980 and it was ‘come as your favorite dead person.’ I think it was down in the basement. I suspect that the basement was the social space. A lot of people thought the building was the home of international students, but it wasn’t, students who were studying in the international programs or were studying a foreign language lived there.”

Since 1999, following a year of renovations sparked by the 100-year anniversary of the college, it has been your alumni house – the building you see on campus today. That transition was particularly memorable to Dianne Wagner ’65, the alumni director at that time, who was instrumental in the modifications. For her, creating a space for alumni to gather on campus was a labor of love: “I wanted to include as many alumni as I possibly could for the renovations. As I walk through the house now, I know the names of each alum who donated the different elements of the house – the furniture, the fireplace, the mantel, the French doors, the porch, the swing, Father Burke’s old desk. It’s wonderful to walk in there and connect it to the alumni who made it happen.

“The Van Dyke gym had just been replaced by the Campus Center,” Wagner recalls, “and it seemed only fitting that, because Father Van Dyke was the first alum of the college, the alumni house be named after him.”

We’re certain there are many stories attached to this historic building. Did you live there? Study there? Attend parties there? We’d love to hear your memories.


April 17, 2015