16. The University of Detroit Mercy: McNichols Campus

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University Detroit MercyFirst established in 1877 on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit, the University of Detroit added the campus on West McNichols in 1927. In 1990, the University merged with Detroit's Mercy College, founded in 1941 on Southfield Road at Outer Drive.

Creative Writers at the UDM McNichols Campus Joyce Carol Oates taught on the McNichols campus from 1962 until 1967; John Gardner was Distinguished Visiting Professor in 1970-71; Daniel Berrigan was a visiting lecturer in 1975. Dudley Randall held a combined post as a reference librarian and poet-in-residence from 1969 until 1975, and from 1969 until 1976, poet Joan Gartland also worked in the library's reference department. Among the creative writers who hold degrees from this campus are Elmore ("Dutch") Leonard (Ph.B.,1950), Mary Minock (BA, 1966), Donald Levin (MA,1974), Ursula Carlson, (Ph.D., 1976) Gary Eberle (BA, 1973 and MA, 1976), and Michael Martin (MA, 2000). William Kienzle attended the University in 1968.

University Detroit MercyThe McNichols Campus in Literature

Oates, who shared an office in the Jane and Walter Briggs Liberal Arts Building and taught classes there and in the Commerce and Finance Building, makes the most explicit use of the campus in her work. Two works involve relationships between professors and difficult students. "In the Region of Ice" is a story based upon Oates's experience with an actual student, Richard Wishnetsky, an extremely troubled young man, who murdered the well-known and much respected rabbi, Morris Adler, before committing suicide in front of the congregation assembled at Shaarey Zedeck synagogue in 1966. In the story, the Wishnetsky character becomes Allen Weinstein, a very intelligent but mentally ill young man who attempts to befriend an English professor, a nun named Sister Irene, whom Greg Johnson says was suggested by a faculty colleague, Sister Bonaventure, but closely resembles Oates (126). In them, the professor is the narrator, identified as Oates herself, and the novel's pretext is a series of letters she receives from the student, Maureen Wendall, who has flunked out of the University. From these letters, the Oates of the novel constructs the four-decade narrative of the Wendall family.

The campus's northeast corner was the location of the old University of Detroit stadium, demolished in 1971, the setting for an important high school football game in T. R. Peters' novel, Two Weeks in the Forties.

Other UDM Literary Notes

  • On November 14, 1962, eighty-eight year-old Robert Frost drew an audience of 8,500 to the Memorial Building (now Calihan Hall).
  • The University's Theatre has been located in several buildings on the McNichols campus, beginning with a sixty-seat room in the basement of the Chemistry Building, the first floor of the Commerce and Finance Building, the Florence Ryan Auditorium, and the third floor of the Library (Muller 221-2). After moving to Marygrove College's Theatre in the 1970s, the University's Theatre company re-established itself in the Studio Theatre (later re-named the Earl D. A. Smith Theatre) in Architecture Building in 1984. Since the merger with Mercy College, the Theatre has found a home in McAuley Auditorium on the Outer Drive campus (Peller).
  • Student literary publications include the campus newspaper, The Varsity News, The Varsity News Magazine (1924-1928), Fresco (1950-1961), and The Campus Detroiter (Muller 368).
  • Oates told a 2001 Marygrove College audience that she got the idea for her well-known short story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" from a Life Magazine article she read in a restaurant on Livernois across from the McNichols campus.
  • English Professor James Callow established the world's first computerized folklore archive at the McNichols campus.
  • The campus is the home of the Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture.
  • The cover photo for Gary Eberle's volume of short-stories, City Full of Rain, was taken outside his Briggs Liberal Arts Building office around 1977.

Marygrove College English professor Frank D. Rashid attended the University of Detroit Mercy's McNichols Campus from 1970 until 1980. He received his B.A. from the University in 1972 and his Ph.D. in 1980.

Photos by Anna Fedor.

Works Cited

Eberle, Gary. A City Full of Rain: Collected Stories. Xlibris, 2001.

Johnson Greg. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1998.

Muller, Herman J., S.J. The University of Detroit: A Centennial History. Detroit: The University of Detroit, 1976.

Oates, Joyce Carol. them. New York: Ballantine, 1969.

---. "In the Region of Ice." "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been: Selected Early Stories. New York: Ontario Review Press, 1993.

Peller, Laurie. "Taking A Bow." Spiritus, Fall 1995. History of the Theatre Company. http://liberalarts.udmercy.edu/theatre/.

Peters, T.R., Sr. Two Weeks in the Forties. Detroit: XPressway, 1988.

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