On May 17, 1984, four buildings at Clarke College (now Clarke University) burned in a disastrous fire. The buildings lost included the beloved Sacred Heart Chapel, which was the symbol of the college. Students put up the sign, above, the following day. What you cannot see in my version of this iconic photo is that, just above the arched doorway, stood the charred remains of the two floors of this building obliterated in the fire. Catherine Dunn, BVM had been president of the college for 11 days when the fire occurred. The college library, which had been housed beneath the chapel, sustained smoke and water damage. Along with many students, local residents, and other alums, I took part in the effort to salvage as many books as possible from the remains of the library building.
I LOVED Clarke, and being a “Clarkie”/”Woman Aware”. Never more so than when I saw how students, faculty, staff and alumni pulled together into one community after the fire. I like the new buildings the college built to replace those lost, including its glass atrium, the new symbol of Clarke. However, every time I pass the campus, I still miss the old center of campus, and the chapel spires.