Answer Man: Where in Belleville was Le Clerc College?

News-DemocratFebruary 10, 2014 

A recent obituary of a friend stated that she had graduated from a Le Clerc College in Belleville. I have never heard of this school before. Can you tell me anything about it -- when did it open, how many students, etc. -- N.R., of Belleville

On the same day that workers were clearing rubble from the tornado-ravaged Union School, the Belleville Daily Advocate announced on July 22, 1938, that the city would see a new college open in September.

In the planning stages, it was called Notre Dame College, because it was on the campus of Notre Dame Academy, the Catholic all-girls high school at 6300 W. Main St. A picture of the new three-story building under construction was featured in the April 16, 1938, edition.

It was to be the first college for women in the Belleville Diocese, according to the announcement by Mother Evangelista, the provincial for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, headquartered in Elm Grove, Wis. At the urging of former Belleville Bishop Henry Althoff, the college became part of an expansion program that the School Sisters had announced the year before.

With much pomp and circumstance, the school was dedicated on Sept. 11, complete with appearances by Gov. Henry Horner and Archbishop John J. Glennon, of St. Louis.

"You have built a monument here in a locality which deserves a monument," Horner told the crowd. "The first four governors of Illinois came from this part of the state ... Now you are in a position to compete with all the world in carrying the spiritual message."

Glennon also stressed the importance of propagating the faith.

"We ... have admiration for the public school system," he said. "But we say that its curriculum of studies is not enough. It doesn't cover all of man. Man is a rational animal, a thinking animal with a soul. Catholic education also covers the soul life of the individual. A nation of people with dead souls becomes a dead nation."

By the time of its dedication on Sept. 11, the school had been renamed Le Clerc College to honor Mother Alix Le Clerc. She was a distinguished French woman, who, along with St. Peter Fourier, founded the first congregation of Notre Dame Sisters in 1597 in Lorraine, France.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame became a religious community of teachers established by the Bishop of Ratisbon and Mother Teresa Gerhadinger 34 years after the first Notre Dame community had been suppressed by the Napoleonic government. The School Sisters have been furthering education in the U.S. since 1847 (and Belleville in 1859).

According to the dedication story, classes had begun Sept. 6 with 300 students enrolled.

"The new building is the latest and most modern school building in southern Illinois and is in keeping with triple accrediting regulations," the story boasted of the red brick structure with white stone facings.

In addition to a new cafeteria, the new building included seven classrooms, library, commercial department, science department and storage rooms. Although only freshman courses were offered the first year, the school could accommodate up to 500 students.

On Dec. 8, Bishop Althoff was pictured handing out caps and gowns to the school's first students, and, by the following fall, the school announced that it would offer extension courses in English, psychology and commerce as well. But whether for enrollment, financial or other reasons I'm still trying to find, this local experiment in higher education for women closed just a decade later in 1949, according to the Belleville Messenger.

I used to buy Colby cheese, but now I usually find only longhorn. Why? -- B.H., of Cahokia

In 1874, the ancestors of the Green Bay cheeseheads were given a new delicacy when Joseph F. Steinwand developed a new type of cheese at his father's factory near Colby, Wis.

It was similar to Cheddar, but did not go through a cheddaring ritual. Instead, Steinwand used what's called a washed-curd process to produce a softer, moister and milder product. It became known as Colby after the nearby town.

However, Colby is no longer made there, even though it still puts on an annual Colby festival. As a result, longhorn has become perhaps the best-known variety of Colby, receiving its odd name because it comes in long, orange cylinders that apparently reminded someone of longhorn cattle.

Today's trivia

When was man-made snow first used in the Winter Olympics?

Answer to Sunday's trivia: The only person to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year was East Germany's Christa Luding-Rothenburger. She won a gold and silver in speed skating in Calgary in February 1988 and a silver in sprint cycling that fall in Seoul.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or or call 618-239-2465.

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