War & Remembrance
By Greg Schaber
As Xavier University approaches the 175th anniversary of its founding in 2006,
Xavier magazine is examining key moments in the University's history. This is part of a series of stories about the people, places and events that have made Xavier what it is today. You can read previous stories by clicking on the links below.
Autumn 1938 was a season of promise for Xavier University. Just seven years past its centenary—and two years shy of its 100th anniversary as a Jesuit institution—the school was enjoying steady growth. As the summer shimmered into history, a record 514 young men were preparing to enroll in the day division. For a golden moment, all was well.
But a third of the way around the world, clouds of war were massing. On Sept. 1, the German army stormed across the Polish frontier, and less than a month later—before football season had gotten into full swing—Hitler had taken Warsaw. Poland had fallen; World War II had begun.
In the course of the next seven years, the University would see its record enrollment decline to an almost-desperate low, then spring to previously undreamed of heights. But all of that was in the future in the fall of 1938.
On campus, at least for a time, the war remained distant. Certainly, developments in Europe were a topic of conversation. But in describing campus activities, the ROTC section of the 1939 “Musketeer” yearbook bore no mention of the European situation. The thriving University community, on the other hand, was much in evidence throughout the book. The evening division—then the school’s largest, with classes held downtown—had grown 10 percent over the previous year to 829 students. And between 200 and 250 couples attended the junior prom, which featured the champagne music of an up-and-coming bandleader named Lawrence Welk.
Other stories in the 175th anniversary series:
Forming the Foundation
Legends of the Fall