After 116 Years, First Diploma Comes Home to DePaul

Mark Sheridan's 1899 diploma
Mark Sheridan’s 1899 diploma.

If you’ve read the Winter edition of DePaul Magazine you may have seen one of the most significant artifacts in university history: the 1899 diploma issued to Mark Sheridan, one of DePaul’s very first graduates. The  diploma, donated to the university by Sheridan’s nephew, Mark Sheridan Barg, will be permanently housed in the DePaul University Special Collections and Archives Department.

Close-up of Sheridan's diploma
A close-up of the diploma’s handwritten, Latin inscription noting that Sheridan was the first graduate of St. Vincent’s. The faint signatures of DePaul’s first president, the Reverend Peter V. Byrne, C.M. and the Reverend Thomas O. Finney, C.M. are also visible.

DePaul University began as St. Vincent’s College in 1898, and Mark Sheridan was one of only two students in the first graduating class in 1899. (The other student, the Most Reverend William D. O’Brien, D.D., would later be ordained as a priest and serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago.) Sheridan maintained close ties with the college/university, returning to DePaul’s Silver Jubilee (25th anniversary) in 1923, and serving as president of the Alumni Association when DePaul celebrated its 50th anniversary in the 1948/49 academic year.

Sheridan, O'Brien, and Rev. Murray at DePaul's 50th anniversary
Sheridan (center) and O’Brien celebrate DePaul’s 50th anniversary with the Reverend James M. Murray, C.M., an original member of St. Vincent’s College faculty.
St. Vincent's College and Church
St. Vincent’s College (left) and Church as they appeared during Sheridan’s time on campus.

When it opened its doors in 1898, St. Vincent’s College consisted of a single building that was originally built as the parish church and repurposed as the College Hall after the existing St. Vincent’s Church was built in 1897. Sheridan and O’Brien are reported to have only “carried” two academic subjects on account of their status as seniors, and would have paid around $40 for a ten-month session at St. Vincent’s.

Learn more about DePaul’s early history and view the diploma in Special Collections and Archives, Room 314 of the John T. Richardson Library or contact us at 773-325-7864 and

You can also visit the DePaul Heritage Collections online to see more vintage DePaul photos like the one featured on the back cover of the DePaul Magazine edition mentioned above, and on its back covers throughout 2014.

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