In April 1917, the United States declared war on the Central Powers, joining a nearly three-year-old global conflict—World War I. This decision came just a decade after St. Vincent’s College was re-chartered as DePaul University on Christmas Eve 1907. Glimpses of the Great War, the newest exhibit at the John T. Richardson Library, highlights the university’s evolution in the years before and after WWI, through its ties to one Lincoln Park family.

Photograph of 1912 football squad. Ward brothers Cyril and Albert at far center-left, Ferdinand Ward front center.

Drawing on historical sources from DePaul University Special Collections and Archives, Glimpses of the Great War traces the lives of the Wards, a family with nine children living on Fullerton Avenue. As St. Vincent’s parishioners and students at DePaul Academy and the university, the Ward children helped found enduring social and athletic aspects of campus life as they passed through DePaul’s academic and Vincentian institutions in the early 1900s.

DePaul Student Army Training Corp Unit parading down Lincoln Park street, ca. 1917.

U.S. entrance into World War I challenged DePaul’s plans to expand enrollment, as a generation of young people enlisted or sought defense industry employment. DePaul leaned on its Vincentian heritage to link military service with faith and duty as the school found unconventional ways to offer programming to civilian and military personnel. The conflict forever changed the Ward family’s future, as five of the children enlisted, and two sons entered the Vincentian priesthood during the conflict. Mobilization of the Lincoln Park community in support of its servicemen helped solidify bonds between the Wards, DePaul, and St. Vincent’s parish that would echo into the university’s future.

Glimpses of the Great War is on display now through August 2017 at the  John T. Richardson Library first floor entrance. Students, staff, and community members are invited to attend the April 12 opening reception at the John T. Richardson Library entrance from 4:00-6:00pm. To learn more about the exhibit or related materials, contact Special Collections and Archives at 773-325-7864 or archives@depaul.edu.

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