1885-89; 1898-1908
Michael P. Dowling

1885-89; 1898-1908

Michael P. Dowling, S.J.

Michael P. Dowling, S.J., (1851-1915) would twice serve as the University’s president. During his first term, Creighton began offering college coursework, whereas earlier the school was primarily a vehicle for secondary education. At this time, the College continued to place even greater emphasis on scientific knowledge. The development of the scientific department was aided greatly by the construction of the Creighton Observatory (1885-87), which was made possible by donations from John A. Creighton and John A. McShane.

Ecclesiastical life at Creighton College and in Omaha was advanced by the construction of St. John’s Collegiate Chapel (now St. John’s Church). The cornerstone was laid with great fanfare on June 26, 1887, with an estimated 4,000 people in attendance. Although finances prevented completion of the architect’s original design, a smaller version of the church was dedicated in May 1888.

Fr. Dowling’s first term at Creighton ended in 1889, when he left to serve as president of Detroit College (now University of Detroit Mercy). He returned as Creighton’s president in 1898.

Term: 1898-1908

It was during the second term of Michael P. Dowling, S.J., (1851-1915) that Creighton University reached maturity, was placed on solid financial ground, and expanded the professional schools. By 1899, the school had survived infancy; however, it was continually defending the Ratio Studiorum against American educational reformers during this era.

Fr. Dowling submitted to Count John A. Creighton a statement of the school’s finances. An estimated $7,500 a year of additional income would be required to make the institution financially sound, as well as replacing the $11,000 taken from the endowment during Fr. Pahls’ presidency. Several options were on the table such as: the Jesuits relinquishing the University to the archdiocese; charging tuition; suspending the collegiate or academic departments; or temporarily closing the school. Count Creighton had been unaware of the College’s dire situation and supplied the school with a large sum. In addition, upon Count Creighton’s death in 1907, the University received nearly $3 million from his will.

Creighton University’s School of Law was established in 1904 with the aid of Count  Creighton. The following year, it moved into the Edward Creighton Institute, a building erected specifically for law and dental colleges. In August 1907, the Law College was admitted into the American Association of Law Schools, and later that year, the Nebraska Legislature passed a law recommending all Creighton law graduates be granted bar admission without examination. The Creighton University School of Dentistry opened its doors in 1905, and a year later, it absorbed the Omaha Dental College. In 1905, the University purchased the Omaha College of Pharmacy, which had opened in Fremont, Neb., five years earlier, and started the Creighton College of Pharmacy.

An 1899 renovation of St. John’s Collegiate Church introduced electricity to the building, and in 1901 an auditorium was built just west of the church. St. John’s Hall (later Wareham Hall) became the school’s first dormitory in 1906, which greatly aided out-of-town students in finding accommodations in Omaha.

Fr. Dowling was born in Cincinnati in 1851. He attended St. Xavier College (now Xavier University), and entered the priesthood at Florissant, Mo. He studied philosophy at Woodstock College (Woodstock, Md.). Fr. Dowling served as a professor of rhetoric at St. Xavier College and St. Louis University, and was president of Detroit College (now University of Detroit Mercy) from 1889 to 1893. He was pastor of Holy Family Church in Chicago, Gesu Church in Milwaukee, and St. Aloysius in Kansas City, Mo., from 1908 until his death. Fr. Dowling helped found both Rockhurst High School and Rockhurst College (Kansas City, Mo.), and served as that college’s first president. Throughout his career, he was renowned as a public speaker on various economic and social subjects. When Fr. Dowling died in 1915, his remains were brought to Omaha from Kansas City, and he was laid to rest next to John A. Creighton at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

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