tracking pixel
News and Events

Honoring A Commitment to Justice

SAU Civil Rights celebration 2017

December 2016

The significant role St. Ambrose University played in the Civil Rights Movement will be recognized during the annual March to Remember that begins Civil Rights Week on the SAU campus.

The Jan. 17 walk will lead to a plaque celebrating the many contributions St. Ambrose and the campus community have made to the cause. The plaque will be located just outside of Christ the King Chapel.

It will be the eighth and newest marker in Davenport, each which identifies a place of significance in the fight for civil rights, said Ryan Saddler, SAU director of diversity and student disability services.

"We should be very proud as an institution. One of our foundational pieces is in social justice and this shows our lengthy history in fighting for social justice," Saddler said.

Two years ago, cultural historic preservationist Charles Pearson took a dive into SAU history and archives, and found extensive information about the university's involvement in the local civil rights movement, assistance and support given to Hispanic Americans and African Americans, and Irish and German immigrants, Saddler said.

Uncovering the university's rich history led to a request to place a marker on campus. The wording on the marker was written by Rev. George McDaniel and members of the St. Ambrose President's Cabinet. It offers a brief history of the Ambrosian foundation in social justice and highlights roles the campus played in the local civil rights movement, Saddler said.

Since St. Ambrose was founded in 1882, its students, faculty, staff and leadership have advocated for those who did not have equal opportunities due to racism, poverty and lack of education.

In 1947, SAU became the first Catholic campus to establish a NAACP Chapter.

In 1951, the campus expanded its efforts and established the League for Social Justice.

In 1958, the Catholic Interracial Council was launched as the successor organization to the league.

In 1964, The Diocese of Davenport created the "Pacem In Terris" Peace and Freedom Award. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was its third recipient.

And all the while, St. Ambrose students, faculty, staff and leadership were actively working to help laborers and for social justice. Those actions included building homes for Latinos who had been evicted from sub-standard housing to participating in the March on Montgomery, in Selma, Ala.

"When we dedicate this historical marker, it will be an honor to our institution," said Timothy Phillips, assoicate vice president and dean of students.

While the marker refers to past actions taken by the university community, Phillips said SAU remains connected and active in social justice initiatives today. SAU impacts the lives of its students beyond providing an quality education. The university instills a call to serve and enrich the lives of others, and they step up. Students intern with organizations such as Quad Cities Interfaith, and they volunteer to improve lives, jobs, healthcare and community engagement. Phillips said the university community puts more effort into demonstrating its values rather than talking about its values. 

Saddler invites the entire community to participate in the March to Remember, which starts at 1 p.m. Jan 17 on the lower level of Cosgrove Hall. The march will proceed through campus and end at Christ the King Chapel, roughly at 2 p.m., for the unveiling of the new civil rights marker. Saddler said many of the silent march participants carry signs to let the community know why they are outside marching in a single file line.

"It is a walk to remember the freedom fighters and the conditions they endured," Saddler said. "It is a walk to remember the selflessness of people who participated in a protest so we may all enjoy what we experience today in terms of equality and the chance to live a better life," he added.

Additional SAU events celebrating civil rights:

  • Jan. 16: KALA Radio 88.5 FM will air ‘From Atlanta to the Mountain Top," from noon to 3 p.m. Listen at 88.5 FM or at 106.1 FM; go to to listen online; or download KALA's new mobile app (see the website for directions).
  • Jan. 17: March to Remember Silent March, 1-2 p.m., starts at the lower level of Cosgrove Hall. Join the St. Ambrose community to commemorate the Civil Rights movement and the active role SAU seminarians, faculty, and students had in the fight, alongside community civil rights leaders, to win local battles for equality; reflect on the movement's impact; and consider what those efforts mean for us today. The march will proceed through campus and end at Christ the King Chapel for the unveiling of a civil rights marker.
  • Jan. 18: The Role of America's Courts in Effectuating Racial Equality in Schools and Employment, noon to 1 p.m., in the BeeHive, Ambrose Hall. Professor Emeritus Russell Lovell from Drake Law School will discuss court decisions intended to result in racial equality in schools and employment.
  • Jan 18: Civil Rights and Human Liberties Mass, 9:15 p.m., Christ the King Chapel. Rev. Chuck Adam and Campus Ministry staff will discuss the legacy of civil rights and human liberties work during the weekly student mass. All are welcome.
  • Jan 19: Prayer Vigil for Peace and Inclusion/ St. Ambrose Vigil for the Marginalized, 3-4 p.m., Christ the King Chapel gathering space. During the last election cycle many of the most vulnerable members of society found themselves in the cross-hairs of political rhetoric and hate crimes, some of which resulted in deaths. In communion with our immigrant, Hispanic, Black, women, Jewish, Muslim, disabled, LGBTQ, veterans, and other marginalized sisters and brothers, we hold this vigil to reaffirm Christ's solidarity with the marginalized and Christ's call for his followers to stand up for those who have been marginalized.
  • Jan 19: "The New Black: LGBT Rights and African American Communities," 7-9 p.m., in the BeeHive, Ambrose Hall. According to California Newsreel, the documentary examines controversial and challenging issues facing African American communities, including gay civil rights, campaigns for/against marriage equality and the role of faith institutions.
  • Jan. 23: Poppin' Topics, 7-8 p.m., Christ the King Chapel gathering space. Poppin' Topics is a discussion forum for students, offering popcorn with various butter flavors and a poppin' topic for discussion. Join us to begin the discussion on a specific social issue. For more details, email Paul Burd, Campus Ministry Graduate Assistant, at
  • Jan. 24: Community Service Project, 3-5 p.m., River Bend Food Bank. Students, faculty and staff can help sort donated items and pack backpacks with food for children to take home on weekends, during a service project at the River Bend Food Bank warehouse. The food it receives is distributed to pantries across 26 Iowa and Illinois counties. Transportation will be provided; please meet in the Rogalski Center.
  • Jan. 24: Spoken Word Poetry, 7 p.m., the BeeHive, Ambrose Hall. Kermit E. Thomas Jr. and Timrek3 Productions will provide education, enlightenment and entertainment while discussing civil rights awareness. The journey will be taken via film, spoken word, dance and song. In addition, there will be a special segment on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Jan. 25: History of the Davenport Civil Rights Movement, noon to 1 p.m., Rogalski Center, Gottlieb Room. Arthur Pitz, PhD.D., will discuss the civil rights movement in Davenport that was attributed to the influence of the Catholic Interracial Council. Faculty and students will learn how they can incorporate a Catholic social justice framework into their education, career and life.
  • Jan. 26: ‘Love Your Body," 5-8 p.m., Rogalski Center ballroom. Triota and the Junior League will hold a "Love Your Body" workshop, aimed to help participants love themselves for who they are. Attendees will learn how to work against society's views of a perfect body, and racism, size discrimination, ageism and able-ism will be discussed. The workshop is free and open to all St. Ambrose and Davenport community member. A snack will be provided.
  • Jan. 27: African American Museum of Iowa's permanent exhibit, Endless Possibilities, which traces Iowa's African American heritage from its origins in western Africa to the present - through slavery, the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil Rights Movement (African American Museum of Iowa website, 2016, The bus to the museum will depart the Rogalski Center at 7:30 AM and will return to campus between 1:00-1:30 p.m. This field trip is sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Life, Department of Student Activities. Transportation by bus and admissions to the museum for students who wish to attend will be free. Students are asked to bring spending money to pay for their lunch. Space is limited to 50. Register to attend by contacting Ramona Amos at

MORE LIKE THIS:AmbroseZine, Diversity, Peace & Social Justice

More Headlines

Rss News OffSee All News Off

More Happenings

Rss Events OffSee All Events Off