Education

Loras College to remove statue of its founder due to slave-owning past

Action comes after officials at Dubuque school learned new details about his slave-owning past

(FILE PHOTO) Loras College seniors Christian Jacobs, left, and Cody Wolter walk along campus Wednesday, September 12, 20
(FILE PHOTO) Loras College seniors Christian Jacobs, left, and Cody Wolter walk along campus Wednesday, September 12, 2012, in Dubuque, Iowa. (AP Photo/Telegraph Herald/Jessica Reilly)

DUBUQUE — A private Eastern Iowa college has announced it will remove a statue of the school’s founder after officials there learned new details about his slave-owning past.

Loras College will remove the statue of Bishop Mathias Loras from the Dubuque campus and place it in storage, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported.

Loras, the first Roman Catholic bishop of Dubuque, established the seminary in 1839 that eventually would become Loras College.

School officials recently learned from a researcher who was using the bishop’s personal records that Loras bought an enslaved woman named Marie Louise while he was living in Mobile, Ala., in 1836, Loras College President Jim Collins wrote in a letter to the college community.

Loras left the woman behind when he moved to Iowa, but hired her out to others and used the proceeds to help build ministries in Dubuque

Previous biographers had established that Loras was a slave owner, but the new information challenges past depictions. There’s no evidence Loras ever expressed remorse for his actions, officials said.

The board also will create a scholarship fund in Mary Louise’s name starting next school year, as well as a scholarship fund in honor of Loras’ first Black graduate, the Rev. Norman Dukette.

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There is no plan to change the college’s name because “the educational experience beloved by our alumni, students and faculty is not defined by the man,” Collins wrote.

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