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The DeKoven Center

March 07, 2018

Cameron Swallow, wife of new Carthage President John Swallow, is on a “Welcome Home Tour” as she gets to know Kenosha. See all of Cameron’s Welcome Home posts

Tour Guide: Retired Carthage Professor Travis DuPriest

John and I went to school at Sewanee, or The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. It is an Episcopal university, founded in 1857, with the seminary as its only graduate school.

It was founded with big dreams, which were literally exploded along with its cornerstone during the Civil War. It was re-founded in 1866 with more modest means and scope, but with a very firm sense of identity as a traditional liberal arts college, casting its gaze back in time and east across the sea to Oxford for inspiration.

Its neo-gothic quad was conceived long before the school had the funds to build it — and some still regret that the fourth wall, a planned cloister, was never built — but the inspiration is clear. The unity of style makes any visitor certain that he has landed in a very unusual place.

Cameron Swallow toured the Dekoven Center in Racine, and learned of connections to Sewanee, Tennessee.

This August our family attended a joint church service in Racine for two local Episcopal churches, which was held at the DeKoven Center beside Lake Michigan. I was surprised to read the historical markers there and learn that the campus was originally Racine College, an Episcopal school founded in 1847, the same year Carthage College was being founded in Hillsboro, Illinois.

At that time, Carthage was called The Literary and Theological Institute of the Lutheran Church in the Far West, the longest title for a college that I know of. (When I saw retired Pastor Dudley Riggle’s custom-made sweatshirt at Homecoming with the original name printed from wrist to wrist across his back, I wanted one for myself!)

The LTILCFW was educating Lutheran clergy here on the western frontier, just as Sewanee intended to educate Episcopal clergy in the Tennessee wilderness. And Racine College was a sort of Sewanee on the western frontier, modeled not vaguely on Oxford but precisely on Radley College in Oxfordshire. Its quadrangle got its fourth wall, unlike Sewanee’s, and it is recognized as a shining example of Victorian Gothic architecture, even established on the National Historic Register.

Cameron Swallow toured the Dekoven Center in Racine, and learned of connections to Sewanee, Tennessee.

Cameron Swallow toured the Dekoven Center in Racine, and learned of connections to Sewanee, Tennessee.

Cameron Swallow toured the Dekoven Center with former Carthage professor Travis DuPriest.Cameron Swallow toured the Dekoven Center with former Carthage professor Travis DuPriest.I wanted to learn more about the DeKoven Center, and the opportunity came in a conversation with a Carthage faculty member who arranged an introduction to a retired Carthage professor, Travis DuPriest. Travis had also served as executive director of the center for several years. He gave me a tour, both of the grounds and of the historical narrative of the college. We discovered we knew several Episcopal priests, professors, and bishops in common, so it felt like a virtual reunion, hearing stories about old friends. There is a box of records in the archive from the Sewanee convent, as well as one from Sagada in the Phillippines where friends of mine were involved in creating another Episcopal school.

Best of all, Travis knows the Sisters of the Community of St. Mary, who ran the DeKoven Center in Racine before and after they closed their school Kemper Hall in Kenosha. Only two sisters are still living today, both in Milwaukee, and my friends at the Sewanee convent knew them well in the days that all the sisters from the three provinces gathered annually for meetings and worship. I look forward to visiting the sisters in Milwaukee with Travis.

Cameron Swallow toured the Dekoven Center in Racine, and learned of connections to Sewanee, Tennessee.

Cameron Swallow toured the Dekoven Center in Racine, and learned of connections to Sewanee, Tennessee.

Be a tour guide

Your turn! Want to show Cameron Swallow your favorite part of Kenosha? Be a tour guide.