Visit us on Facebook


Marquette University During World War II


President McCarthy

Raphael C. McCarthy, S.J.,

Marquette University



At the start of the fall semester in 1941, the president of the university urged Marquette’s students to “make the best of the present opportunity to advance your education in service to your country,” and to “bespeak a seriousness and a diligence in your work in line with the gravity of the times.” Even though the United States was not yet directly involved in the war overseas, Marquette could feel the mounting pressure of the charged times.

By May, 1941, 25% of MU students (1,000) were registered for the draft and 12 male students had withdrawn from the College of Liberal Arts for voluntary enlistment. Thirty members of the faculty also registered for the draft that year.

 With the entry of the US into World War II campus life continued to change rapidly.  New situations were being encountered by students, faculty and administrators that had never occurred before.  At a 1942 faculty meeting of the College of Liberal Arts, it was discussed that there were some new legitimate causes for the absences of students. These causes included: “keeping appointments at enlistment centers, confinement in hospitals because of necessary operations to qualify for acceptance into a reserve unit, and visits to military camps, where relatives, about to be sent across, are stationed.” 

In September, 1942, the president of the university asked students to prepare themselves for outstanding service to their country, and from 1941 to 1943, the male MU population dropped by 39%. What saved the university’s enrollment numbers from plummeting further were the military reserve units whose members were given special charge to study and defer their service in order to become leaders for their country, and the increased enrollment of women.  March of 1943 brought the significant departure of MU men, and by this time formal social functions were discontinued.

Announcements were made in February 1942 that changes would be made to expedite degree programs. Some holidays were eliminated, spring break was cut, and summer school credits were doubled. These changes were made to allow the curriculum to be condensed into 3 years. In April 1943, the University switched to a trimester schedule to further accelerate the educational process; a 4 year degree could now be completed in 2.5 years, without sacrificing credit hours.

In the summer of 1944, the G.I. Bill started bringing veterans to study at MU. However, even with this influx of students, 1944’s fall enrollment numbers were still only 70% of the prewar normal. The College of Liberal Arts enrollment numbers for this period were 938 students (451 male, 487 female).On August 15th 1945, Marquette Students were able to enjoy a surrender holiday in honor of the end of World War II. Enrollment surged after the war, thus by March of 1946 enrollment was the largest in MU history.

With the end of the war, Marquette began to return to its pre-wartime norms. The accelerated schedule was discontinued as faculty had no time for self-improvement, and students were not able to fully assimilate the subject matter.


Class registration 1945

Class Registration 1945

A Freshman Lecture course had been offered in the early 1940’s designed to “acquaint the student with Marquette and university life in general”. Separate courses were offered for men and women, but the course for men was discontinued during the war years to shorten curriculum. In the late 40’s when a dramatic increase of non-veteran male freshman enrolled, the Freshman Lecture for men was reinstated. The men’s class met for weekly lectures on such topics as:

There was a similar series offered to the women freshmen. Topics for women in 1948 included:

A particularly notable three-part series on careers for women had these intriguing titles that suggest the changing of the times:

In our next issue, we will take a closer look at the history of the Marquette Biology Department during the 1940’s.




Biological Sciences Department

Marquette University, Wehr Life Sciences
(Directions/campus map)
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
(414) 288-7355