On Monday, President Lovell opened his Inauguration Academic Symposium entitled "Answering the Call: Marquette's Response to the Civil Rights Movement," which focused primarily on the university's Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). The EOP just celebrated its 45th anniversary in July and President Lovell believes in it as a program that works, even calling its founders "a community of saints whose desire for civil rights could not be silenced." All of those on the panel had amazing perspectives on the birth of EOP and its growth out of the civil rights movement, but T. Michael Bolger's account especially captivated me.
Bolger is known throughout Milwaukee as one of the city's greatest civil leaders and has earned numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Milwaukee foundation and the Wisconsin Medical Society and MCW student government, which honored him as the first Standing Ovation Award winner, given for outstanding service to students. He graduated from Marquette in 1961 and was living in the Jesuit Residence on campus at the time of the Detroit riots. He, like so many others, watched in horror as Detroit and cities across the country exploded with violence. "That day changed my life forever," Bolger said. "I decided to march for open housing in Milwaukee."
Many in the Marquette community followed Bolger and the Reverend James Groppi to march for open housing in the city. Faculty and students alike refused to let the moment fade and demanded a response from the university. What came next was EOP and the rest is history. EOP has given so many students both at Marquette and throughout the nation the opportunity to earn a higher level of education than they would have otherwise and much of it has to do with Detroit.
Those riots, while sad and horrible in one sense, created opportunities for the advancement of future generations of black people. People died for their right to equal opportunity over the course of those four days and they made a statement that could not be ignored. Those riots started a conversation and a movement that has made a difference in the lives of millions of Americans and continues to do so today. I've said it before that I am proud of Detroit, no matter the condition it may be in, but it is difficult to look at 1967 with pride. But today I have a new view on those riots and I understand that some good did come of them.