HAMMOND – For more than 70 years, Calumet College of St. Joseph has been known as a commuter campus. That changed on Sept. 9 as President Dr. Amy McCormack and dignitaries cut the ribbon on the university’s first residence hall with a crowd of students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends of the college watching.
“Seventy years ago, Saint Joseph College-Calumet Campus (now CCSJ) started classes in the area serving traditional and adult students,” explained McCormack, who arrived five years ago. “Nearly 50 years ago, CCSJ became independent and began expanding programs and degrees to serve the Calumet Region. Twenty years ago, CCSJ added athletics.
“These were transformational times for the college, and today, we add another – on-campus housing to meet the needs of students that want a residential experience. We are grateful for the collaborative efforts with the Hammond Redevelopment Commission and the City of Hammond for helping make a vision (that was) a number of years in the making become a reality,” said McCormack, who also thanked her own “strong and committed team” for their efforts.
With the residence hall housing 64 student-athletes, McCormack noted that it is exciting to demonstrate that CCSJ is not only a strong academic institution, “but offers athletics, arts and other activities on campus.”
In addition to women’s and men’s soccer, women’s volleyball, a new fall sport added just this year is Sprint Football, with the Crimson Wave joining the Midwest Sprint Football League for a six-game schedule that begins with a 7 p.m. game at Ray P Gallivan Stadium (1500 Center St., Whiting) on Saturday, Sept. 17 vs. St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.
“The community is our campus and the campus is in the community,” added McCormack. “We want this complex to feel like home to our students and be a valued member of the Hammond, Whiting and East Chicago community.”
Ready to join that community is Tuyisenge Alphoncine, a freshman soccer player from Aurora, Ill. A Health Sciences major with an eye on a nursing career, Alphoncine and her teammates have been living in student apartments and a hotel until the residence hall officially opens.
In just a few weeks, she has found CCSJ to be “a really good school where everyone comes together. My teammates have been supportive, and my coach has been very responsive when I have questions.” Alphoncine picked CCSJ after her student chaperone made her feel “so welcome” during her official visit.
Father McFarland, C.PP.S., representing the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, conducted the blessing of the new facility. “We bless this facility as a place of living, learning and friendship,” said the second-year faculty member. Tours were conducted as construction crews continued putting finishing touches on the building. Students were scheduled to move in on Sept. 16.
The $4.8 million project consists of a three-story residence hall with a square footage of 16,500, featuring 20 beds per floor in 10 double rooms and three resident assistant suites. Two floors are dedicated to males and one houses females in traditional dorm-style living units with twin beds, desks and closet space. Student lounge spaces are integrated in the first and second floors, and there is a kitchenette and laundry room available. The building has been designed to fit within the context of the existing architecture and building style at the university.
“Keep strong and keep growing,” urged Phil Taillon, chief of staff of City of Hammond, representing Mayor Tom McDermott. “You look around at all the people here today and you can tell how important Calumet College is. It is important to keep on growing and provide opportunities Hammond hasn’t had in the past.”
Father Charles Mosley, representing the Diocese of Gary, quoted Proverbs 24:3-4: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures,” and gave thanks to God for all who helped construct the new hall. He prayed for the residents to “develop new friendships, learn in the classroom and in this place, that students may find peace, and that they may grow into who they are meant to be.”
Hammond City Councilman Mark Kalwinski, CCSJ class of ’76 and ’77, recalled starting his education at another location before finishing his degrees at the current campus after buildings were acquired from Amoco in the mid-1970s. “When Dr. McCormack and I first met, she told me what she wanted (to build a residence hall), and it has come to fruition.”
Jim Schmidt of University Housing Solutions, the construction management firm, recalled first talking to McCormack in February 2021, and attending a groundbreaking in October 2021. “To pull this off” in less than a year “is nothing short of a miracle,” he said, calling it “a very, very aggressive build” thanks to McCormack’s leadership.
“This will create a whole new experience for this college,” he added.
Vicki Znavor, a CCSJ board member and CCSJ class of ’98, recalled that she met her husband “40 years ago on this campus. Calumet College of St. Joseph has a way of making dreams come true, and there is one person that made this dream come true, Dr. Amy McCormack.”
Also representing Larry Meyers, chairman of the CCSJ Board of Trustees, Znavor quoted him as praising McCormack’s leadership. “We are truly blessed to have her as president of this college,” he said.
Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, a Dominican Sister from Springfield, Ill. who joined the CCSJ staff this year as an adjunct professor of theology and, through Big Shoulders Fund, coordinator of ministry outreach and summer youth programs, was all smiles as she gave tours of the new dormitory.
“This residence hall will certainly give the college an investment in the community, and gives the community the right to put some expectations on the residents,” Sister Mary Jo said. “The college and the community can work together to help one another, and students are more apt to see the needs if they live here. They may find themselves learning in ways they may never have imagined, while also serving others.”
“I love the diversity of this college and how these young athletes have the desire, dedication and motivation to be here. They have a goal, and are determined to reach it,” she said. “I have been teaching in high school, and I love sports, so I am excited to be cheering these teams on. With my position, I will help President McCormack with visits to the three Catholic high schools and elementary schools in the Diocese of Gary, and at St. Francis de Sales High School in Chicago, a Big Shoulders Fund school.
“In the classroom, while I will be teaching theology, there may be mental, emotional or spiritual guidance that I’m called to provide, and that is important, too,” said Sister Mary Jo. “Teaching is a ministry of compassion and curriculum.”
Calumet College of St. Joseph is a private, four-year Catholic institution sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, living out a commitment to social justice through education and community service.