Vol. 10, Issue No. 29/2003

St. Mary's -- Polonia's academic outpost
by Robert Strybel

ORCHARD LAKE, Michigan-There are many Negro colleges in the US. There are also quite a few Lutheran colleges with German or Scandinavian roots. Jewish Americans can point with pride to Brandeis University and Yeshiva University, not to mention the role played by academics of Jewish ancestry at America's Ivy League, Big Ten and other leading institutions of higher learning. What about Polonia?

We all know about the demise of Alliance College of Cambridge Springs, PA, whose campus was turned into a women's prison and whose collections were entrusted for safekeeping to the University of Pittsburgh and Chicago's Polish Museum of America. Except for several Felician-run colleges, whose Polish academic offerings are now all but non-existent, Saint Mary's College of Orchard Lake is the Polish-American community's only remaining, fully accredited, four-year, degree-granting liberal-arts college.

When they hear "Orchard Lake," many Pol-Ams still think in terms of a priest-training facility. Originally set up in Detroit in the late 19th century and moved to Orchard Lake in the early 20th, the institution was popularly known as the 'Polskie Seminarium' (Polish Seminary) and did originally have that goal of preparing Polish-speaking priests to serve the immigrant community. SS Cyril and Methodius Seminary is still operating, but it is now only one of the three Orchard Lake Schools. The other two are St Mary's Preparatory, a boarding high school for boys, and the above-mentioned St Mary's College, a Catholic school of higher learning.

St Mary's College offers a wide range of courses in such areas as accounting, business, computer systems, biology, chemistry, philosophy, psychology, sociology and the humanities. It includes good pre-med and pre-law programs. Students may major or minor in Polish and East/Central European Studies or simply sign up for the Polish courses of their choice as electives to fulfill their graduation requirement. St Mary's is also known for its well-developed program in English as a Second Language (ESL), geared to bring the English of Polish-born and international students up to the level required to pursue normal course work in their chosen fields.

In view of America's abundant academic opportunities, what would prompt parents to send their young adults to St Mary's College? In addition to the above-mentioned course offerings, there are many other reasons as well including:

-- Its convenient location in southwestern Michigan in the center of Polonia's Midwest heartland, only several hundred miles from such major Polish-American population centers as Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Toronto;
-- Affordable tuition fees (the same for local, out-of-state and foreign students) that compare favorably with those of other small colleges, plus various opportunities for scholarships, grants, student loans and part-time on-campus employment;
-- A low student-to-teacher ratio that means small classes and more individualized attention not available at large state colleges and universities;
-- A safe, drug-free environment on a beautiful, ivy-covered, lakeside campus set in one of suburban Detroit's most prestigious, residential and vacation areas.
-- An intimate campus community offering opportunities for spiritual and cultural development as well as various athletic and other extracurricular activities in a safe, drug-free environment.
-- The availability of Polish-language counseling for Polish-born students who are working to improve their English proficiency and/or experiencing academic or personal problems.
-- For parents who would feel better about sending a son to a boarding school (St Mary's Prep) if he had an older brother or sister to look after him, the Orchard Lake may be the only place with such a shared highschool/college campus.
The beautifully landscaped, 20-building, 120-acre Orchard Lake campus includes  the Central Archives of Polonia, the Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame, the Pope John Paul II Center, the Alumni Memorial Library, two large and several smaller chapels and several small Polish military museums. Over the years, the campus has played host to Polish-American scholarly conferences, concerts, festivals, folk-dance performances, art exhibitions and other cultural events. It is no wonder that the former Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyla, referred to Orchard Lake as ''erce Polonii' (the heart of Polonia) when he visited prior to becoming Pope John Paul II.

Anyone interested in additional information or application may contact:
Admissions Office, St Mary's College
3535 Indian Trail
Orchard Lake, MI 48324
or visit website:
and click on St Mary's College.

Vol. 10, Issue No. 29/2003

The Summit Times

© Copyright 2002 by Andrzej M. Salski