Loras College Removes a Statue of Its Slave-Owning Founder

Loras College, a liberal arts institution affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church in Dubuque, Iowa, is named for Bishop Mathias Loras. The college was originally called the St. Raphael Seminary but was renamed to honor the first Catholic Bishop of Dubuque.

The college enrolls slightly more than 1,400 students, according to the latest data supplied to the U.S. Department of Education. African Americans make up 3 percent of the undergraduate student body.

Recently the college learned from a researcher who studied the bishop’s financial ledgers that Loras purchased an enslaved woman named Marie Louise in Mobile, Alabama. Loras enslaved the woman from 1836 to 1852.

The college removed a statue of Bishop Loras from a prominent place on campus and has put the statue in storage. A scholarship fund has been created to honor Marie Louise.

In a statement, Jim Collins president of Loras College, wrote that “Bishop Loras’ abhorrent conduct is antithetical to the mission, vision, values, and Catholic identity of this institution. Further, there is no evidence that Bishop Loras ever expressed remorse for his actions.”

The college has decided not to consider a name change. President Collins explains that “the educational experience beloved by our alumni, students, and faculty is not defined by the man. The ideals to which we aspire are and have always been far greater. The college will retain its name while we focus our energy and resources on accelerating and expanding efforts to advance human dignity, diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, and especially among our leadership, administration, and faculty. We know there is much work to do.”

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