Albion Interactive History / Mary Katherine Building

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Buildings / Starr Commonwealth

Mary Katherine Building, 1963

Although the Herricks had donated a handsome Indiana limestone cottage on the new North Campus only a year before, Starr was certain they might consider the infirmary.

On his way to Tecumseh, Starr had some misgivings. As he pondered the health center of late, he had broadened the project to include an adjacent wing to house the social services department. The expanded version could have been fatal to the enterprise, for the addition nearly doubled the original estimate . Even Starr admitted this was not his wisest move. Although he insisted that he “could have found funds somewhere for the infirmary,” finding a donor for both facilities was another matter.

When Starr first proposed to Ray Herrick that he subsidize the proposed structure, he was indignant. “Good Heavens,” he cried, “don’t you know anybody but me to solicit money from? I just gave you a cottage. Aren’t you satisfied?” Then he calmed down. “Well, I’ll tell you,” he said. “I’ll give you a contribution; I don’t know how much. But don’t expect me to donate a second building. I won’t do it.”

Herrick’s response left Starr adrift in mid-steam, and he was still seeking a course when Herrick broke in. “When’s your next board meeting? I want to see what kind of a bunch you’ve got lined up, and maybe I can give them a report or two as well.”

Herrick was the first to arrive at the meeting, so Starr let him speak first. Toeveryone’s surprise, he opened by saying, “I have thought this thing over, and I have made up my mind about my contribution. I will build the combination clinic/social service center.” He paused, “I have something else that I want to give you. I want to give Starr Commonwealth a statue of its founder.”

As the day neared for the dedication of the new center, the question of its name emerged. Herrick asked Starr’s mothers first name, Mary, and added it to his own mothers name, Katherine, to get the Mary Katherine Building.

Despite wintry weather, the Albion Evening Recorder reported that on Sunday, March 25, 1963, “an estimated crowd of 400 persons, largely made up of professional people in the field of social work, heard Charles B. brink, distinguished dean of the School of Social Work at Wayne State University deliver the dedicationaddress for the New Mary Katherine Building.” For the founder, who had devoted a lifetime to composing his lexicon of love, Brink spoke on the ideal subject. “This afternoon,” he announced, “I would like to discuss ‘The Feelings of Boys.’ More than many of us in the field may realize, it is essential that young people as well as adults understand their feelings. Whatever we can do as counselors, as teachers, even as friends to help boys andgirls to understand their own emotional problems will be all to the good of the youngsters themselves and of society in general.”

The prime motivation for the clinic was Starr’s insistence on adequate medical facilities for his boys. Herrick responded in ample measure. Once inside the east wing, the patient enters a long complex consisting of a waiting room with full-time attendant, and examination room for a doctor, and eight semi-private rooms. At the far end, another complex furnishes living quarters for the nurses on duty, a complete kitchen for the preparation of staff meals and trays for the patients, and a convenient storeroom. Since the opening of theclinic, the Starr Commonwealth Auxiliary has supplied funds to boost its modest budget.

Source: Keith Fennimore. Faith Made Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan: Starr Commonwealth. 1988.

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