Mount Senario College in Ladysmith closed a decade ago, but an October reunion will celebrate the 40 years the small liberal arts college served thousands of students.
"We're looking at a huge number of people coming back and the beginning of Mount Senario is the reason," said Dennis Van Wey of Ladysmith, one of the organizers of the college's 50th Anniversary Reunion.
The Servants of Mary, also known as the Servite Sisters, created the college, 1500 Port Arthur Road, in 1962. Based in Ladysmith, the Servants of Mary are part of the International Servite Order.
"That's really the focus, to honor the Servite Sisters and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school," Van Wey said. "We're committed to this project. We're committed to what Mount Senario represented."
The reunion is open to all 4,000-plus graduates, former students and former faculty and staff.
"We don't want to leave anybody out," Van Wey said.
The reunion will be Saturday, Oct. 6, in McLaughlin Hall, which was the main building on the campus on the southwest side of Ladysmith.
Activities begin at 1 p.m. with socializing, refreshments, displays, musical entertainment and slide and video shows.
The Rusk County Historical Society will loan Mount Senario memorabilia and artifacts for the reunion.
An awards dinner will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Flambeau Room.
The two founding sisters of the college, Sister Mary Hyacinth Gullan and Sister Mary Angelica Vogel, will be honored posthumously at the banquet, said Lucas Mikkelsen of rural Ladysmith, another reunion organizer.
Also being honored at the banquet is Helen Kay Sirek, who graduated from Mount Senario in 1969.
Sirek attended both the Servite high school and the college in Ladysmith. The high school later became the college's fine arts building, which was demolished in 2007.
Sirek was the chief organizer of the upcoming reunion until she died in May, Mikkelsen said
Van Wey replaced Sirek on the 10-member reunion organizing committee.
"It was a huge loss. No one could fill her shoes," Van Wey said. "I'm trying to do as much as I can to make sure this 50th reunion celebration is a success. We are honoring Kay as someone who was in a leadership role to put this together."
Mikkelsen is compiling a commemorative book that is being sold for the event. It will include a history of the college, past faculty and staff members and the names of all 4,000-plus alumni. He has been working on the book for the past 15 months.
"It has little tidbits of stuff," Van Wey said. "It's going to be a phenomenal book. What doesn't get in there will be published down the road in a separate history book."
Mikkelsen is in charge of trying to contact all alumni, former students and faculty and staff members.
"It hasn't been too bad. Facebook put quite a dent in it for us," he said.
Reunion entertainment will include a performance by the Free Beer Barbershop Quartet. All four members attended Mount Senario in the 1980s.
The quartet auditioned for the fourth season of the "America's Got Talent" television show and performed the national anthem at a Brewers home game in Milwaukee for three consecutive years.
"They are really good," Van Wey said.
The Rusk County Historical Society owns all of Mount Senario's basketball trophies and doesn't have room to keep them all. Committee members decided to include many of the trophies in a silent auction at the reunion.
Proceeds will help cover reunion expenses, Van Wey said.
Among the former faculty members who will attend the reunion is Tom Lewis, a history and political science professor at Mount Senario from 1971 until the campus closed because of financial difficulties in 2002.
Reunion organizing committee members hope Lewis' attendance will encourage many former students to attend the reunion.
"He was there a long time," Van Wey said of Lewis. "A lot of students know him."
Van Wey can't predict how many people will attend the reunion.
"A lot of people have shown and expressed interest," he said.
Van Wey is the only member of the reunion organizing committee who wasn't a Mount Senario student. He was an academic advisor for student support services and director of the college's career development center.
Mikkelsen graduated from Mount Senario in 1988 and was director of the college's academic computer center and audiovisual department from 1989-96.
"Several Mount Senario alumni were employed back by the college over the years," Mikkelsen said.
During the 40 years of operation, the college served large groups of Hmong and American Indian students. The Hmong Mutual Assistance Association in Eau Claire and Native American leaders in northwestern Wisconsin are helping get the word out about the reunion, Van Wey said.
"There were some wonderful experiences there for diversity ... that you wouldn't see in most other places," he said of Mount Senario. "We're reaching out to that diversity again."
Three former campus buildings remain.
McLaughlin Hall is used by the Fine Arts Center and Gallery, a Rusk County arts organization. Silver Lake College didn't renew its lease and left the building July 1. Northern Bridges, a long-term health agency, left the building and moved its offices July 12 to downtown Ladysmith.
The residence hall is used by the Ladysmith school district for in international student program.
Gullan Hall is owned by CareNet Pregnancy Resource Center.
Mount Senario's former athletic fields are owned by the city of Ladysmith.
Holtz can be reached at 715-833-9207, 800-236-7077 or email@example.com.