Mount Senario College
Before it closed, Mount Senario played football against Mayville State, so I have at least seen the school’s team. A Fiftieth Anniversary website contains numerous pictures of the campus and student groups. Special articles on the closure of the college by Bill Kurtz (Superior Catholic Herald) and Pamela Rust (BusinessNorth.com) detail the financial problems it encountered before closure. Lucas Mikkelsen, author of the fiftieth anniversary history of the college, provided additional information and allowed the use of campus images.
Mount Senario College was founded in 1962 by the Servants of Mary Catholic Order, serving rural northwestern Wisconsin. However, as early as 1930 Eau Claire State Teachers College had offered classes in Ladysmith, and College of St. Scholastica offered college classes after 1952. In the early 1970’s Mount Senario became a non-sectarian college with a board of trustees. Even with an enrollment of around 800, it was never strong financially; still in 1997 the school was debt free. Reports by Rust and Kurtz suggest that at that time the school began making poor financial decisions. Instead of working at fundraising and creating endowments, Mount Senario concentrated on building programs to increase enrollment. In particular, the school focused on creating strong athletic programs. By 2000 financial issues led to probation from North Central Association, the accrediting agency. A year later the city of Ladysmith and Rusk County attempted to help the school out of its financial straits, but a 2002 visitation from North Central and an indebtedness of 2.85 million dollars caused the school to fold.
Leading majors for graduates were criminal justice, education, social work, business administration and exercise science.
Musical groups featured in 50 years of Mount Senario were a concert chorale and a jazz ensemble.
Bricks and Mortar
The original building for Mount Senario College was the Servite High School Building, a two-story structure which later served as the Fine Arts Center. It contained the auditorium and gymnasium. The main building was McLaughlin Hall, built in 1964-65. This contained the administrative offices, library, lecture hall, classrooms, and science labs, as well as the dining hall.
When the school closed in 2002, the campus was purchased by local investors. First leased, it was sold in 2006 to Concordia Prep School, a private boarding school. This too soon closed. At present, Lake Area community college offers classes in McLaughlin Hall.
(left) Panoramic map of the Mount Senario campus. ( <www.ladysmithnews.com/multimedia/photos/featured/collection_3880f568-195f-11e2-9c83-0019bb30f31a.>)
Colors: Blue and Gold
Team name: Fighting Saints
Mount Senario College participated in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (Then NAIA II). From 1980 through 2000, the Saints won or shared the conference title in football 12 times. Conference opponents included Lakeland, Northwestern, and Concordia of Wisconsin; Concordia-St. Paul’s, Northwestern, Maranatha Baptist, Martin Luther and Crown were Minnesota foes. The 2000 team, the school’s last, posted an 8-2 record with wins over Bethel, TN, Trinity International (IL), Martin Luther, Trinity Bible (ND), Crown, Maranatha Baptist, and both Northwesterns.
Other varsity sports were basketball and baseball. After winning the USCAA championship in 1991, 1994, and 1996, the Men’s basketball team qualified for the 1999 NAIA Division II National Tournament. There they defeated St. Joseph’s (ME), Bluefield (WV) and Northwestern (IA), before losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Bethel, IN.
Four members of the UMAC champion Saints. (<www.ladysmithnews.com/multimedia/photos/featured/collection_3880f568-195f-11e2-9c83-0019bb30f31a.>)
The women's soccer team won the 1980 USCAA championship.
When the school began to emphasize athletics as a way to increase enrollment, recruits came from larger, out-of-state cities. Jay Craig, a tight end from Miami, FL, played briefly with Green Bay in 1987.
However, on January 11, 2002 Mount Senario dropped all intercollegiate athletics.