LINCOLN PARK — A new exhibit at the DePaul University Library marks the 100-year anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I by focusing on its effect on one Lincoln Park family closely affiliated to the school.
"Glimpses of the Great War: Faith, Family and Community During World War I" has its opening reception at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Room 115 of the library, 2350 N. Kenmore Ave. It centers on the Wards, a family with nine siblings, eight of them brothers, who grew up in a home on Fullerton Avenue four blocks from St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
"The exhibit is and isn't about the war," co-curator Andrea Bainbridge said. "I'd say it's as much about the development of the university at that time, the things that shape it and make it, and the Ward family was definitely part of that.
"The father's business was helping to literally build the university," she added.
All eight sons of Albert J. and Marguerite Ward attended DePaul Academy, a high school run by the parish in what became Byrne Hall, and five went on to serve in World War I, with two dying in the conflict. Yet two others, William and Joe, were enrolled in a Vincentian seminary during the war and went on to play key roles with DePaul.
After their ordination, William soon returned home to serve as principal of DePaul Academy, then served the order for decades in positions around the world. Joe became a DePaul English professor.
The Wards, in effect, serve as a microcosm for the university, the Lincoln Park neighborhood and the Vincentian order as it weathered changes before and after the Great War. They were there for DePaul's founding as St. Vincent's College in 1898, for its rechartering as DePaul University in 1907 and for the acceptance of its first female students.
"It would be fair to say the exhibit touches on that time before the war when the university was putting in place some of the structures that we think of as a modern university," said co-curator Lisa Geiger. That included not just women as students, but the creation of college departments, she added, "and it became clear that there wasn't a religious requirement for students."
The exhibit includes a picture of the 1912 DePaul football team, known as the "D-men" for the letters on their sweaters, which included Joe, Cyril and Albert F. Ward, as well as a photograph taken of William and Joe in 1917, when they were seminary students as the United States entered the war.
It also includes memorial cards for services for both Ward men who died in the war. William conducted the 1919 service for his brother Albert F. in 1919, and William and Joe joined in leading a funeral mass for Oliver in 1921.
Geiger said one of the most striking things about creating the exhibit was seeing that photo of Oliver in his uniform and tracing why his memorial didn't take place until three years after the war. As it turned out, he was killed in the Argonne Forest a month before the armistice, with his remains buried in two places. In 1921, his father brought his body home for reburial.
Joe later volunteered at 48 in World War II and served as a chaplain in Italy. He went on to coordinate DePaul alumni before dying in 1978. By that time, the university had grown from the few hundred who attended in his undergraduate days to 12,000, on the way to the more than 22,000 currently enrolled.
According to the university, 584 people with DePaul ties served in World War I.
Bainbridge said they'd been unsuccessful in tracking down any modern-day relations, although they had received a recent phone call from a grandniece of one of the Wards who was planning to attend Wednesday's opening.
The exhibit will be up through August, and Wednesday's reception is open to members of the community.