Fr. Tom strongly disliked being away from his College and
from his "boys," as he called them. But Plassmann was a man in demand and was
|| On May 5th 1930, Fr. Tom was awaiting his train
to take him from Buffalo back to Bonaventure when he heard the news. There had
been a fire at St. Bonaventure College. Plassmann's "boys" had formed bucket
brigades and the local fire department had done all they could, but the fire had
destroyed the seminary, the church, and the monastery.
| Most of the collegeís
books were destroyed. Over a million dollars in damage was caused
due an apparent electrical fire. The once prosperous
college was now stripped of almost everything. Nonetheless, in a time of extreme
disarray, the College conducted its annual commencement and also still
held its Senior Ball.
Upon Plassmannís return he delivered this address. . . .
A great disaster has come upon us but we have
many reasons for being grateful to almighty God. Not a single life was lost and
everybody is in good spirits. . . .
We feel the loss intensely but we are by no
means discouraged. St Bonaventure College has firmly established itself among
the Cattaraugus hills and we expect to get busy without any delay and build a
bigger and better Bonaventure.
Even with those words the college seemed
doomed. Many advisors thought there was no chance to rebuild what Bonaventure
once had. Fr. Tom refused to listen to them. He would build a "bigger and better
Bonaventure". Plassmannís office was also destroyed, but in less then 24 hours
he had relocated and begun working again.
The Great Depression was affecting Bonaventure
just as it affected the rest of the world. With no money to spend, St.
Bonaventure, along many other colleges, decided to reevaluate the
structure of its academic programs. Fr. Tom was preparing for the College to
prosper once again. But he could not achieve his dream without financial help.
Fr. Tom gained the nickname "Godís
during the 1930's. He held many building fund-raisers and many people were more
than willing to donate. $20,000 dollars was donated by a Protestant owned oil company
in Bradford, Pa. and the money to build Friedsam Memorial Library was donated by
a Jewish philanthropist's foundation. However, even with all the donations
raising, more adversity lay ahead.
||In April of 1933, lightning struck Lynch Hall.
While the top floor burned, students, friends, and alumni enjoyed a spaghetti
dinner. Only the 4th floor suffered damage from the actually fire,
however the electrical system and pipe lines were destroyed. The smoke also
tarnished other floors. Fr. Tom refused to give up. Within a year Lynch Hall was
back up and running under the new name De La Roche (after Fr De La Roche, the
first man to find oil in North America). It would be the College's new
Fr. Tom had rebuilt St. Bonaventure. Buildings that
were completed under his term include Devereux Hall, Alexander Hickey Memorial
Dining Hall, De La Roche Hall, an early Administration Building, and a Music
Hall. He had achieved more than any other Bonaventure president. He had done
everything he could for St. Bonaventure. Now it was Fr. Tomís turn to receive
Back to Bona Biographies
Back to Archives Index
Added fire photos, D. Frank, 1/13/2004
Site brought up 01/12/2004
Last updated: 01/13/04