May 5th 1930
Home A Saint in Training Arrival and Impact May 5th 1930 The Golden Years The New Bonas Papers
"I have but one dream. To see a bigger and better Bonaventure." Fr Tom Plassmann


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 constantly traveling. 

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 Pickpocket" 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 and morale 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 science building.

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 some recognition.


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Added fire photos, D. Frank, 1/13/2004
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Last updated:  01/13/04