The MEXICO CITY COLLEGE Story: The History 1940-1963
                                     Researched and compiled by Joseph M. Quinn, MCC, BA '59; WSU, MA '70                                          With special thanks and appreciation to the many who have contributed to this work over the years.       
To Page Two       Home

The Prologue:

     Mexico City College (MCC) was a truly unique institution where Mexico became part of the school’s classroom.  Located in and later on the outskirts of Mexico City, it offered a broad liberal arts curriculum accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).  Students and faculty from across the United States and almost three dozen countries, along with a local student body, supported by a multinational faculty, provided an educational environment of extraordinary cultural diversity that could not be matched anywhere else at the time. Twenty years after its founding, it stood on the brink of foundering when “it would be re-named as the University of the Américas, then the Universidad de las Américas followed by its move to Puebla. Fifteen years later it was divided into two distinct, separate institutions, one still in Puebla, Universidad de las Américas-Puebla (UDLAP), and one back in Mexico City,  Universidad de las Américas, A.C. [‘Asociación Civil,’ designating a nonprofit corporation],(UDLA, A.C., or just UDLA)."12 

     To appreciate fully the evolution of MCC into UDLAP ("one of the most prestigious private universities in Mexico" Note M), the history and the politics, requires going back to the opening days of the Second World War.

                                                     *  * * * *

     Germany was on the march and U.S. involvement was just a question of time.  The large U.S. (and English speaking) colony in Mexico City wanted the means to keep their high school grads at home, instead of them heading north for college (out of parental control), if not impulsive “patriotic enlistment.”2

     Mexico City College (MCC) grew out of one of the great private educational ventures in Latin America — the American School Foundation — and of the aspirations of its superintendent, Dr. Henry L. Cain, and the principal of the High School Department, Dr. Paul V. Murray. Thus MCC was founded in 1940 as an extension of the American School Foundation (K-12).   "Sapientia, Pax, Fraternitas" (Wisdom, Peace, Fraternity) was chosen as its motto. (For short bios of Dr. Cain and Dr. Murray, see "The Founders' Book" on the Home Page.)

      Dr. Cain was invested as the first president (and served until 1953, when he became President Emeritus); Paul V. Murray served as the Dean (and became President in 1953).   Aside from administrative roles, Dr. Cain served as professor of education, and Mr. Murray as professor of history.1   Having lived in Mexico since the late 1930s, Mr. Murray and his wife, Elena Picazo de Murray, published numerous articles and widely-adopted text books for language instruction.  He was later awarded an LL.D. by his alma mater, St. Ambrose College.

     Dr. Murray, “articulate and energetic, . . . had maintained a close and influential association with the Mexican and foreign business community and with other educational institutions.  As the official spokesperson for the College, he assumed primary responsibility for maintaining the financial solvency of the College and took justifiable pride in his ability to meet complex payrolls.  Since the College enjoys neither diplomatic sponsorship nor immunity, an indispensable prerequisite for its stable functioning is the maintenance of amicable relations with the Government and people of Mexico.”2  “(Murray and Cain) were well-connected within a middle to lower rung of the American-Mexican ‘old-boy network.’ ” 10, Note B,

      Mexico City College opened July 1, 1940 as a junior college in the dining room of "casa de huespedes" at Avenida Tacubaya, 40 (currently, Avenida Vasconcelos, 32) with five students, five teachers, five liberal arts courses and Henry L. Cain as President, Paul V. Murray as Dean and Elizabeth Thomas de Lopez as Registrar. Five years later Elizabeth Lopez was hired as the first full time employee of MCC.9

      In February, 1941, classes were held in the afternoon in the basement of the American High School in the building that later became the offices of Sears Roebuck, S.A., at Avenidas Insurgentes and San Luis Potosi, No. 154.  

Old MCC      Five years later, the College moved from the American High School (later to become the large Sears Roebuck store) across the street to Calle San Luis Potosi, 131, and eventually occupied various office buildings and apartment houses along the streets of Chiapas, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas.  In January, 1946 a group of nine students arrived from Ohio State University for the first Winter Quarter in Mexico (WQIM) program.  A month later the Veterans Administration placed MCC on the list of schools approved for study under the G.I. Bill of Rights.1 Three American veterans of World War II enrolled.  Student enrollment was now 75.9

     Students often lived upstairs or next door to the building that housed their classroom. The Student ID Card gave students free access to the Hacienda Club which provided tennis courts, basketball and handball courts, a swimming pool and steam baths.  The Club was located only seven and half blocks from the San Luis Potosi campus.

      MCC's connection with the American School Foundation ended in June, 1946, when the ASF sold the high school building to Sears Roebuck and ASF moved to its new campus in Colonia Tacubaya.9

     Dr. Henry Cain and Paul Murray, co-founders and co-owners of MCC, legally changed the status of the school from a proprietary institution to an Associación Civil, in July 31, 1950. This paved the way for acceptance by the Texas Association of Colleges as an overseas institution and, later (December 2, 1959), membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

      By May, 1951, the MCC campus consisted of seven buildings in Colonia Roma, spread over an area of six blocks: three of the latest additions being at 132 and 136 San Luis Potosi, and one on the corner of Tonela and Chiapas.  The post office address for the College was Calle San Luis Potosi, 135.

      The College academic philosophy was spelled out in the 1957-58 College catalogue, “the administrators of Mexico City College believe that a broad liberal arts program is the best basis for general education. . . . History, literature, philosophy, logic, ethics, art, music, geography, English and Spanish form the basis of cultural orientation at the college.” 21  

     One alumnus remembers Dr. Paul Murray as wearing “his religion on his sleeve” and was, to some, “familiarly known as ‘Pious Paul.’ ” Murray, in his column “From The Dean’s Desk,” (The Collegian, August 15, 1949), although he praised the acting of the MCC students, was quick to express his conservatism and religious values when he wrote that the recent four one-act plays of Tennessee Williams, presented by MCC Studio Players, was “vacuous drivel . . . . Is this the best offering from modern playwriting . . . where ‘God’ has been reduced to ‘god’ and ‘damn’ to ‘dam?’ ” 

     MCC (as a private two-year institution) graduated its first class of six students in June, 1940.  (See Note A for the names of the faculty and this first graduating class.)  In the next twelve years more than six thousand north-of-the-border students attended MCC.1

     In the first “commencement” exercises in 1944-1945, twenty graduates received diplomas as Associates in Arts and Sciences.  This “degree,” no longer awarded, represented four years of work, but not within a recognized college curriculum, which MCC was not yet equipped to offer.1

      Like the student body, the early faculty during the late 1940s and '50s represented over ten nationalities,21 including England, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain, personifying and symbolizing the democratic values of cultural diversity and tolerance.  Many of the faculty migrated to Mexico from Europe following the Spanish Civil War and, later, World War II.  Many were western Europeans – among them José Gaos, co-chairman of graduate studies, who was formerly the rector of the University of Madrid and professor of History and Anthropology, and Pedro Bosch Gimpera, former rector of the University of Barcelona and former Catalonian Minister of the Interior.  The former Czechoslovakian Minister to Mexico, Vaclav Laska, taught history and government.  Baron Alexander von Wuthenau, from Germany, who is a cousin of the British royal family, taught the history of art and assisted the Mexican government in the restoration of its colonial art treasures.1, 2

      Some of these émigrés, many artists, writers and intelligentsia, were forced expatriates from the cold-war era and the United States Congress’ investigation of the U.S. film industry for alleged ‘un-American’ activities.  To make ends meet, some of these political and cultural expatriates, both from the U.S. and Europe, turned to teaching at MCC, The National University of Mexico, and the American School Foundation. (K–12)16

      MCC Professor Dr. Miguel Barrios taught spoken and written Nahuatl and, working with a group of graduate anthropology students, compiled the only grammar-dictionary of the Nahuatl language, which is still spoken by two million Indians in many areas of Mexico.1  Later, professor Fernando Horcasitas would expand upon this dictionary.Note C   MCC was the only institution in the world offering classes in spoken Maya and Nahuatl (the language of the ancient Aztecs and the Otomí Indians of Central Mexico).  On May 12, 1950, Dr. Barrios started publishing the Mexihkatl Itonalma.  This small newspaper, written only in Nahuatl for the non-Spanish speaking Indians, was the only literature available to this language group, and was aimed to those who wanted to learn to write and read in their language.  The work of Drs. Barrios and Horcasitas and their students resulted in the preservation of much of Maya and Nahuatl oral folk history. (The Collegian, May 19, 1950)

      Robert Weitlaner, Mexico’s foremost ethnologist, served as Associate Professor of Anthropology.  He was also director of the government’s National Institute of Anthropology, was regarded as the foremost ethnologist in Mexico. He had made the reconstruction of Indian dialects and cultures his life’s work.  Flora Botton taught Philosophy; she was the only surviving member of her family of ten from the Nazi death camps.  Her philosophy classes were punctuated with European history and first hand accounts of the camps.  During the late 1940s and early ‘50s there were a handful of students and instructors at MCC who related their personal stories of keeping one step ahead of the Nazis as they made their way across Western Europe to Spain and safety.  Dr. Paul G. Fried, the Chief Translator for the Nuremburg War Crime Trials, taught history.  Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf, Professor of History and International Relations, was a recognized international expert in reading sixteen-century Spanish paleography.  Dr. Silvio Zavala, Director of the Nacional Museo de Historia, taught history at MCC.

     Dr. Pablo Martínez del Río was one of the more colorful professors on campus.  Director of the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia de la Universidad Nacional, president and chairman of many boards and societies, including president of the Board of Directors of the Benjamin Franklin Library (U.S. Embassy), Manager of the Alameda Branch of the Banco Nacional de México, member of the French Legion of Honor, member of the Board of Trustee of MCC, to name a few, he had represented Mexico in many educational and scholarly congresses both at home and abroad.  But the students of MCC best remember him for his crisp Oxford accent, immaculate dress with homburg, spats, and umbrella-cane, accented by a brisk stride.  His classes in History and Anthropology were always packed.  This was a man who lived the history he taught, having once rode as a young man with Pancho Villa. 

      In the summer of 1946, Dr. James B. Tharp, education professor at Ohio State University, pioneered the Summer “Quarter in Mexico” program (WQIM), which soon included the winter quarter.  Initially, nine co-eds attended.  By the mid-fifties, an average of 180 students participated in the WQIM program. This program with MCC was endorsed by other universities, including Michigan State University, Notre Dame, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, the University of Arizona, the Vanderbilt and Peabody Teachers College in Nashville, and others.  Not only students, but teachers from the U.S. and Canada attended one of the two summer Workshops in Latin American Cultures.  This annual five-week session offered extensive work in the Spanish language and in Mexican social studies and crafts.1 

     During the late 1940s and early ‘50s, the MCC campus was the subject of numerous articles in magazines, newspapers and Sunday supplements motivated, no doubt, by the uniqueness of the institution, the interest shown by veterans, and the "Quarter in Mexico" (WQIM) program. The print media in the U.S. would refer to MCC as the “gringo campus below the border.”  A 1958 Mexican map of Mexico City lists among the "puntos de Interest," the "Colegio Americano."

     In 1946 MCC became a 4-year college conferring the BA degree.  The MCC graduate school — "Centro de Estudios Universitarios" — was established in September, 1947 with Drs. Lorna L. Stafford and Jose Gaos named as co-directors.  The degree of Master of Arts was awarded in the fields of Anthropology, Business Administration (Foreign Trade), Creative Writing, Economics, History and International Relations, and Spanish. The Graduate School also awards the Master of Fine Arts degree.21  In ten years, a total of 2,800 graduate students entered the program with 72 being admitted to major institutions in the U.S., England, France, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, and Mexico to continue doctoral studies.  Of these, fifteen are faculty with U.S. universities (1957). Joseph H. Matluck was the first MCC graduate awarded a Doctor en Letras, from the Universidad Nacional, 1951.

     In 1946 the Department of Anthropology was founded by Jimenez Moreno and Pedro Bosch Gimpera.  The following year, 1947, twenty-one students received a four-year undergraduate degree.  The total for the 1951-52 academic year was 175 B.A.s and 61 M.A.s.   By June, 1957, the College had awarded 1,113 Bachelor of Arts degrees and 273 Master’s degrees.1, 2

      On July 2, 1947 the first college newspaper, “El Conquistador de Mexico City College” was founded, but the title lasted for only nineteen issues.  For four months between April to July, 1948, the paper changed its name to “El Grito de Mexico City College” (from Father Hidalgo’s “Grito de Dolores”).  By fall, 1948, the newspaper again changed its name, this time to “The Collegian.”   The early issues featured, to the left of the title, an American eagle holding a U.S. shield, and to the right of the title, a Mexican eagle clasping a snake with its talons and beak.  Between December, 1950 and April 12, 1951, the subtitle “The Official Publication of Mexico City College” appeared.

     Starting with the January 28, 1954 issue, the “Mexico City Collegian” again added a subtitle, The American College South Of The Border.  This subtitle remained and prompted the 1961 outgoing editor John Revett to tell the new editor Doug Butterworth, “At one time this little slogan probably had its place, but today it’s simply not enough.”  To make his point, he suggested there be a Mexican institution in the U.S. with the following slogan, “Universidad Mexicana Norte de la Frontera.”20 ("MCC Moves With Changing World")

        (Editor’s note: In 1961 there was a  major change of administration and MCC was
        renamed the University of the Americas. See below.)

     Dean Murray contributed an article in almost every issue of the campus newspaper.   First, the column was titled “From The Dean’s Desk” and, when he became President, “From The President’s Desk.”

     In 1961 The MCC Collegian was honored for the fourteenth consecutive year with the “All American Honor” rating by the Associated Collegiate Press: the highest obtainable by a college newspaper (The Collegian, May 26, 1961).  Brita Bowen was the advisor to The Collegian, as well as Director of Public Relations.  For the first time, a short-lived column in Spanish, “Sección Espaňoda” appeared in the July 30, 1959 issue.

     In 1961 Peter and Lucia Montague published a short lived alternative school paper, called “The Gadfly.”  Only four issues were printed, the last being in December, 1961.13, Note I


                                      1 | 2 |3 | 4 | 5    Next Page >> Page 2          Home


  Entire Site Copyright © 2006. Joseph M. Quinn
Logo of MCC