It took Jeff Dickerson a decade to set foot back on the campus of the former Marycrest College in Davenport.

“This is the first time I have been back since I left,” he said during Saturday’s Marycrest Alumni Association Homecoming 2012. “I could not bear it myself to come back. Just couldn’t.”

Marycrest closed in 2002 after the 10-acre, 22-building Davenport campus was sold. Japan-based Teikyo purchased the school in 1990 from the Sisters of Humility. The sisters started the school in 1939 as an institution for Catholic women. Enrollment plunged when Teikyo came in, and the name of the school changed from Marycrest College to Teikyo Marycrest University to Marycrest International University.

An announcement was made in December 2001 that the school would close the following June after student enrollment projections fell.

Dickerson, who taught computer science and math, said that announcement was terrible news.

“Everybody was stunned,” he said. “Most of us had to find jobs. I accepted a job at Monmouth College. But this was pretty devastating. This was by far the best school I worked at.

“It was a sad time for me, basically. (Working here) was a great time for me and the students. People didn’t realize what a good school it was.”

But after a decade, Dickerson said he was ready to come back, despite the sadness he felt as he returned Saturday.

“Since retirement, I had an overwhelming desire to come back,” he said.

The annual homecoming is when former graduates, students, faculty, staff and friends are invited back to visit and remember those college years. The main event was Saturday’s open house at the Marycrest Senior Housing campus, which is what the campus has become now.

Nancy Kelly of Davenport graduated in 1960 and has fond memories of her time at Marycrest. She also is pleased at how well the senior housing owners have kept up the campus. It makes coming back all the more special.

“It was extremely sad, like someone burned our house down,” Kelly said, referring to when the school closed. “But this is very nice that we can be together. My classmates were very close. When we get together, it is like no time has gone by. It’s wonderful because that was such a happy time in our lives.”

“It brings home the idea that even though the school is no longer here, the spirit lives on with events like this,” said Tara Moffit of Davenport, who graduated in 1999.