Thomas Dunn (1842-1931) established the Thomas Dunn Home for Working Boys in St. Louis, Missouri in 1930. Dunn was an English immigrant who worked his way from rags to riches, but still managed to understand the hardships of the orphans he saw living on the streets of the city. He insisted that each boy be civically engaged, learn to cook and sew, take art or music lessons, and reading a book at all times. Dunn died of pneumonia just one year after opening the home, but his diligence, compassion, and generosity in establishing memorial projects laid the foundation for what has become a unique educational opportunity for the St. Louis region.
In 1956, in cooperation with the city of St. Louis and the Housing Authority, the Dunn Civic Center (later known as the Clinton Peabody Community Center) was opened and more structured educational programming was introduced. After careful analysis, the board of directors closed the Thomas Dunn Home for Working Boys in 1960. Experiencing great success at the Clinton Peabody Community Center and always mindful of the wishes of Thomas Dunn, the educational programs expanded to the Marquette Civic and Recreation Center in 1964. By 1970, classes were being offered at 12 locations around the city and in 1974, a new gymnasium was built. Enrollment grew and the decision to build a learning center next to the recreation center was realized in 1991. Since then, the Thomas Dunn Learning Center has successfully sustained its founder’s vision for “a learned and peaceful society” by helping thousands of participants recognize, define, and realize their goals for personal growth.