Mundelein College and Prince the Collie

 

The Art Deco Skyscraper building under construction in 1930.

Mundelein College was founded in the same year that the stock market crashed. In 1929, while the American economy was crumbling, Mundelein College and its unique home, the Mundelein skyscraper, was rising. It took an indomitable person to see that it was done, and the college’s co-founder, Sister Justicia Coffey, BVM, was just such an individual. Sister Justicia had a vision which included a superior Catholic education for young modern urban women. The skyscraper was the setting for that vision, but Sister Justicia knew that an excellent education required exceptional teachers. Sister Justicia approached the construction of both the building and the faculty with equal vigor and procured whatever either task demanded. While blueprints and the careful inspection of steel beams were imperative for the building, the teachers required a rapid accumulation of graduate degrees and for the elevation of their spirits, Prince, a tri-color collie.

This summer, my colleague, Nathan Ellstrand and I have been building “Voices from Mundelein,” a web media portal which highlights the staff, alumnae, and faculty of Mundelein College. It includes oral histories which feature the earliest years of Mundelein College. In her rich oral history, long-time Mundelein faculty member, Sister Irma Corcoran reflects fondly on memories as wide ranging as Sister Justicia Coffey’s unique style of leadership and the college’s pet collie, Prince.

In her 1997 audio interview, Sister Irma Corcoran, BVM, claims that she was a member of the college community for the entirety of Mundelein’s sixty-one year existence. Sister Irma arrived as a faculty candidate in 1929 when the skyscraper was dedicated and left in 1991 when Mundelein affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. She recalls that Sister Justicia created a significant portion of her coterie of faculty members by gathering young novitiates of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) who had completed college degrees, a rare commodity indeed. She then sent them to distinguished universities to complete their graduate studies with an injunction to return to Mundelein and disseminate their new-found knowledge. Sister Irma was one of those novitiates. She was sent to Columbia University to study English, one of the few women, and the only sister in the student body. Ultimately Sister Irma returned, taught, and became a renowned Milton scholar.

When Sister Irma first arrived, the skyscraper was not yet completed and she and her fellow graduate school headed novitiates were quartered in what she calls “the little green house” next door. As did all of the founding faculty members, Sister Irma wore many hats and in addition to teaching, she served as a general porteress for the college. She brokered purchases from coal to eggs and dealt with contractors, visiting clergy, and what she calls insistent BELLS. She especially remembers her fellow porter of the canine variety, Prince. Sister Irma reports that the black and white collie pup had a bark that “would intimidate an army.” Prince took his responsibilities seriously, and guarded the little green house assiduously. One time, Sister Irma recalls, he barked “terribly” and she went to the front door and found the postman pinned to the porch railing with his heels in the air.

Photos of Prince are featured prominently in the Mundelein College Yearbook of 1931.

Guarding the porch was not Prince’s only function, it can be inferred from Sister Irma’s interview that he walked the sisters each day after breakfast, in the company of Sister Justicia Coffey. Sister Justicia made it a point to get acquainted with each new novitiate and the latest to arrive was always the chosen companion for the daily morning walk. They would walk the city streets from Kenmore to Rosemont to Sheridan, and finish by looking over the lake and then turn toward the skyscraper which Sister Justicia inspected with a gimlet eye assessing the days’ construction. Often, Sister Irma recalls, Justicia would chat with the workers, whom she knew by name, inquiring about orders and making suggestions.

Sister Irma’s memories conjure up the image of two habited sisters, one middle aged the other, young, pausing on a Chicago street corner, engaged in deep conversation, perhaps about construction, teaching, or the persistent BELL with Prince tugging at his lead, distracted by the prospect of the postman’s anticipated daily arrival. Sister Irma reveals that Justicia understood the importance of foundations whether they were made of steel or of individual characters. She knew that both required a detailed understanding that springs from the constancy of daily rituals like a brisk morning walk with Prince.

An image of Prince guards the final page of the Mundelein College Yearbook of 1932.

 

More information about Sister Justicia Coffey and Mundelein College is available online through the Loyola University Libraries Digital Special Collections or in person through a visit to the Loyola University Chicago Women and Leadership Archives.


Bruce, pictured here, is the current canine porter and guardian of the door for the author of this blog, Janette Clay. Besides being an inveterate daily walker, Janette is a PhD student in the department of history at Loyola University Chicago and member of the summer staff at the WLA.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Horses for Classmates: Horsemanship and Horse Shows at Mundelein College

Imagine a beautiful spring day in one of Chicago’s numerous parks. Perhaps you are jogging, enjoying your lunch break from work on a park bench, or simply strolling down various paths—taking in the landscape and enjoying the stretch of your legs. You view your surroundings and find the usual suspects: birds, flowers, trees, and a gaggle of collegiate women on horseback taking in the sites of the gorgeous day. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Photo of dozens of riders (some from Mundelein College Riding Club) on the Annual Breakfast Ride through Lincoln Park on November 1, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Photo of dozens of riders (some from Mundelein College Riding Club) on the Annual Breakfast Ride through Lincoln Park on November 1, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

In fact, up until the 1960s, this would not have been so unusual. Horseback riding was considered a popular form of exercise for many—including many students of Mundelein College. Mundelein College, a women’s Catholic liberal arts college, was founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMS) in 1929. When Mundelein opened its doors to students in the fall of 1930, horseback riding classes became a central part of its athletic program.

How did an urban college, housed in a skyscraper no less, provide the horses for these classes?  A Chicago Tribune article states that during the early to mid-twentieth century, there were approximately 20 stables located near various Chicago Park District riding trails, housing as many as 100 horses. These horses could either be boarded, given a stall paid for by their owner for a monthly sum, or rented from the stable by the hour for riding. Most likely, the students of Mundelein chose to participate using one of those two options.

The first horseback riding classes offered to students began only a year after Mundelein’s opening and continued into the 1960s. The Skyscraper, Mundelein’s student newspaper, reported that 56 students of various skill levels enrolled in the two-hour weekly class. Students with more experience rode park trails while beginning riders held their first lessons in an indoor arena of a nearby riding academy. The journalist wrote that the course, “promises to be a popular one. By personal interview with the young women it becomes evident that there is fascination in the rhythmic hoof-beats of a horse.” The class could be taken for gymnasium credit and in some instances supplemented “regular” gymnastic course requirements.[1]

Students on Horseback, 1938. Mundelein Photograph Collection

Students on Horseback, 1938. Mundelein Photograph Collection

Some Mundelein students elevated the horse-related activities at the college. A student organization called the “Equestriennes,” more formally the Mundelein College Riding Club, planned an annual horse show that challenged members to compete in various events that not only highlighted their technical skill but also promoted showmanship. Events such as “musical chairs on horseback” and a costume race added unique flavor to the more traditional atmosphere of a schooling show.[2] In later years, the Equestriennes opened up entrants to high-school students for a special invitational class and charged admission to the proceedings.[3]

Horsemanship awards photo of 2 riders with horse posing with their trophies, undated. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Horsemanship awards photo of 2 riders with horse posing with their trophies, undated. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Looking through pictures of Mundelein students competing alongside their friends and horsey partners takes me back to my own equestrian past. I rode and competed for 14 years before putting up the spurs to pursue my M.A in Public History. I think it’s time to dust off the old breeches and get back on the saddle!

Group photo of Mundelein College Horseback Riding Club taken at Parkway Stables for the Annual Horse Show, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Group photo of Mundelein College Horseback Riding Club taken at Parkway Stables for the Annual Horse Show, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

[1] “Riding Classes Meet Each Week,” The Skyscraper, October, 15, 1931.

[2] “College Horse Show Includes Riding, Jumping Exhibition,” The Skyscraper, May 31, 1945.

[3] “Riders Vie for Trophies, Ribbons at Seventeenth Annual Horse Show,” The Skyscraper, May 6, 1957.


 

EllenProfilePicEllen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Collections Highlight: Carolyn Farrell

Carolyn Farrell after being elected to the Dubuque, Iowa City Council, 1977.

Carolyn Farrell after being elected to the Dubuque, Iowa City Council, 1977.

Carolyn Farrell, B.V.M., was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1934.  In 1953 at the age of 18, Farrell joined the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), taking her final vows in 1961.  She received her B.A. in History from Clarke College in 1966 and went on to attain a Master’s of Science in Education Administration from Western Illinois University.  Farrell also completed post-graduate work at the University of Iowa in Administration of Higher Education and at the Hubert Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

After holding positions as a teacher and administrator for a number of years, in 1974 Farrell began serving on several public committees in Dubuque, Iowa.  It was during this time that Farrell realized she wanted to become involved in politics.  She ran for Dubuque City Council in 1977 and became the first woman to be elected for a four year term.  In 1980, Farrell was elected for a one year term as the Mayor of Dubuque, becoming the first woman religious to serve as a mayor of a city in the United States.[1]

The following year Farrell returned to her former position as the Director of Continuing Education at Clarke College, a position which she held until 1988.  In 1991, Farrell accepted the Interim Presidency of Mundelein College in Chicago where she oversaw the College’s affiliation with Loyola University Chicago.  Farrell went on to serve as Associate Vice President of Loyola University for Mundelein College and Associate Vice President and Director of the Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, Center for Women and Leadership. Farrell retired from Loyola University Chicago in 2006 and continues her work as Director of the Roberta Kuhn Center at the BVM Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa.

Carolyn Farrell as Mayor of Dubuque, Iowa, 1980.

Carolyn Farrell as Mayor of Dubuque, Iowa, 1980.

Farrell’s election to office and her service to the field of higher education is a testament to the drive and influential capacities of both women and women religious. Her prominent place in Women’s History is reflected by her attendance at the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

The Carolyn Farrell, BVM Papers at the WLA consists of 13 linear feet and document Farrell’s professional life with the majority of her papers spanning from 1977-1996. Additional papers at the WLA of women involved in politics include the Carol Ronen Papers, the Sheli Lulkin Papers, the Mary Ann Smith Papers, the Marion Volini Papers, and the Carol Mosley Braun Papers (currently unavailable for research).  The WLA also has the papers of over a dozen BVMs and 25 women religious or former women religious.  See our website for a full list of these collections.

 


[1] Dubuque, Iowa operates under a council-manager form of government, whereas the mayor is elected by the city council from among its members.

Laura Laura Peace is a 2014 graduate of the MA in Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago and a former WLA Graduate Assistant. Laura currently resides in Chicago and is employed at HistoryIT.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Mary Griffin: Innovative Educator

Mary Griffin (1976)

Mary Griffin (1976)

Mary Griffin was born Agnes Marie Griffin in 1916 in Chicago, IL. She received a Bachelor’s of Music Education at Mundelein College in 1939. Griffin entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M), after graduating from Mundelein and took her final vows in 1942. When she entered the order, she took the name Sister Mary Ignatia. She taught English at the Saint Joseph Academy in Dubuque, Iowa and two years later became an instructor of Music and English at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa. Griffin obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English from Mundelein College in 1947 and pursued graduate studies in English at the Catholic University of America and Fordham University, earning a Master’s (1951) and PhD (1957) respectively.

Griffin, as both a professor and a feminist, became a leader for innovation in education practices. After completing her doctorate, Griffin served as the Academic Dean of Mundelein College where she had previously been a Professor of English. During her seven years as Dean, Griffin made substantial improvements to the curriculum including introducing a three term calendar, new majors, and interdisciplinary seminars. Griffin also increased the size of the facility at Mundelein and established affiliations with other universities. She organized inclusive educational programs such as the Weekend College in 1974, which allowed working adults to complete their degrees attending school on the weekends, and a Master of Liberal Studies Programs in 1983 which provided an in depth liberal arts education. Both of these programs became highly regarded and considered exemplary by other universities across the country.

Mary Griffin (right of center) and Mundelein College students returning from the Selma March (1965)

Mary Griffin (right of center) and Mundelein College students returning from the Selma March (1965)

What set Griffin apart as an educator was her dedication to addressing social concerns inside and outside the classroom. During the 1960s, she brought students from Mundelein College to Selma, Alabama, to participate in the Civil Rights Movement and taught for three years (1970-1973) at historically black Alcorn College in Mississippi. In the 1970s, she became involved in the nascent Feminist Movement, serving on the National Task Force Board of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Legal Defense Fund of the National Organization of Women.

Influenced by the social and cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s, Griffin chose to leave religious life in 1973. Writing a well-received book, entitled The Courage to Choose,
she explained her decision to leave the order, “what matters is not that we never change a commitment but that it remain meaningful, growth-producing. When this is no longer the case, we must have the courage to move on.”

Griffin continued to teach at Mundelein College and later, Loyola University Chicago as a Senior Professor of English, until her death in 1998. Mary Griffin’s dual role as an educator and advocate for social justice is a large part of her legacy.

The Mary Griffin Papers at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) span the period 1961-1998. The records contain biographical information, correspondence, publications, papers, photographs, awards, and certificates. The collections at the WLA include many women educators and social justice advocates, for a full list of these individuals see our website.

LauraLaura Peace is a 2014 graduate of the MA in Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago and a former WLA Graduate Assistant. Laura currently resides in Chicago and is employed at HistoryIT.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.