Alumna Helen Fennelly Reilly Buckley ’42 recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of her graduation from St. Joseph’s College. In April, she mailed a handwritten letter to President S. Elizabeth A. Hill ’64, C.S.J., J.D., sharing the unlikely story of how she arrived at SJC in the fall of 1938. Ms. Buckley’s son, Kevin Reilly ’76, is also a graduate of St. Joseph’s.
April 27, 2012
Dear Sister Elizabeth,
I am writing to you with the lovely blue fountain pen you gave me at our luncheon on Saturday, April 21st. It has a place of prominence on my desk here at home, both as a reminder of all the happy years of my attendance at the College as an undergraduate and our current association with our 2012!! alumni luncheon.
I am also remembering the wonderful little playlet, carefully arranged by Sister Mary Ignatius, my English teacher at St. Francis Xavier Academy, and Sister Louis Bertram, our home-room teacher. As our graduation approached, Sister Mary Ignatius assigned each of us (we had 23 in our class) to write a short composition as to our plans after leaving high school. I was slated to attend Delehanty’s Business School to become a secretary since this was the ultimate goal expected by families of girl graduates in 1938.
Next, Sister Louis Bertrand had each of us give a short speech in our extended home-room as to our plans after June’s graduation, 1938.
This was a master plot!
My father, a captain in the NYC Fire Dep’t, sat me down very seriously and informed me that “Sister said you should go to St. Joseph’s College and become an English teacher!” Therefore, my career plans changed immediately and in September I had become an English major because “Sister said!”
I was also fascinated by the fact that my father went to the college to get further details and impressions. Sister answered all his questions and in Sept., 1938, eight other girls in my S.F.X.A. class whose parents had also been advised of their daughters’ career possibilities all became freshmen.
All eight of us graduated in June ’42 happy, secure, prepared for our academic futures which had already broadened on Dec. 7, 1941. My whole life was skilfully re-arranged by Sister M. Ignatius and I have thanked her gratefully many times in all my career.
My plans are to keep active in the Alumni, as much as possible. I am still in touch with nine people in the class of ’42 but we are somewhat limited physically. I shall depend on your mail updates and Kevin’s sincere interest in the college. He has told me, and I had privately noted in his years at the college, that he became alive, awake, a participant. I think the person he has become is a result of the years of his maturation at “our college.”