As St. Joseph’s College nears its 100th anniversary, which is quickly approaching in 2016, we decided to take a look at our past, toward the future and have some fun. So, we have established Movers and Shakers, an annual feature that will highlight various figures that have made, or are on track to make, a significant impact here or in the world.
Picking subjects for the first installment was easy. We selected the College’s first five presidents, beginning with Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy, M.A., J.D., to the current presidency of S. Elizabeth A. Hill, C.S.J., J.D.
More subjects will be included as we move forward, and everyone is a potential candidate as long as he or she has proven to be influential in either their business or here at the College. We hope you will enjoy the new feature while rekindling memories.
Each member will be categorized as a Founder, Architect or the Future, and selection is open to everyone, including administrators, faculty, students and especially you, our alumni.
First, under the Founders category we have Archbishop Molloy, who was the College’s first president when it opened its doors to 12 students in 1916. Msgr. William T. Dillon followed, and his dedication to academic excellence is a major reason why St. Joseph’s is academically strong as it is today.
Under Architects, we highlighted S. Vincent Thérèse Tuohy, C.S.J., Ph.D., and S. George Aquin O’Connor, C.S.J., Ph.D., both of whom played integral roles in furthering the College’s successes.
And finally we have S. Elizabeth, who could have easily fallen under either the Architects or the Future categories for her major contributions since she took office in 1997. Her keen intelligence, calm demeanor and quick wit have been at the forefront of the College’s successes and the force behind its enormous growth.
These are the first inductees (if you will). We look forward to hearing your feedback and thoughts on the new feature, as well as potential future subjects.It was a tumultuous time when the College opened in 1916. World War I had just begun two years earlier. Women did not have equal rights and were not expected to pursue higher education. Catholicism was also still not fully accepted in this region.
To found an institution of higher learning, the Sisters of St. Joseph needed the support of Bishop Charles E. McDonnell, then head of the Diocese of Brooklyn. And through his support, St. Joseph’s College for Women opened in 1916.
Thomas E. Molloy was also the first philosophy professor in 1916 — one of eight at SJC. By tradition, he has been considered the first president. He was a beloved man, and he became an auxiliary bishop to Bishop McDonnell in 1920, when the College graduated its first 14 students.
In the Footprints yearbook that year, Constance Doyle ’20, then president of the Undergraduate Association (now Student Government Association) wrote warmly about him and his undying dedication to the students.
“It is rather as a friend to both faculty and students that his real worth is felt,” she wrote. “His solicitude and interest for each member of the College are untiring. No one has ever sought his help or advice without receiving the kindest and most practical consideration. … He has been a generous, congenial, and sympathetic personality, a sterling character, an ideal teacher, and a loyal friend.”
He became the diocese’s third bishop, as well as the youngest ordinary in the world at age 36, with the passing of Bishop McDonnell in 1921. He ceased teaching at the College, but he always presided at the College’s commencement. And the diocese flourished under his direction.
According to a Catholic News article published at the time of his death, there were 584 priests and 819,217 practicing Catholics when Archbishop Molloy became head of the diocese. When he passed away at 71 in 1956, there were 1,455 priests serving and 1,497,598 practitioners — a population increase of 80 percent.While the diocese was growing exponentially under Archbishop Molloy, Msgr. William T. Dillon, J.D., took his place in 1921 as professor of philosophy, then dean, and guided development of the College long before his official appointment as president in 1945.
Commonly known as a charismatic and strong personality with great vision, Msgr. Dillon had much success during his presidency.
Strengthening academics was his first priority, and he initiated several strategies to attract highly intelligent faculty to teach at SJC.
Msgr. Dillon, who was president from 1945-1955, guided SJC to many major academic accomplishments, including instituting an honor system, a student-administered attendance committee and an appeals committee, as well as becoming one of the founders of the Delta Epsilon Sigma honor society. SJC is still a member today.
His honor system, where examinations were without proctors, lasted well into the 1970s, when the times and culture in the U.S. changed.
During his tenure, administrative offices were created, as well as the science laboratory, the Chapel, nursery school and a library.
He might have been president for only a decade, but his mark was first made when he began as professor of philosophy in 1921, through his time as academic dean from 1927-1945 to his final position as president.
Mostly, though, he will be remembered for his everlasting effect on SJC’s students.Msgr. Dillon strengthened academics, but when he left office in 1955, the College had limited money. And fundraising needed to be done.
Enter S. Vincent Thérèse Tuohy, C.S.J., Ph.D., a tall and dignified woman that can be best known for locating the necessary funds to help keep SJC open.
S. Vincent Thérèse was faced with an Alumnae Association that was exclusively women and mostly teachers and social workers. They had never been asked to donate money before.
The push became the foundation for the creation of a development office (now the Office of Institutional Advancement). Through the help of wonderful volunteers like Marjorie Davis Isban and several others, the office expanded outreach. It wasn’t an easy task.
First, the library, which was then located in Lorenzo Hall, was full. Space was needed, and S. Vincent Thérèse launched SJC’s first capital campaign to erect McEntegart Hall, a five-level structure that currently houses the Brooklyn Campus library, classrooms, cafeteria, bookstore, Academic Center, faculty and student lounges.
The alumnae donated most of the money, and McEntegart Hall opened in 1965 at 222 Clinton Avenue. It fit on a former softball field and into a campus landscape that already included the current Burns Hall (245 Clinton), Lorenzo Hall, the Convent (now Founders Hall) and the Molloy Theatre.
Still, her work was not done. The St. Joseph’s College Preschool was overcrowded. A burgeoning and necessary enterprise, it was relegated to a small space in Burns Hall.
At the time, preschools fell under the Board of Health’s watch, and the board consistently recommended to S. Vincent Thérèse the need for new premises, ultimately beginning the second capital campaign just a few months after McEntegart Hall opened. SJC alumni supported the campaign, which was run by S. Virginia Thérèse Callahan and the development office.
The current Dillon Child Study Center, named for Msgr. Dillon, who envisioned and created the first child study center, opened in 1968 and has continued to provide a play-based education for youngsters, a one-of-a-kind preschool in the area.
Capital projects highlighted S. Vincent Thérèse’s presidency, and she was noted for bringing businessmen and women onto the Board of Trustees in her final years. She also created the Office of Admissions, which in turn began recruitment efforts. In addition, the College’s graduates received a large number of national academic honors. SJC’s faculty also obtained numerous grants for advanced study and research under her guidance.
During her inauguration, then Brooklyn College President Harry D. Gideonse said, “The induction of S. Vincent Thérèse comes at a historic moment in not only the life of the College over which she will preside, but in the history of the communities in which the College functions.” And SJC continued to function smoothly during her tenure, which ended in 1969.
On March 17, 1977, S. Vincent Thérèse passed away at Good Samaritan Hospital, and S. George Aquin O’Connor, C.S.J., Ph.D., her successor as president, stated, “She represented to all alumni and friends of the College, the spirit of SJC.”The 1970s were a chaotic time in the world, and especially in the world of higher education. Vietnam changed culture and the way students thought. Riots ensued. Students protested the war and for academic change, sometimes in college presidents’ offices.
It was also chaotic for SJC and S. George Aquin O’Connor, C.S.J., Ph.D., who took office in 1969. The College had little money and faced a declining enrollment due to closing Catholic high schools. There was also a significant push from New York State to loosen restrictions on transfer credits. City University followed by initiating an open-admissions policy.
Radical times called for extreme changes, and S. George spearheaded an overhaul of the curriculum, which reduced the number of required credits from 76 to 56, and was more attractive for students to transfer and pursue many academic avenues.
Later, in 1970, SJC went co-educational, and in 1971, the College partnered with Long Island University to share a campus at the grounds of the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s in Brentwood. It was the first of its kind in New York State, where the two institutions shared facilities and expenses.
Just a short time later, St. Joseph’s received qualification for New York Institutional Aid (Bundy Aid) and it created the Division of General Studies (also known as the School for Adult and Professional Studies and now known as the School of Professional and Graduate Studies), a program geared for older, non-traditional students. The Brentwood Campus began offering a two-year, upper-division program.
The explosion of growth continued in 1978 when SJC purchased 25 acres of lakeside property in Patchogue, which ultimately became the Long Island Campus, and a four-year program was inaugurated.
“It was a matter of working on five major things from 1969-1979,” said S. Elizabeth A. Hill, C.S.J., J.D., who served as S. George’s executive assistant from 1980 until becoming president in 1997. “Then in the ’80s, the Long Island Campus took off like a rocket.
“It was the beginning of the good times. It was at that point we realized what we could do. Patchogue was a baby, about 400-500 students. It was something new and raw and untested.”
It was also something that grew exponentially during her tenure. S. George saw the campus go from just one building (now O’Connor Hall) to a budding landscape that included the Clare Rose Playhouse (constructed in 1985), Callahan Library (built in 1989) and the John A. Danzi Athletic Center (opened in 1997).
Enrollment also multiplied. When S. George retired in 1997, the College enrolled almost 4,000 students and that number has since stabilized with 3,906 undergraduates in the 2010-2011 academic year. SJC also began offering its first graduate program — the M.A. in Infant/Toddler Early Childhood Special Education — in 1995.
S. George will always be remembered as a teacher, a sociologist and a dear friend. She passed away in late 2007.S. Elizabeth describes S. George’s presidency as “transformational.” She left a legacy of guiding SJC to become strong financially and academically when she stepped down in 1997. Optimism surrounded both campuses with the inauguration of S. Elizabeth, who had stood by S. George for 17 of her 28 years as president.
“It was scary. She had been such a visionary,” S. Elizabeth said of following S. George. “She had such a huge impact on the College, bringing it from a fragile and endangered institution to a strong educational and academically viable college.
“It was a growing entity.”
Growth happened almost immediately. S. Elizabeth increased full-time faculty, focused on diversity initiatives and established the Council for the Arts to provide fine and performing arts programming to SJC and its surrounding communities.
Both campuses expanded. Just a year later, the College purchased 256 Clinton (St. Joseph’s Hall), a five-story building that houses the Office of Institutional Advancement, the Office of Alumni Relations, the Psychology Laboratory and several academic department offices, including history, speech, languages and sociology.
In 2001, SJC bought St. Angela Hall on Washington Avenue for classroom space and a place to hold meetings.
Sixty-eight miles east and a year later, the Long Island Campus opened the Business Technology Center, a 33,000-square-foot, $8 million state-of-the-art building that houses computer laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices. And the expansion has continued on both campuses with Brooklyn about to erect a gym for its athletic program and Long Island constructing a 24.8-acre athletic complex east of campus on Sunrise Highway.
Technology-wise, vast improvements have been made under S. Elizabeth’s guidance.
A high-speed fiber-optic network that connected all offices, instructional facilities, computer labs and libraries on both campuses was developed in 1998. A year later, an online library system was installed, and degrees began being offered online throughout the next decade.
“We’ve made incredible progress,” S. Elizabeth said. “[Former Chief Information Officer] Joe Spadaro did an incredible job doing the framework and under [current CIO] Ken McCollum we have made tremendous expansions in dealing with multicampus operations with how we can streamline and improve the usage of technology in the classroom.
“The minute you buy something, it’s obsolete. It’s going to be a major budget item forever.”
Social media has also made a tremendous impact on consistently advertising SJC and its resources.
“That is the big step, bringing the audience to the College that would not otherwise know about us,” S. Elizabeth said. “The Web has been a major tool.”
The Web has also helped promote SJC’s ever-growing list of degree offerings. Since the first graduate program began in 1995, the College has introduced nine more, each during S. Elizabeth’s tenure. Also, the ACES program for students for whom English was a second language was created. Global studies initiatives took off. The residential program in Brooklyn has developed slowly, yet steadily.
With all of her accomplishments, S. Elizabeth has still been able to assist in community endeavors, sitting on several boards, such as the Steering Committee of the Long Island Regional Advisory Council on Higher Education (LIRACHE) and on the College of Advisors for ERASE Racism. She is on the Board of Directors of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU), Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership (SNAP). She is also a member of the Board of Trustees of The Mary Louis Academy and Xaverian High School and the Board of Advisors for Saint Saviour High School.
Her work has been extraordinary, and she has never relented. Yet S. Elizabeth never lost sight of the College’s mission nor its focus on the liberal arts. It’s the foundation of what she stands for. And her vision for SJC’s future is just as solid as the ground it rests on.
“We still need to invite more faculty to join us and add appropriate faculty space,” she said. “Most of the administrative offices have grown. Those concerns will continue. We need to do a full assessment of the Brooklyn Campus and see if our space is being used as best as possible. We are also planning to do something about another building on the Long Island Campus. We need a student center.
“In the larger picture, it’s knowing how much we need and how much we have to do. We can pat one another on the back, but we have to keep going.”