History of the St. Joseph College Alumnae Association

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Humble Beginnings, Sacred Bonds

Since Elizabeth Ann Seton opened the doors of St. Joseph Academy on July 31, 1809, thousands of young women and girls have gone forth from the Valley to take their places as mothers, religious, educators, physicians, nurses, attorneys, corporate executives, administrators and members of the Armed Forces.

For the first 90 years after the founding, many women associated with St. Joseph’s returned to the Valley to renew their friendships and visit their former home. The magnet that drew these graduates was an undeniable spirit, a sacred bond that formed between them and their school.

SJC Alumnae Pray in the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann SetonRecognizing this bond, Sister Augustine Park, the fifth successor to Mother Seton as directress of the Academy, thought that it was time to form an association of graduates and students of the Academy that would link them together in friendship for each other and for the school. Thus, on the afternoon of June 16, 1897, Sr. Augustine initiated the organization of the Alumnae Association with Mary Wade Kalbach, Class of 1871, Elizabeth Keenan White, Class of 1865, and M. Stella McBride, Class of 1868. Acting as co-founders, the three alumnae received the graduates of 1897 as charter members of the new Alumnae Association. A simple constitution was drawn up, and the objectives of the Association, which had been placed under the patronage of Mary Immaculate, were “to keep graduates and former students in close touch with their school and with each other.”

During the Association’s meeting on June 12, 1912, a suggestion was made by Clara Douglas Sheeran, class of 1894, to form “sewing guilds” in various cities and localities where many alumnae lived. The object of the “guilds” was to keep members in touch with each other and current on news from the Academy. The guild would contribute articles made by alumnae to the sisters for use in their hospitals, asylums and homes for the poor. These guilds became chapters and a chairperson became the “regent” for the chapter. The original eight “sewing guilds” begun in 1912-13, grew to 23 clubs spanning the United States.

International Scale

A movement that would grow to international proportions began with the New York Chapter of the Association through the efforts of Clara Douglas Sheeran, Class of 1894, and Clare I. Cogan, Class of 1909, to amalgamate the alumnae of Catholic colleges. The purpose of the federation was to work for the ideals of Catholic womanhood, the preservation of Catholic education, literature and social work, thus improving the educational and social conditions of society. The plans developed by the New York Chapter of the Alumnae Association were submitted to the American Cardinals, Gibbons in Baltimore, Farley in New York, and O’Connell in Boston, for their study and approval. The three cardinals gave their blessing, and the first meeting of the International Federation of Catholic Alumnae was held in New York City in November 1914. Representatives from more than 324 alumnae associations including some from Belgium, Great Britain and France attended. The first president of the IFCA was Clara Douglas Cogan, followed by Clara Douglas Sheeran. This organization, founded through the efforts of two St. Joseph graduates, is still active.

Constitution and By-Laws

As the St. Joseph’s Alumnae Association grew, it became apparent that a constitution and by-laws were necessary and that an application must be made to the Maryland State legislature to charter the organization. The documents were drawn up, and in 1920 the Alumnae Association became a business organization.

The Closing

St. Joseph College flourished for many decades. But in 1971, news that no St. Joseph College graduate ever dreamed possible was communicated in a letter from College President Sister Margaret Dougherty. A decision had been made to close the college in June 1973. The Annual Reunion in June 1971 drew almost 400 alumnae eager to learn what they could do to keep the college open. Unfortunately, the decision, based in large measure on the declining number of religious personnel available to staff the school, was irrevocable.

SJC Reunion Class PhotoToday

Thirty-nine years later, the SJCAA is still going strong, with more than 2,500 living alumnae and 800 active members of the Association who contribute annually to the Association and its philanthropic community outreach. In 2009 we celebrated two centuries of women learners in the Valley! Please plan to attend Reunion 2013, April 4-7, 2013 at the Wyndam Gettysburg Hotel, Gettysburg, PA. Get Reunion information >>

Your memories are a large part of what we have left of St. Joseph's! Take a few moments to share your memories or update us on your life by contacting us. If you are not already a member, please join us in preserving the memory of St. Joseph's.

Alumnae Presidents

1897 - 1906          Mary Wade Kalbach (D)
1907 - 1908          Kate Thecla Conley
1908 - 1909          Nellie O’Brien Seemen
1909 - 1913          Mary Wade Kalbach (D)
1913 - 1915          Mary Reilley
1916 - 1919          Clare I. Cogan
1920 - 1925          Nary Brennan Gable
1925 - 1928          Mary Doyle Morrison (D)
1929 - 1935          May O’Brien Hassell
1935 - 1939          Louise Sebold
1939 - 1941          Ann Fesenmeir Distler
1941 - 1946          Theo Brown Herrle
1946 - 1949          M. Carmel McKiever
1949 - 1952          Grace Gloninger Hogan
1952 - 1956          Josephine Doyle ’31 (D)
1956 - 1959          Mary Louise Manning ’34 (D)
1959 - 1962          Ruth Startt ’33 (D)
1962 - 1965          Cecilia McIntyre Ratke ’37 (D)
1965 - 1968          Barbara Ann Duffy ’49 (D)
1968 - 1970          Peggy Fitzgerald Arcidiacono ’45
1970 - 1974          Barbara Ann Duffy ’49 (D)
1974 - 1977          Eileen Rodgers Seaker ’45
1977 - 1979          Margaret M. Troxell ’32 (D)
1979 - 1981          Marie H. Anderson ’37
1981 - 1983          Frances Hewes Sedney ’48
1983 - 1985          Jane Strum Geipe ’47
1985 - 1989          Patricia Grant Chamberlain ’73
1989 - 1993          Sally Callahan Sullivan ’65
1993 - 1997          Susan Flanigan Conrad ’65
1997 – 1999         Patricia Grant Chamberlain ’73
1999 - 2001          Chrystie Damico Goles ’64
2002 - 2004          Mary Anne Kelly ’68
2005 - 2007          Ann Wyllie Mulroy ’67
2008 - 2010          Jacquie Nemetz Van Meter ’68
2010 - 2014           Maureen McPartland Smith ‘65

D = deceased.  

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