Friday, August 3, 2012

Grips and grins

Sister M. Rebecca Doan, CSJ, president,
with alumna Dorothy Lieb Von der Ahe '29.

IN PHOTOJOURNALISM, THERE IS A CATEGORY of photograph called the "Grip and Grin," in which two people with broad smiles are shaking hands or passing something between them -- like a large check.
Sr. Rebecca with Alumnae
Association president.

Looking for photographs for Doheny's 50th anniversary, we noticed that Sister Rebecca Doan's picture file holds a lot of grip 'n' grins.

And no wonder. Sister, who was named Mount president in the spring of 1961, took office for academic 1961-62 -- just in time for the terrible Bel Air Fire of November 6, 1961, and the launch of a new Associate of Arts program at the newly acquired Downtown Campus planned for academic 1962-63. In other words, she was president during a very costly time in Mount history.

Faced with rebuilding much of burned-out Chalon and preparing to take students into a handful of frankly decrepit Victorian mansions on Chester Place, Sister undertook an unprecedented fundraising campaign, launched in the spring of 1962. 
Sr. Rebecca with A.C.
Pearce of Sears Roebuck.

It was known as the SPACE Program, echoing the excitement of the new Space Age and Mercury astronauts, but standing for Scholastic and Physical Advancement Centered on Excellence. With a goal of an astonishing $10 million ($75 million today, adjusted for inflation), SPACE designated $5 million for scholarships and other academic priorities, and an equal amount for construction on both campuses.

Fifty years ago this summer, the money was starting to come in. The kickoff donation was $25,000 from the Vons Foundation, led by Mount alumna Dorothy Lieb Von der Ahe '29. The $25,000 check is the equivalent of almost $190,000 today.

Companies, individuals and campus organizations contributed, including the Alumnae Association, Mothers' Guild, Gulf Oil, Crown Zellerbach, and Sears Roebuck. At the end of the summer of 1962, Sister Rebecca had collected nearly half a million dollars with a long fundraising road ahead.

The archives don't have records of the final accounting of the SPACE Program, but some of the immediate results can be seen today: the Humanities Building at Chalon and the Classroom building at Doheny, both constructed in 1964 and 1965. By then, Sister Rebecca and the College had a lot to grin about.

Sr. Rebecca with unidentified donors. The architectural model in front of them  shows
the proposed Humanities Building and the existing Chalon Library.

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