Thursday, December 18, 2014

Goodbye to a Man of the Mount

Brother Kevin Donohue, OSJD '49
THE ARCHDIOCESE and all of Los Angeles are mourning the passing Dec. 3 of Sir Daniel Donohue, president of the Dan Murphy Foundation and with his late wife, Bernardine, among the great philanthropists in the city.

As The Tidings' online obituary notes, Sir Daniel passed away at the age of 95. In his long career at the foundation, millions of dollars were granted to hospitals, social programs, schools and building the L.A. cathedral.

The obituary mentions that Sir Daniel studied at Catholic University, but omits his undergraduate alma mater: Mount St. Mary's College! He was an alumnus of the Class of 1949.

He was Brother Kevin in those days, a member of the Hospitallers of St. John of God, and with another brother, Oliver McGivern, was training for a vocation in social work. They commuted each day from from the orphanage in Chatsworth where they lived and worked.

They're mentioned in the 1949 yearbook as one of the notable sights around campus. They have their own page in the yearbook, which carries the editors' impressions of the pair:
Mount St. Mary’s turns "co-ed" … two Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God … Social Welfare majors, social science and philosophy minors … active in work with boys … at Rancho San Antonio … members of SWES … dynamic on field trips … noticeable on campus … friendly smiles … flowing black habits … "Call us 'Brother,' please!" … enliven class discussions with varied experiences… familiar station wagon jogging on and off the hill… always cheerful … '49ers. 
Brother Kevin eventually left religious life, and in 1954 married Bernardine Murphy, daughter of Daniel Murphy, another great philanthropist with a recognizable name.

The names Donohue and Murphy grace many a building in Los Angeles, thanks to the generosity of this family. We're proud to call Sir Daniel one of our own.

Sidebar: Were Bros. Kevin and Oliver the first male Mount grads? Read the history here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Extra, extra! Read all about it

Younger siblings of Mount students help out with the SWES toy drive in 1954.
WE HAD OCCASION TO BROWSE the digitized editions of the long-running The View campus paper earlier this week and wondered what Mount journalists were writing about in back in the day. Pretty typical stuff, it turns out. In some ways, student life doesn't change a lot decade to decade.

Fifty and 60 years ago there were Christmas parties and fundraisers, event planning for the New Year and looking forward to Winter Break (or Christmas Vacation, as it was called). Here are some choice tidbits from yesteryear:

Sixty years ago - December 1954
  • Costume dance party is planned for Jan. 5 by the Gamma Sigma Pi sorority. The locale is "Hernando's Hideaway" at Sepulveda and Slauson boulevards in Westchester, and the theme is "Hard Times." Dance music by the Johnny Delfino Band.
  • The Student Councils of Mount St. Mary's, Immaculate Heart College and Marymount share a holiday dessert party on the Marymount Campus in Palos Verdes. 
  • The SWES (Social Work, Economics and Sociology) Club holds a toy drive for underprivileged children. The main event is the special delivery of toys by little brothers and sisters of the club members
  • The Parnassians literary club and Sodality of Mary Literature Committee hold an annual Christmas book sale. Bestselling titles are Little World of Don Camillo, The Second Conquest, Deliverance of Sister Cecilia, and Holding the Stirrup.
  • A front-page editorial urges student to be more respectful of each other in the New Year.
  • Two full pages are dedicated to student poetry about Christmas. Another page is given over to coverage of club Christmas parties. 
  • "Personalities of the Month" are the three Bondan sisters, senior Anne, junior  Kathy and frosh Jo.
  • Christmas Vacation begins on Friday, Dec. 17, 1954, at exactly 4;25 p.m. Classes resume on the dot at 8:30 a.m., Monday, Jan 3, 1955.
Fifty years ago - December 1964
  • An article discusses the slow start of the new national program VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America), the domestic version of the Peace Corps.
  • To help alleviate a citywide shortage, four Mount students sign on as substitute teachers in L.A. public schools, part of a pilot program to put student teachers in real classrooms. The article notes that they earn the same pay rates as credentialed substitutes.
  • Sister Dolores Cecile Schembri, CSJ, of the Music faculty will give a piano concert.
  • Volunteers are need for a trip to bring medical and other supplies to poor parish in Tijuana
  • An article provides in-depth details on Christmas planning in Doheny Hall (the Mansion, then a CSJ convent). The results of the annual CSJ "cookie-baking spree" will be shared with the neighborhood. Sister Mary Irene Flanagan of the Home Economics Department plans an all-white flocked Christmas tree with gold ornaments, while banisters of the Grand Staircase will be festooned with silver garlands and red ornaments. Midnight Mass will be held in the third-floor chapel. 
  • Popular book author and illustrator Leo Politi is the guest of honor at a Las Posadas celebration sponsored by the student members of the California Teachers Assn
  • Nationally renowned artist Sister Mary Corita Kent, IHM, is to give a presentation on her famous serigraphs.
  • No. 17 will finally available for classroom space in the spring semester following the death the previous June of Dr. Rufus von Klein Smid, former USC chancellor and a Chester Place resident for 30 years,
Old newspapers are fun to look at, and the Mount Archives has lots of them! Fortunately, they're all available online. Just head over to Happy browsing!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cue the swarming insects

Actor Theodore Bikel plays a devious dictator in the 1968 "Mission:
Impossible" episode "The Cardinal." He's standing on the proscenium
in front of "Zolnar Monastery," 
aka Mary Chapel. 
FANS OF 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE' notice the Mount in reruns all the time. One of our personal favorites is "The Cardinal," which first aired November 18, 1968, and was filmed at the College. Along with the Circle, Mary Chapel and other Chalon backdrops are some other campus props -- straight from the Biology Lab.

As we've noted before, Sister Gerald Leahy, CSJ, of the Biology faculty was an internationally renowned entomologist whose work with malaria-spreading mosquitoes took her all over the world. Since much of her research was performed at Mount St. Mary's, there were plenty of aedes aegypti caged in the science building.

The plot of "The Cardinal" involves infecting a bad guy with a high fever while smuggling a  cardinal out of the monastery where he is being held prisoner. To infect the bad guy, who is preparing to pose as the cardinal, the IM Force sends disease-carrying mosquitoes through a thin tube into his room.

According to Patrick J. White's The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier prop manager Bill Bates had everything he needed to create "Zolnar Monastery" but couldn't come up with the insects. One of Sister Gerald's CSJ colleagues came to the rescue, as White tells it:
 "One of the nuns told me, 'Oh, the Biology Department has lots of mosquitoes; they're doing some experiments.' She gave me a jarful," [said Bates]. On the set and about to shoot the scene requiring the mosquitoes, Bates got a frantic call from the college, urging him not to use the mosquitoes. "They'd given us the wrong bunch," Bates says, "and we had a jarful of malarial mosquitoes! She caught us just before we released them."
 That would have infected the bad guy, all right, and heaven knows who else.

We'd like to give a hat-tip to Gaile Krause of Campus Ministry and her husband, Chris, for tracking down the background on "The Cardinal" episode.  Oh, and if you'd like to read one of Sister Gerald's many published articles on mosquito breeding, click here for a copy of "Barriers to Hybridization between aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus (diptera: culicidae)" published in 1965.

For Sister Gerald's mosquitoes, that was more than 15 minutes of fame as a film extra.

Sister Gerald Leahy, CSJ, and her pet malarial mosquitoes in 1981.
(Mount St. Mary's College Archives.)

Postscript: We wonder if Bates recycled the nun's habit from "The Fugitive" episode filmed at Doheny: see the pictures on Facebook.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Honoring Therese

St. Therese of Lisieux, whose
feast day is Oct. 3, is usually
represented holding roses.
TODAY IS THE FEAST DAY of Therese of Lisieux, the saint known to millions as the Little Flower and one of the most popular saints of the 20th Century. Catholic Online describes her this way:
Therese died when she was 24, after having lived as cloistered Carmelite for less than ten years. She never went on missions, never founded a religious order, never performed great works. The only book of hers, published after her death, was an brief edited version of her journal called "Story of a Soul." ...  Within 28 years of her death, the public demand was so great that she was canonized.
Our shrine of St. Therese east of the Circle was first dedicated in 1946, built of local rock with a simple wood shelter by the groundskeepers. It was destroyed by fire in 1961 and rededicated in 1963 to the memory of a Mount student.

The original shrine to St. Therese,
at its dedication in 1946.
The Little Flower is immortalized in another way. Her tremendous fan base (as we'd call it today) was mirrored in the popularity of the name "Therese" among Catholics. Many Mount alumnae born in the early and middle 20th Century were named Therese or Terese (not to mention Teresa, after that other Carmelite mystic Teresa of Avila).

Among the Sisters on the faculty and staff of the Mount over the years, we count at least 13 Thereses -- Cecile Therese, Michele Therese, Catherine Therese, Miriam Therese, Eloise Therese, Daniel Therese, Therese Cecile, Therese, Marilyn Therese, Therese, Pauline Therese, David Therese, and Therese. (Surnames, in order, are: Beresford, Dumont, Knoop, Larkin, Mescall, Flynn, Pratt, Denham, Rudy, Donahue, Daries, McClean and Fassnacht.) That is quite a tribute!

St. Therese was canonized on May 17, 1925, just a few months before the Mount was founded. Perhaps that isn't just a coincidence. It's nice to think that the Mount has an important saint, one of just four women Doctors of the Church, remembering us in her prayers.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Encyclopedia of religious habits

Who were these nuns? Summer school students in the 1950s
at MSMC. (Mount Archives photo.)
MANY OF OUR OLD PICTURES carry no information on the back. The photo above shows up in a folder titled "Sisters in Traditional Habits" but doesn't identify the women. All we know is that they're not Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

Luckily, the University of Dayton has an important, wonderful (and not to mention cute) resource online that identifies the traditional habits of more than 100 religious orders of women. Instead of photographs like the one above, they're pictures of miniature, hand-sewn costumes on porcelain dolls measuring about seven inches tall.  The landing page at UD has information about how the collection was developed.

We're able to identify the habit above as that of the Daughters of Mary and Joseph in their distinctive embroidered teal-blue scapulars.

Starting back in the 1920s, many teaching orders sent their nuns to the Mount for summer school classes toward a degree or credential. Thanks, U. Dayton! Now we can at least figure out where they came from.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Getting involved in the Eighties

WORKERS ARE SETTING UP in the Circle for the Involvement Fair today, where students can find out more about the Mount's 30 clubs and organizations, from the Accounting Association to WISH (Women In Science and Health).
Associated Student Body logo
in the early 1980s.

The names may change but many activities are unchanging from one decade to the next. Others fall out of fashion, like the campus newspaper.

Here's a look at the involvement opportunities 30 years ago, in the 1984-1985 academic year, as listed in the Student Handbook:
  • COPUS - Coalition of Private University Students 
  • Amistad Hispanica (Spanish interest club)
  • Black Student Union
  • Business Student Advisory Council
  • Deltas (Doheny Service Organization)
  • Fleur de Lis Ball committee
  • Grad Ball committee
  • Health Advocates
  • International Students Organization
  • Kappa Delta Chi sorority
  • Los Angeles Collegiate Council
  • Model United Nations
  • Mount Chorus/Mount Singers
  • Mount Christian Fellowship
  • Phi Gamma Nu (business sorority)
  • Physical Therapy Club
  • Resident Assistants
  • Sigma Delta Pi (National Hispanic Society)
  • Ski Club
  • Student Nurses Association of California (SNAC)
  • Spring Sing committee
  • Student Orientation Service
  • UCLA Student Committee on the Arts
  • The View (newspaper)
  • Women's Leadership
  • Yearbook
Another way to get involved was the fitness parcourse in the west cloister.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Green Week

Mount freshmen sing a goofy song for a couple of upperclasswomen
circa 1960 during Green Week. They're wearing their official "dinks."
THE MOUNT IS WRAPPING UP Welcome Week, the annual series of events that orient incoming students to life at Chalon and Doheny. Besides the fun and games, Welcome Week comprises a set of rituals that have been going on for a long, long time. Some things don’t change, like introductions to residence life and information about various clubs and activities. And food, parties, and movies.

But some things do. Like… free cigarettes.

We'll get to those in a moment.

"Green Week," as it was known during the 1950s and 1960s, was organized during the previous year by the sophomore class. More than just information, Green Week provided a true initiation to Mount life. Here’s what the schedule looked like for the week of September 22, 1952:

  • Monday - Introduction to Student Government 
  • Tuesday - Lectures by seniors on "Student and Personal Responsibility" followed by a fashion show featuring the proper attire for classes, dances and around the dorm
  • Wednesday - Talks on grading systems, rules and regulations 
  • Thursday - "Frosh Frolics" in the afternoon followed by a movie and mixer evening with freshmen from Loyola University 

"Frosh Frolics," sometimes known as "Freshman Follies," was an annual variety show written, produced, and performed by the incoming freshmen. The purpose was to acquaint the boarders with the day hops, or as we would call them today, resident students and commuters.

A Lucky Strike "prom date" ad from 1952.
In 1952 the "Frolics" theme was "Video Varieties" featuring send-ups of the TV shows of the day (remember, this was the era of "I Love Lucy"). Also on the program were four students doing the Charleston for a "Roaring 20s" number, background music by a newly formed freshman jazz band, a dance performance by the Mount’s Hawaiian students, a skit called "Rocket MSMC" spoofing the harrowing drive up Bundy and Chalon, all interspersed with comedy commercials -- including Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Cigarettes seemed to abound during Green Week. Did the tobacco companies send free samples? Freshmen were required to provide cigarettes for all the faculty and upperclasswomen (juniors and seniors) who asked for them. In fact, smoking was quite popular in those days, with plenty of ashtrays in the student and faculty lounges.

For the non-smokers, freshmen handed out candy bars and lollipops.

Frosh "Mounties" also had to wear their official purple-and-gold "dinks" (beanies) and to perform silly songs on demand. Upperclasswomen could also demand spontaneous military-style marching drills in the Circle. It was a wacky week.

Mount "freshies" were included in other schools' activities. The all-male Loyola U. – the Mount’s “brother” school – hosted an annual freshmen-only picnic for incoming students at the Mount and other Catholic colleges, Immaculate Heart and Marymount.  For a weekend “mixer” at the Mount in late September – swimming party and sock hop for resident students – the Green Week planners invited members of more than sixty fraternities from among local colleges and universities.

Then as now, the fun eventually comes to an end. Classes started up in earnest the following Monday and everyone got down to the hard work of reading, papers and tests. And the sophomores started plotting next year’s Green Week.

If you’d like to know more about life at the Mount over the last 89 years, please browse our online collections of campus newspapers, yearbooks and photos.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Welcome, CSJ Chapter

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Los Angeles Province, are holding their annual Chapter for the next few days and many of them are coming home to the Chalon Campus where they were once students.

We gave a ride up the hill to Sister Dorothy Ann Lesher, CSJ, of Tucson, who entered religious life in 1955 and graduated from the Mount. As we were parking, she recalled fondly the many hours she spent hitting the books in Coe Library.

Here's our Twitter feed for Throwback Thursday welcoming the CSJs to Chalon with a cute picture from the Archives:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A day in the life of the digital archivist

Hot pink. Not our favorite color for a lit anthology.
PRESERVING A 75-YEAR-OLD pope cap is one thing, but ensuring access to a three-year-old PDF is quite another.

We'll take old silk and kid leather any day.

In the process of writing our next "From the Archives" piece for the Mount Magazine, we needed to grab PDFs of our literary anthologies from our digitized collections on the Internet Archive.

Here is an inside page from the 1937 poetry collection First the Blade. Obviously, this is not what it is supposed to look like. The colorful display is a good indication that the integrity of the PDF has been compromised. (Don't worry -- we would never get rid of the original. It's safe on a shelf.)

Keeping an eye on our digitized treasures is part of the job of the archivist. Fixing this issue will require some testing and the complicated prospect of locating a good copy of the PDF and re-uploading it to the Internet Archive.

Three years, or 75? Physical objects are much easier to preserve than digital. Three years in the digital world is a very long time, and we're never surprised by the number of CD-ROMs that come our way that can't be opened. On the other hand, we have 800-year-old parchment in Special Collections that looks good as new.

Postscript: This week our colleagues around the globe are contributing day-in-the-life photos and tweets to a shared website called "5 Days of Preservation." The variety of tasks and materials is amazing. Look for these and our own hot-pink contribution at

Friday, July 11, 2014

This just in

Our new artifact.
CLEARING OUT SOME CLOSETS in the Doheny Mansion basement, we came across a sort of papal reliquary, complete with a skullcap once worn by Pope Pius XI.

While he occupied the Chair of St. Peter (1922-1939), Pius XI would have been well aware of an oilman and his wife in Los Angeles, Edward L. and Estelle Doheny. Throughout their lives, the Dohenys were important donors to the Catholic Church both in Los Angeles and in Rome.

Pius XI in white zuchetto.
There's no provenance with the cap, which is part of a framed, handwritten apostolic blessing for the Dohenys, but it's safe to assume it was presented to them in gratitude for their generosity.

The cap is known as a zuchetto, meaning "little pumpkin" in Italian, the top half of which it slightly resembles. The papal version is made of white moiré, or watered silk, and lined with velvety white kid leather. Unlike a Jewish yarmulke, zuchettos have no religious significance and probably originated to keep clerics' heads warm in drafty churches and palaces.

There's more to archives than paper. Our zuchetto will enjoy pride of place alongside our 1938 MSMC gown and mortarboard, the 1867 U.S. flag, a 1950 MSMC nurse's uniform, Estelle Doheny's delicately embroidered bed coverlets, a lace tablecloth from Le Puy, Rosie's blob of cement, Sister Louise Bernstein's 1951 ASB gavel, an MSMC beer mug...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day at the Mount, 1970

Editorial cartoon published in The View on May 6, 1970.
 We've dug out this post from 2014 for a look at the launch of Earth Day 50 years ago.

THE FIRST EARTH DAY was April 22, 1970, and duly observed at the Mount. In the issue of the campus newspaper, The View, two weeks later, the editor looked back on events and its lasting impact on MSMC:
It's over with. It's been over with for two weeks now. Whatever Earth Day was or did, we can only look back now and observe in its wake the wonderful effects it has had on our campus. If you look really closely (although they may have been kicked off in corners by now) you can still see the results of the paint-in held the night before Earth Day—fallen or hanging posters and signs, which no one noticed in his or her efforts to "clean up our environment." But the issues go much deeper than just surface rubbish.
We were told about noise pollution. If this campus quieted down any more, it could apply for a license as a rest home. It has already been categorized as "a campus out of the nineteenth century" or "Brentwood's Berchtesgaden" by people who have visited it. Any day now we should be receiving in the mail our good student buttons from our fearless leader in the north who acted his way to fame. Aside from all this, I'm sure that noise pollution has been felt deeply here at the Mount and individual resolutions have been made to combat it. Just the other day I heard someone promise not to yell so loud in the dorm when calling someone down the hall to come to the phone. And all because of Earth Day!
One of the high points of the day was the afternoon teach-in. At this point in the program, a woman from Zero-Population Growth, Inc., told the campus community not to have children (or at least to limit its output to two each), and a teacher from Long Beach State College told the community how to do its limiting. I'm sure, as a result of this, we've all pledged our lives to population control, or at least pledged a donation to Zero-Population Growth, Inc., which I'm sure is anxious for all donations and/or new members.
But I mustn't waste time. If you've read this far, you're eagerly awaiting discussion of the San Francisco Mime Troupe which managed to give a performance "300 miles from campus." For the results of this, one needs only to listen to those people still going around striking their breasts and murmuring "My sacred hearing has been violated." As for what the mime troupe had to say, they said what they believed in their own individual way. Maybe it just wasn't what we wanted to hear.
Rather than skimming over any more of the day's events, suffice il to say that if this whole day was a true example of our environment here at the Mount, maybe it does need cleaning up — and you can use whatever definition of environment that comes to your mind. We're stuck in our environment. What are we going to do about it? If we aren't going to do a thing, maybe e. e. cummings wasn't so far off in his entreaty, "Listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go." 
If you would like to check out the digitized version of The View online, go to the Mount's online digital repository at the Internet Archive,

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pledging TAZ, 1964

A Tau Alpha Zeta pledge paddle from the MSMC College Archives.
Its owner, Jitterbug, is unknown, but we wonder if it once belonged to
TAZ alumna  Helen Connelly '47, the student body president
(1946-47) famous for her awesome jitterbugging.
STUDENTS PLEDGING TAU ALPHA ZETA sorority in the spring semester of the 1963-64 academic year were in for a challenge.

TAZ, as it was known, was one of the oldest and largest sororities at MSMC, predating even the Chalon Campus opening in 1930. It was active for more than 40 years. Members were known for their look-alike sheath dresses.

We found a document in the sorority files from February, 1964, letting the pledges know what to do and how to behave.  Some of the requirements are pretty old school -- smoking rules, housedresses and bermuda shorts -- and others would probably be considered hazing today: paddles and Hell Night.


  • Memorize sorority songs.
  • Know Greek alphabet perfectly.
  • Make a notebook for weekly signatures of each active [member], with separate section for merits, demerits, and activity points; keep always with you.
  • Make a green painted paddle with TAZ inscribed in gold, and pledge name on the reverse side; keep always with you.
  • Make an alphabetical address book of active members with pledges in back.
  • Give actives a seven-course dinner during pledgeship.
  • Call actives "Miss".
  • Be courteous to actives at all times.
  • Stand when actives enter the room.
  • Eat lunch with your Big Sister once a week (find out when it's convenient for her).
  • Attend all meetings
  • Wear old housedresses to meetings.
  • Wear no make-up to meetings.
  • Wear pledge pin over heart at all times.
  • Wear no other pin but pledge pin.
  • Answer to pledge name and correct members on this matter.
  • Meet pledge mistress at the appointed times.
  • Maintain at least a "C" average.
  • Pledge pins must not be worn with bermudas, etc., formals, or on pockets.
  • No smoking in presence of actives unless you have their permission.
  • Have your formal picture taken before Hell Night.
  • Enter Spring Sing as the United TAZ pledge class.
  • Attend the TAZ charity.
  • Write a letter to Miss Pat Kirk.
We're sure TAZ alumna Pat Kirk '63 appreciated getting the letters. She had just joined the newly created Peace Corps and was stationed in Liberia.

TAZ members in spring of 1963. A year later they'd receive the
homage of the 1964 pledge class.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A familiar face

The original St. Joseph's shrine was on the western
edge of the Chalon Campus where the library is now.
THE COLLEGE IS NAMED for St. Mary, the Mother of God, but we have a second beloved patron in her husband and the Lord's foster father, St. Joseph. And while we usually refer to our founding Sisters in shorthand as "the CSJs," we shouldn't overlook the patronage of this great saint of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

Here are two small snapshots from the College Archives. The first shows the original shrine at Chalon, taken around the time it was christened St. Joseph's Park in the spring of 1937.

According to Sister Germaine's history 1925-1975, St. Joseph Park,
with its attractive wayside shrine, became the new devotional corner. This shrine. one of Mother Margaret Mary [Brady's] long-desired projects, was planted with a selection of rare trees and flowers, to make it valuable as a botanical garden also.
Funding for the shrine came from the Alumnae Association and other sources. The shelter was designed by Mother Margaret Mary, then president, with help from the Mount gardeners, and constructed of wood and locally quarried stone. It occupied an open space south of the College Building (now known as Brady Hall), where it stood for nearly a decade until it had to be moved to make way for the new library in 1946-1947.

Since then, St. Joseph's statue has occupied its honored spot in the Colonnade along the eastern edge of the Circle, a reminder that our patron still keeps his silent, loving vigil over the Mount community.

A student in bobby socks and saddle shoes pauses at St. Joseph's
shrine for a quick prayer between classes. Picture is dated 1961.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Virtual library of virtual books

A leaf of a French prayerbook from the 1400s. Gold embellishes a floral
pattern called white vine, a common feature of medieval illumination. 
IN ANOTHER BLOG we paid tribute to Stanley S. Slotkin, a Los Angeles businessman who traveled around the world collecting historic treasures and sharing them, especially with colleges and universities. The Mount was among his beneficiaries.

The View newspaper of May 10, 1960, makes note of Slotkin's generosity to the Mount,  inviting students to visit what was then called the Treasure Room of the Coe Library to see his medieval manuscripts. They now reside in the Spearman Room of the Chalon Campus library, which houses MSMC Archives & Special Collections.

In his travels, Slotkin bought up centuries-old Bibles, Qur'ans, prayer books and antiphonaries in Europe and the Middle East. His idea was to make these cultural treasures accessible to ordinary folks, not just rare-book dealers and collectors. So he had the books disbound and the pages removed, distributing them in sets of a few dozen leaves to various institutions. But except for occasional displays or exhibits, most libraries just kept them safely stored in a drawer, as we've done at the Mount.

The Digital Age, however, offers an interesting possibility. If those of us with leaves of books will share information about our holdings, the original books can be recreated virtually online by linking the scanned images. For example, if CSUN has pages 149 and 150 and the Mount 147 and 148 of a 16th Century Bible, we now have four consecutive pages. Add in scores of institutions and pages, and you could, in theory anyway, see the original books come to digital life.

At the urging of a visiting scholar at our neighbor the Getty Center, we have been writing up descriptions of our little collection and putting up some of the digitized manuscripts and printed pages online. Unfortunately, we don't have information about publication. Slotkin typically included reproductions of the title pages with the donated book leaves, but our collection either lacked them, or they were lost along the way. But a real expert can size up physical elements like script, typography, paper, parchment, ink, illumination and dimensions and match them with other holdings by linking the descriptive information (known as metadata) online.

If you want to view some of the Mount's holdings in this digital jigsaw puzzle, visit our new Omeka website at We'll be adding more images in the next few weeks so visit early and often. For some interesting background about medieval prayer books, which make up much of the Mount's collection, see the Getty's wonderful resources at "The Medieval Bestseller: Illuminated Books of Hours."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A statue, and a young life

Mr. & Mrs. Conrad Stewart (Mary Therese) with MSMC President
Sister Rebecca Doan, CSJ, at the dedication of the new statue May 27, 1963.
LIKE A CHILLY WIND, a sad bit of MSMC history blew through today. And it has a strange connection to contemporary culture.

Let's go back 50 years or so to the early 1960s.

Freshman Rosalind Stewart, front
row center, in the 1960 yearbook.
Rosalind Stewart entered Mount St. Mary's College in the fall of 1959 intending to study nursing. She appears in the 1960 yearbook in her freshman group picture, a pretty, smiling girl with a dark-haired updo. She wasn't long at MSMC; sometime in the next year or two she left the Mount to become a flight attendant, or "stewardess" as they were called then. Air travel was still the domain of the wealthy, and jobs on passenger flights were considered the height of glamor and adventure for women.

The next mention we have of Rosalind in the archives is this sad note from the front page of the college newspaper on March 13, 1962:
Notice of Rosalind's death
in the Mount newspaper
The View staff joins with the student body in offering its sympathy to the family of Rosalind Stewart, former Mount student ('63) who was killed in a plane crash on March 1. … At the time of the plane crash she was completing her training as a stewardess, and would have been assigned to a regular flight.
The crash of American Airlines Flight 1 from New York to Los Angeles was, at the time, the worst air accident in U.S. history. A defect in the rudder control system put the Boeing 707 into a steep dive shortly after takeoff. It crashed in the marshes of Jamaica Bay and exploded into a ball of fire. Eighty-seven passengers and eight crew members were killed, including stewardess trainee Rosalind Stewart.

Although Rosalind was at the Mount only a short time, there is an enduring memorial to her just a few steps east of the Circle at Chalon. On May 27, 1963 – Mary's Day – a new statue of St. Thérèse of Lisieux was dedicated to her memory, donated by the Stewart family to replace the statue that had been destroyed in the Bel Air fire in November 1961, just a few months before Rosalind died.

And strangely, the plane crash endures in another kind of memorial. Not long ago an episode of the popular TV series "Mad Men" focused on the crash in "Flight 1." It explores the reaction at the Sterling Cooper agency to this national tragedy.

One look at the shrine of St. Thérèse is all you need, and you're there – a young life cut short, a national disaster, a grieving family. Next time you're near the Circle, visit St. Thérèse, take a look at the inscription and remember Rosalind.
In memory of Rosalind Stewart, Class of 1963, who, like St. Thérèse, loved the beauty of God's creation as revealed in flowers, trees and sky.  
Crash scene of Flight 1, March 1, 1962. Rosalind Stewart '63 was one of four
flight attendants who were killed in the disaster in Jamaica Bay, N.Y.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Countess Doheny's Lace Collection

A view of the Doheny Mansion rendered in needle lace. The fine mesh
in the background is the 
réseau of  point de Venise à réseau.
AS WE'VE NOTED BEFORE, lace making is a recurring theme for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, and, by extension for the last 89 years, Mount St. Mary's College.

Detail shows various lace patterns. 
We've had a chance recently to explore the background of a famous lace collection with another Mount connection, the lace of Countess Estelle Doheny. This originally comprised a set of sixteen place mats with a matching table runner, monogrammed CED. Created in the 1930s, these gossamer rectangles depicted four different views of the Doheny Mansion, rendered in a type of lace called point de Venise à réseau, a particularly delicate form of needle lace (réseau translates "netted" or "meshed"). Guests of the Dohenys enjoying dinner in the mansion were treated to a tablescape of incomparable richness and Victorian opulence.

Back in September, we received a query from Nancy Milks-Evans of Lace Legacy, Etc., a Covington, Wash.-based educator and expert in rare and antique laces.  She had read about the Doheny lace and wondered whether it had been auctioned along with Countess Doheny's rare book collection back in the late 1980s. Or did the Mount still have it?

The Doheny Docents do, in fact, have some of the lace safely stored away in No. 8 and bring it out on occasion for tours. (Much of the collection is evidently missing, whereabouts unknown.)

Nancy then presented us with a minor mystery of the kind we love. Back in 1975, Carolyn S. Murray of the Los Angeles Times produced a handful of articles about Chester Place, one of which was a short sidebar about the Doheny Lace collection. Ms. Murray quoted Gwen Krakeur, the widow of Martin Krakeur, owner of Beverly Hills' famed linen store Grande Maison de Blanc and the designer of the lace.

Mrs. Krakeur recalled that the lace had been made on the island of Burano, Italy. This couldn't be right, Nancy suggested, because this special kind of lace wasn't made there – the best point de Venise à réseau came from Brussels. Did we have any documentation?

Nothing like sales receipts or anything conclusive like that – but we did find something nearly as good: details in the master's thesis of Sister Mary Irene Flanagan, CSJ.

Sister Irene, a longtime Home Economics professor who earned her degree at San Jose State College in 1967, documented the architecture, furniture and contents of the Doheny Mansion. In the section about the dining room is a picture and her description of one of the place mats:
Designed in 1931 by Mr. Martin Krakeur of the Grande Maison de Blanc, the place mat represents one of four patterns that might well be termed the most beautiful lace sets in the world. ... This is an example of the most filmy and delicate of all point lace.
Sister Irene describes how the lace took more than three years to complete by handful of artisans. And here she solves the mystery:
The designs were minutely executed on graph paper and approved before being sent to Brussels. Here the finest lace makers took on the work of point de Venise à réseau.
And, wouldn't you know, Sister Irene attributes this information to none other than Gwen Krakeur, whom she interviewed  at 8 Chester Place on November 15, 1966.

Memories are tricky, and archives will often reveal bits of conflicting information, even from the same source. We seldom have scholarly research on hand to solve a mystery but this time we lucked out, and in the process have added a footnote to the Mount's story of lace.

The collection originally comprised four each of these four  designs
of the Doheny Mansion. Remaining pieces are shown on Docent tours.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Home Economics

Home economics senior Beverly McClure Dougherty '60
with an extravagantly frosted cake in Casa Margarita.
SOME OF US ARE OLD ENOUGH to have taken state-required home economics classes in middle school, a semester each of cooking and sewing. (Boys took "shop" – wood, metal, electrical, auto.) Among the army of local Home Ec teachers were many Mount alumnae.

The Department of Home Economics was one of the Mount's first, founded in 1932 by Sister Marguerite Ellard, CSJ.  It was a popular major from the 1940s well into the 1970s. Graduates were superbly qualified for two distinctive career tracks: credentialed Home Ec Teacher or Christian Wife and Mother. Yes, in those days the vocation of homemaker was considered every bit as important, if not more important, than teacher, nurse, or social worker.

We've been exploring our fascinating Home Ec archives the past couple of weeks, looking through decades of slides from the annual fashion show, where students showed off their smartly tailored dresses, suits and formal gowns. There are newspaper clippings, handwritten lecture notes from Pegi Parkinson '53 and records from the California Home Economics Association, in which the Mount frequently held leadership positions.

Far from earning a degree in housework, students were prepared to tackle societal issues affecting families and communities. Health and nutrition were key components as well: Sister Marguerite had been a member of the Mount's landmark cancer research department in the early 1950s, studying the effects of vitamins and diet on tumor growth. She no doubt brought her expertise to the Home Ec program, anticipating by decades the current interest in healthy eating.

The archives are comprehensive and well-organized, thanks to Sister Paulanne Munch, CSJ '55, whom we chatted with recently at Carondelet Center. Sister chaired Home Ec in the 1970s and 1980s assembled the collection when the department was folded into the Business Administration department the 1980s.  By then it encompassed fashion merchandising and public health.

For a complete listing of Home Economics holdings in the College Archives, go to our online archives catalog and click on the "anonymous user" link in the public catalog. Type in Home Economics (without quotes) in the search box. For photos, yearbooks and newspapers, visit our digital picture archives and search on "Home Economics" (with quotes.) Students and alumnae are welcome to visit the College Archives at Chalon and explore the physical collection firsthand.