Friday, January 12, 2018

Pick a date... or a name

Inaugural newsletter welcomes the "pioneer
class" of  Weekend College, Sept. 12, 1992.
OUR WONDERFULLY SUCCESSFUL Weekend College program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017.

No, wait -- maybe 2017 was the 37th anniversary.

Well, if you want to get technical, it was really the 61st.  Or maybe even the 79th.

Which one is right?

The choice of start dates for the "weekend program" regularly causes a certain amount of confusion, because Mount Saint Mary's University (and before that, College) has been offering classes on weekend days and weekday evenings for a very long time. In fact, every time we delve into the topic, we end up pushing back the date another decade or two.

The question came up again today so we dug in and rolled back the clock again. The solution lies in knowing that although the program name has changed and its scope expanded, the weekend offerings definitely began not long after the Mount's founding in 1925.

The graduate school catalog from 1960 shows
Saturday and late afternoon classes.
The classes on Saturdays, in the spirit of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, have always been about recognizing a need and filling it. This began as a way to accommodate a particular category of working students: schoolteachers. Nuns teaching in Catholic schools and laywomen in public schools could attend only on Saturdays, late afternoons and early evenings, so the Mount adjusted certain curricula to fit their schedules.

The first Saturday class we can find is the fall of 1938, a philosophy class taught by Father Patrick J. Dignan (who went on to teach  at the Mount for decades). In the next several years, Saturday classes were added as a need arose.

The weekend program starts to look more like today's Weekend College in the fall of 1957.  As explained by our wonderful historian of MSMU's first 50 years, Sister Mary Germaine McNeil, CSJ, of blessed memory,
The purpose of this conveniently located center at No. 2 Chester Place ... was to make adult-education classes more available for in-service teachers and other religious and secular students in the metropolitan areas at a distance from the main [Chalon] campus. Courses in education, psychology, and theology were offered in the late afternoon and on Saturday. The adult-education program registered 157 students during the first year.
 Under the direction of Sister Regina Clare Salazar, CSJ, courses in English, history, math, and Spanish soon followed. Keep in mind that this promising start occurred a full five years before the Mount opened its Doheny Campus in September 1962. Being virtually invisible, however, the adult-education program continued throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with hardly a glance by the rest of the Mount.

But in 1980 the next step toward a formal program emerged.

Announcement of new program in November 1979.
"Spend your evenings earning a degree or enjoying enrichment courses at MSMC," read the front page announcement in The View in November 1979. The following spring semester new students were able to enroll in degree-granting programs ranging from associate to graduate school.

By 1980, a different need had been perceived by the CSJ administrators. The number of already-working teachers requiring bachelor's degrees and credentials had dwindled, but a recession economy was sending new types of students back into the classroom.

Evening College was the program for working adults begun in 1980.

"This program is aimed at three groups," said Sister Paulette Gladis, CSJ, Evening College's new director. "Re-entry students [women returning to the workforce after raising families], students being retrained in a certain area of study [usually after being laid off from a job], and students interested simply in enriching themselves."

Sr. Paulette Gladis, CSJ,
first head of Evening College.
Evening College at first was only for women, who attended classes one evening a week at one or the other campus. It continued in this form for more than a decade until the fall of 1992, which is when Weekend College finally took its current shape.

The inaugural class was 94 women earning a baccalaureate degree in business or liberal arts. Classes were held every two or three weekends on the Chalon Campus.

Evening College, meanwhile, continued to meet at Doheny and evolved into a new entity called the Evening/Weekend Division.  Associate degrees and certificates were offered to women in various healthcare-related fields.

By 1996 Weekend College had absorbed the Evening division, opened admissions to men and conferred graduate degrees. In 2006 the rapidly expanding program moved to the Doheny Campus.

So what anniversary date sounds most appealing? Personally, we like  Father Dignan's philosophy class way back in 1938. That means in Fall 2018 we can celebrate 80 years of meeting the educational needs of working adults, always responding to change but holding true to the Mount's essential mission. And by the way, the name changed again. As of 2014, it's Weekend and Evening College, and we're not sure how long that one will last.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A new treasure

This handwritten document begins with a decorated rendering of
the name of Pope Alexander VI.  
WE ARE PUTTING ON OUR RARE BOOKS HAT to thank the librarians of Western State College of Law in San Diego for their donation of a special book to the MSMU Libraries. Its unpromising title is The earliest diplomatic Documents on America, the papal bulls of 1493 and the treaty of Tordesillas reproduced and translated, but it nevertheless sheds light on an extraordinary chapter in the history of the Americas.

Alexander VI was one of the
so-called Borgia or Borja popes.
These famous, or infamous, proclamations (known as "bulls") by Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) handed Spain political "ownership" of all the newly found countries in the Western Hemisphere, from North Pole to South Pole and everything in between.

Coming just a year after Columbus' voyage to the Americas, the bulls by this Spanish-born pope have been condemned by many modern scholars for spreading colonialism, subjugating native peoples and even condoning slavery. But regardless of their tragic outcome, the documents are an important part of the legal legacy of the New World, affecting global diplomacy and maritime law for centuries.

Even today, papal proclamations
are made in Latin.
Separate from the contents, the book is interesting in its own right. The early to middle 20th Century saw a number of high-end reproductions of famous books and documents aimed in limited press runs at  discerning book collectors.

Nowadays we take such things as photocopying and scanning for granted, but the technology for accurate reproduction of a printed or handwritten page was still in its infancy in the 1920s.  Only 172 copies of this book were printed in Berlin in 1927 (translated and published by Paul Gottschalk).

Besides the documents, the book also has lots of amazing maps along with explanatory text.

We have a few other important facsimiles here in Archives and Special Collections at Chalon. In the 1950s, Countess Estelle Doheny gave to the Mount library the first-ever reproductions of the Book of Kells, the Lindisfarne Gospels (both treasured manuscripts from ancient Ireland) and the Gutenberg Bible.

A famous book collector herself, Mrs. Doheny recognized that these works were part of the fabric of Western Civilization and therefore worthy of inclusion in a good liberal arts library.  In the same vein, we are now proud to add Alexander VI's landmark documents to the collection.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Behind the modern exterior

Seniors bide their time on the Porch of Coe Library before the start
of Commencement exercises at Chalon, undated photo from 1950s.
DOWN IN THE BASEMENT OF COE LIBRARY is one of the nicest spaces on the Chalon Campus, in our opinion. We refer to it as the Porch -- which we'll explain in a minute -- but for students it's simply a quiet space to study. Silence is enforced by signs and an occasional warning shush from a librarian. When you think about it, how many places can you find around here where people aren't chatting, talking on the phone, or watching a video?

The Porch today is a quiet study area.
One wall of the long room is windows looking out onto ocean views, hillside landscapes and treetops. On the wall opposite are children's literature, music and art books giving the space a warm library ambiance. On this rainy morning, several students are alone at their tables, poring over their books and assignments. It's so quiet you could hear a mouse sneeze, if we had any mice (which we are pretty sure we don't).

You'd never know that you're looking at what was once a ballroom designed for elegant parties. It was our own founder, Mother Margaret Mary Brady, CSJ, who suggested the inclusion of a "social hall" when the plans for the new Charles Willard Coe Memorial Library were drawn up in 1945.

Perhaps Mother Margaret Mary knew that her students' boyfriends and fiancés would soon be returning home from World War II and would be ready to start living a normal life again. In those days, too, Loyola University (decades before Marymount came along) was considered the Mount's "brother school," and there were regular mixers and galas at local hotel ballrooms and social clubs that included dancing to the fabulous Big Band music of the 1940s.

Mount girls at the Senior Prom with their boyfriends,
most in uniform, during the closing days of World War II.
This 1945 event was held at a local social club.
As a result of Mother's suggestion, the bottom floor of Coe Library was designed with its own, separate entrance. Guests entered via an open "colonnade" with an ocean view that extended the length of the library building. French doors opened onto the 160-foot-long ballroom. The dance floor was made of dense, highly polished maplewood, the same material used for basketball courts. Other features included a small room for checking coats and wraps, a small kitchen and an orchestra pit for live music.

Sadly, the only "souvenir" of that gracious space is the Porch study area of today. When the library was renovated in 1995 the colonnade was enclosed and carpeted. The book stacks stop at the load-bearing wall because the architecture of the porch wasn't strong enough to support them.

Mother Margaret Mary Brady
But not surprisingly, a dedicated ballroom didn't survive very long anyway. A fast-growing college, the Mount needed that space over the ensuing years for many other purposes -- as a dormitory for CSJ Sisters and later for students; storage, classrooms, offices, library books. A full-fledged social hall was too much of a luxury by the time the 1950s rolled around.

But if you use your imagination, there is still the ocean view. Sit at one of the last two tables on the south end of the Porch on a clear day and you can see the Pacific Ocean sparkling beyond Santa Monica. Imagine yourself all dressed up in a formal or tuxedo, ready to show off your waltz or fox trot on the gleaming maple floor.