Sister Martha Counihan, a graduate of The College of New Rochelle, has a long line of alumnae family members, dating back to the College’s first years. She graduated from CNR as an art major. After joining the Ursulines, she continued studies for an M.A. in Art History and then taught art and humanities in secondary schools. Writing her M.A. thesis on the architectural history of Leland Castle, she was reminded by some Ursulines of her curiosity about the building dating from infancy. When her mother carried her twin daughters out the door of the Castle after a visit with her Ursuline aunt, baby Mary wailed and baby Martha gazed around, intrigued at the Gothic Revival architecture.
As a freshman at CNR, she served in Mexico City for a summer, teaching English in a poor barrio. Similar service has continued for many years, and she has returned to Mexico frequently over the years, ultimately serving in pastoral work in rural areas in Mexico as well as in Peru and Bolivia. Her artistic skills have been employed in illustrating various religious publications for the poor in Latin America. The Spanish she studied in college has been put to good use.
In 1976, Sr. Martha began serving as Archivist at CNR and soon after she received an M.S. in Library Science from Columbia University, specializing in archives and special collections. For several years she had the dual role as Archivist and Assistant Reference Librarian and enjoyed taking an active role in planning for the College's 75th and 100th anniversaries.
From the late 1980s to 2000, she served in pastoral work in Latin America and in local health care facilities. In 2000, Sr. Martha returned to CNR, happy to assist in planning the College's Centennial as Archivist and Special Collections Librarian. Several times a year, she creates exhibits in Gill Library on aspects of the College's history and its Library collections. She has served the Ursulines and the College in various leadership capacities over the years.
Her publications include a number about Leland Castle and aspects of the history of The College of New Rochelle and the Ursulines of the Eastern Province. Her current research on the Ursulines of Rome during World War II and their role in hiding Jewish women and children will hopefully be published soon.