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CNR Alumna and Archivist Reflects on 115 Year History of CNR

June 14, 2019
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Dorothy and Polly Brosmith at their 1911 Commencement

On a beautiful June day, members of the College Community gathered for a final Mass in Maura Ballroom. During the Mass, Sr. Martha Counihan, OSU SAS’67, College Archivist, reflected on the 115 years of CNR. Excerpts from those reflections are below.

It is the last Mass at the end of this last Alumnae/i College weekend, here on the campus of The College of New Rochelle. Mass has been offered here since July 1, 1897 when the Ursulines moved into the Castle. For most gathered here today, this place also evokes memories of endings that occurred here: last classes, comprehensives, papers due, exams, hoodings, commencements, moving out, good byes, the end of your studies at The College of New Rochelle. Each of you has memories of classes (and professors, perhaps some Ursulines) that inspired, challenged, or bored you. Your college years ended and you began something new.

Most of you here today have returned here as alums. This campus, as well as the campuses of the School of New Resources, provided a familiarity of place, people, spirit. Friendships forged with classmates, professors, staff members kept coming back pleasant.

“In my beginning is my end,” wrote T.S. Eliot in his poem Four Quartets.

As I tried to find a focus for this reflection, Eliot’s words came to me. Yes, this is a big ending. We do not know what will become of these buildings, this lovely green oasis in the growing city of New Rochelle. T.S. Eliot pondered: “In my end is my beginning.” As a community of scholars bound by years of kinship and affection, what beginning awaits after this day ends?

How did you come to CNR? Why did you stay? What was your beginning? Will there really be an end?

We found here an education, a curriculum, which brought together a variety of studies whose aim was to inform and educate the student in a broad array of courses: philosophy and religion, the sciences, language and literature, the arts. The studies have always been an important part of CNR, but other opportunities were available to stretch us intellectually and socially—extracurricular activities: drama, glee club, writing for publication in Tatler, Annales, Quarterly and Phoenix; service opportunities, religious activities, student government, sports.

 When I began thinking of this reflection a few weeks ago, I thought of some alumnae whom I have met who represent the 115 years of CNR’s story.

 Dorothy Brosmith and her sister, Polly, were members of the Class of 1911. Dot married, and Polly became an Ursuline teacher and missionary. Three of Dot’s daughters came to CNR on full scholarship in the depths of the Depression. Four generations of Dot’s family have graduated—just because her father knew Mother Irene and was glad to send his daughters to a new women’s college while he had had to drop out of school at 12, go to night school and, later, study law. His sons went to college—why not his daughters? Dorothy Brosmith was my grandmother.

Miriam Treffeisen ’37, a scholarship day student from New Rochelle High School, a “non-Catholic“ who had boundless energy,” engaged in numerous campus activities. She debated racism with her Tatler co-editor, Helene Pecheux (Mother Christopher). To earn money, she had a campus job in the college library in the Castle and moved the book collection from the Castle to the new Gill Library in 1938. Miriam became a librarian herself and had a long enduring friendship with Mother Dorothea Dunkerley, first Ursuline CNR President. “My life has been shaped by her,” she said. When Miriam died at 100, she left a large donation to Gill Library.

Evelyn Yenson ’67, a friend and classmate.  A Chinese student of the Ursulines, born and raised in apartheid era South Africa. Encouraged by CNR grad and teacher Mother Gregory Horgan to enroll at CNR, she became a history major. Dr. Sheedy’s famous “Great Cities” course inspired her to enroll in a city planning graduate degree. She later moved to Seattle and actively served in city planning and multiple civic and multicultural programs. Following “Gaji”, the older sister, all of her family have immigrated to the US and Canada.

Renee Blackwell SAS’95. A commuter student from New Rochelle, took a chance in enrolling in a college with many Caucasian girls. Renee was a Social Work major and a voice in Campus Ministry. Member of chapel choir, Ursuline Associate, a superb photographer and dancer. We are enjoying her beautiful voice today.

Brunilda Lopez SNR’16, GS’19.  Bronx-born Brunie came to work as a secretary to the Gill Library Dean. She took advantage of the tuition remission for employees and attained two degrees while working full-time. With Brunie’s encouragement, four members of her family have graduated. True grit—and brains!

On this Pentecost, God’s Spirit begins something new in each of us.

And where will you go from here? Your beginning here has not ended. You will go on.