Friday, January 12, 2018

Pick a date

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.