Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2020

As I write this, students once again fill the Mercyhurst campus. We’re all wearing masks, trying to stay socially distant, and holding lots of classes and meetings in a virtual format. But we’re back. Our faculty and staff have spent countless hours since the students left in March creating the systems that have allowed us to reopen and give students a real (if very different) Laker experience. It’s no coincidence that we chose the words “Resilience and Resolve” to describe the way we’ve faced the COVID-19 pandemic. They suggest the kind of perseverance that’s in our DNA and that we’ve displayed over and over during the past 94 years. In this special issue, we share just a few stories from our history that exemplify those qualities, starting with the determination of Mother Borgia Egan and her Pioneer Sisters to open Mercyhurst College. They’d already overcome a lot of obstacles when a workers’ strike threatened to prevent them from opening on time. Other stories reveal how Mercyhurst – and a few alumni – have coped with other challenges. And a few stories on the lighter side offer a bit of comic relief. I’ve discovered that Lakers show the same kind of resilience and resolve no matter what goal they’ve set for themselves – even a world record for the longest strudel! All these stories remind us that our Carpe Diem spirit enables us to push forward toward the goals we’ve set for ourselves, and to cope with challenges that threaten to derail our plans. One of my predecessors, Sister Carolyn Herrmann, once remarked: “Life on the frontier is unafraid of change. It welcomes it. It helps to bring it about. It adjusts quickly to it. We need imagination at once bold and disciplined, creative minds that will dare to try new ideas, minds able to discern both the fact of novelty and the focus of relevance.” A message from the President

Mother Borgia Egan

Borgia recalls opening amid worker strike

Condensed from Mother Borgia Egan’s account of the founding of Mercyhurst College.

When ground was broken in September 1924, the general thought was that eighteen months would find the buildings completed. An additional six months’ leeway was given to take care of any unforeseen delays. September 1926 was fixed as the date for opening the new school. ... In the spring of 1926, when the contract called for a finished building, it was evident that at least another six months would be necessary to make the structure ready for occupancy. Even when summer rolled around, there were serious doubts in the minds of experienced builders that the work could be completed in time for an early September opening. Additional men were called in to rush the work; day and night shifts were employed. Prospects seemed brighter that the opening day announced for September 7 would find all in readiness. But again the unexpected happened. Less than two weeks before the opening date when floors had yet to be sanded and finished, plumbing and lighting fixtures to be installed, labor trouble developed. ...

Sister Carolyn spoke those words in 1964, but she could just as easily have been talking about the Mercyhurst I know today.

Stay well — and Carpe Diem!

Michael T. Victor, J.D., LL.D. President, Mercyhurst University

On The Cover: The recognizable silhouette of Mercyhurst’s Old Main emerges in the blueprints created for the college in 1924 by F. Ferdinand Durang Architects, 1220 Locust St., Philadelphia.

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