Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2020

Original building, 1926

First faculty, Mercyhurst College and Seminary, 1927 (Mother Borgia Egan in second row, third from right)

Accustomed as they were to face dilemmas of insuperable proportions, the Sisters of Mercy called from the various branch houses Sisters who were skilled in handling paint and varnish brushes as well as in putting together furnishings that had come knocked-down, that they might lend a hand to establishing order out of the chaos that the strike had brought to the project. A crew of eager, courageous Nuns appeared on the scene ready to tackle any problem that was within the power of a woman. Fortunately, most of the critical problems were in this class. Floors had to be sanded, then varnished. This was the most acute need, as it was imperative that the varnish and other preparations used in finishing floors have time to dry before the building was used. In short order, with a little direction from the idle contractors, huge sanding machines manned by the Sisters were working steadily and effectively. Dormitory floors were one by one being treated to coats of varnish and made ready for occupancy. Day and night this valiant band that included every rank from the Mother Superior to the youngest novice persevered at the work until every room in the large dormitory was put in readiness for the incoming students.

There were no elevators in those days, nor were there men around to do the laborious work of carrying the furniture from the present students’ dining room which served as a receiving room to the flights above. As fast as one crew of Sisters put the furniture together, another group carried the heavy pieces to their destination. ... When the strike was finally settled, there remained the classrooms to be finished and only Friday and Saturday until noon to accomplish this. When at the blow of the whistle, Saturday at noon, the workers in obedience to Union orders laid down their tools, six classroom floors had been sanded and made ready for varnishing. At noon, the Sister workers took up where the men left off, spent the afternoon and far into the night applying the first coat of varnish that would preserve the wood sufficiently until additional coats could be applied. Wonderful to relate, in spite of predictions to the contrary, the doors of Mercyhurst swung wide on Tuesday, September 7, to receive its first class of students.

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