Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2018

The biggest changes emerged from Blueprint I – the strategic plan developed by a faculty committee and adopted late in 1966. Among the changes: curriculum revisions, a new trimester system with an intersession, and creation of a College Senate, the frst shared governance at the school. Not everyone was on board yet, but Sister Carolyn had made it clear that change was coming, one way or another. She told faculty members, “I want you to know before you vote that we’re not going back to business as usual. If (this) is not approved, we’ll start again and develop something else.” Coeducation When talk of coeducation surfaced in the late 1960s, all angles were examined. Sister Carolyn said there were fnancial reasons, academic reasons and social reasons pushing Mercyhurst in that direction. In addition, she said, Mercyhurst had been drifting toward coeducation for a few years. Gannon and Mercyhurst had begun some cooperative programs. Gannon men came to Mercyhurst for art, music and elementary education classes not ofered at their school, and Mercyhurst women could take courses like business administration at Gannon. “Men were already coming up here and liked it here and wanted to stay. We had the foresight to change our charter to allow us to give degrees to men. We were drifting toward coeducation, but we weren’t giving them full status as students at Mercyhurst College. Then when coeducation was announced in 1969, we began actively recruiting men – but we already had 24 full-time male students here. Dan Burke graduated in 1969.”

things, we wouldn’t have been around (to go coed).” Long before the milestone vote in 1969 to admit male students, she had to tackle a number of challenges. She candidly assessed the situation she faced. “The curriculum was out of date and enrollment was falling when I came in 1961. We had only 200 students when I came in 1961. We weren’t attracting people. Everything was stagnant. There was no excitement, no forward look. And women were going to coed institutions.” The frst big step was forming a lay advisory board. “They enabled us to move the college from being a little closed-door institution where we did everything ourselves,” she said. “We were open to the outside world. We had to make the city more aware of us, and have public relations so people knew what we were doing up here. We had to have people interested in supporting us with money – tuition wouldn’t carry us alone.” She hired new faculty (including several men) and encouraged the entire faculty to review and update the curriculum. “I was looking toward making Mercyhurst College a frst-class academic institution, one of good intellectual caliber, very strong academically,” she explained. Those new faculty members “saw that the college was changing, that I had something in mind for this college, that we were moving, and they liked being part of it.” Middle States was due to evaluate Mercyhurst in 1965. Sister Carolyn wrote most of the self-study herself, and said the Middle States people who visited “caught the spirit. They said this college was so alive and on the edge of something and they felt the administration and I particularly were given a mandate for change.”


Sister Carolyn Herrmann at Mercyhurst Alumnae Banquet with, from left, Audrey Sitter Hirt ’49, Mary Catherine Sherwood Lieb ’42 and Erie Bishop Alfred Watson.

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