Marywood College opened on September 8, 1915, with a class of thirty-four women, one of whom was Sister St. Mary Orr, who later became its eighth president. In 1924, the Liberal Arts building was opened. In 1928, O’Reilly Hall (now Regina Hall), an on-campus residence for students, was dedicated. In 1937, a major enhancement of the Liberal Arts Rotunda was completed.

Liberal Arts Center
Picture courtesy of Dr. Peter Spader

The superiors of the Congregation of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, served as the presidents of the College for almost three decades. Mother M. Germaine O’Neil was the first president. The actual administration of the College, however, was the responsibility of Sister M. Immaculata Gillespie, who served as Dean from 1915 to 1943. Her influence on the College’s growth and development was remarkable. The vast changes she witnessed during her lifetime, 1863 – 1947, were astounding. She responded with an openness to the challenges of life that gave Marywood its dynamism and confidence throughout many difficult years. Under her leadership, Marywood acquired degree granting powers in 1917, and these were expanded in 1922 to the awarding of the Master of Arts degree. In 1921, the College became one of the charter members of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Mother Germaine also initiated the global dimension at Marywood, welcoming the College’s first international students in 1917. For 28 years, she was a stabilizing and energizing force.

Sister M. Sylvia Morgan was the first president of Marywood College whose position was not the result of her being the superior of the IHM Congregation. Her administration and that of her successor, Sister M. Eugenia Kealey, were times of great expansion and growth. During this period, four new buildings were constructed, enrollment almost tripled, accreditations in various professional organizations were achieved, and new academic programs were developed including an expanded graduate division. This growth and diversification occasioned a marked increase in the number of lay faculty members, who joined with the Sister faculty in advancing the mission of the College.

Sister St. Mary Orr led the College through the troubled sixties. In 1968, summarizing the College’s approach to the decade’s dilemmas, she wrote,

Caught in the tide of a nation tossed by cross-currents of political and social issues, student unrest, racial crises and blurred identities, we were anchored in faith, and intent upon our mission of nurturing personhood and intellectual discovery.

This was, however, another decade of rapid growth and diversification. The Graduate School of Social Work was established in 1967, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences became a separate entity in 1968. Five new buildings were dedicated between 1964 and 1968, including the Learning Resources Center, an addition that greatly enhanced the educational capacities of the College.

Sister M. Coleman Nee succeeded Sister St. Mary as president in 1970. The first year of her administration was marked with a dramatic crisis, the destruction by fire of the IHM Motherhouse, the building that housed the College in its first years.

The subsequent years of Sister Coleman’s administration were more tranquil but no less challenging. Efforts to serve new student populations led to the opening of the Gillet School, a school for undergraduate male students and for adult and continuing education students. During her administration, Marywood responded to the direction set by the Second Vatican Council, intensifying traditional commitment to action on behalf of justice. While fostering students’ personal development of values of justice and peace, the students would become competent and compassionate professionals, well equipped to address the challenges of the global society. Assuring excellent professional preparation led to the building of the Visual Arts Center and the expansion of the Human Services Center (now William G. McGowan Center for Graduate and Professional Studies) and the Health and Physical Education Center.

As Sister Mary Reap became the tenth president in 1988, she assumed the leadership of a vibrant institution. She continued to provide leadership rich in the traditions of service, academic excellence, and responsiveness to the signs of the times. During her tenure, a number of significant events have helped to shape Marywood’s future. In 1989, when campus housing was offered to all full-time students, it was seen as a genuine declaration of coeducation at Marywood. In 1997, university status was achieved. Other significant events include academic restructuring of the University into four mixed-level, discipline-based colleges, a dramatic expansion of master’s education and the creation of the doctoral program, opening the School of Continuing Education, opening the Fricchione Day Care Center and the Tony Domiano Early Childhood Center, expansion of the Science Center (Center for Natural and Health Sciences), expansion of the Human Services Center (William G. McGowan Center for Graduate and Professional Studies), construction of the Insalaco Center for Studio Arts, construction of the O’Neill Center for Healthy Families, construction of the Robert J. Mellow Center for Athletics and Wellness, and acquisition and renovation of Loughran Hall for University use.

As Sister Anne Munley became President of the University in 2007, she assumed the leadership of a vibrant institution, rich in traditions of service, excellence, and responsiveness to the signs of the times.

Marywood University has grown from a liberal arts college for women into a comprehensive coeducational university consisting of four colleges:

  • Reap College of Education and Human Development
  • Insalaco College of Creative and Performing Arts
  • College of Health and Human Services
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • School of Architecture

Strengthened by its tradition of service and supported by its proud history, Marywood University faces the 21st century with confidence and enthusiasm.

Marywood has a distinctive capacity to create a learning community in which all who participate can shape meaningful lives that contribute to the making of a meaningful world. Creating a faith community, educating for justice, contributing to the formation of moral decision-makers, and developing leaders for today and tomorrow are enduring goals related to our core ideology and to our envisioned future. Together, let us LEAD ON!
-- Sister Anne Munley