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CNR Faculty

Gifts of Grace and Wonder:
The Exceptional Faculty of CNR

by Stephen J. Sweeny, Ph.D., President

The story of CNR is much more than a lovely campus and notable buildings, however grand as they are. For our students, College at CNR has meant being exposed to and educated by gifted professors, men and women, religious and lay person, who have taken the great canons of western learning and civilization and passed this wisdom and knowledge down from generation to generation for one hundred years.

I am sure that the names of your favorite professors leap immediately to mind when you recall your days as an undergraduate. The names and the wonderful personalities of our favorite and famous professors cascade down the hallways of my memory as well.

I speak of Mothers Irene and Augustine Gill, of course, and of Xavier Fitzgerald and Thomas Aquinas O’Reilly, of such early scholars and master teachers as Pecheux, Sheedy, the Thompsons, Justin McKiernan, Joe Scully, Ostertag, Huggsy, Wightwick, M. Grace Monahan, Vergara, Becerra, Perry, Rice, Alban Bsharah, Rogick, Haage, Russo, Taaffe, Elsa Kissel, Ruth Dowd, Evelyn Blustein to name only a few of the many, many exceptional professors who we remember with fondness and appreciation.

These wonderful people, these learned professors, are much more than just names and memories. Diction, elocution, wit, wisdom, style! The adjectives are endless. They gifted the College with their genius and their grace. They helped us, individually and as college, become who we are today.

Giants in our History

Mother Xavier Fitzgerald, for example, lovingly known as “Xave”  came from Ireland and worked for years as a waitress and nanny while studying at the Ursuline Henry Street Normal School. After entering the Ursuline Order, she received an M.A. from Columbia. Long considered the “brains” behind the development of CNR, she studied college catalogs to find the best faculty and advocated for the best education for our students.

Among the early and honored faculty members she found for CNR was Dr. John J. Schuler, who taught history at the College from 1909 to 1932.

Born in Germany, Dr. Schuler immigrated to the United States as a child and was ordained a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1892. He received a master’s from Johns Hopkins, and in 1908, a Ph.D. from Columbia and eventually became a Catholic under the influence of Mother Ignatius. In 1928 he wrote to Mother Xavier urging that the College offer a Seminar in History—and a better salary. Loved by his students, he got both his wishes.

Many other wonderful teachers come to mind. Many of them, I’m sure, were your professors. Dr. Anna T. Sheedy, for one, taught at CNR from 1925 to 1972. A graduate of Smith College, Anna had a law degree from Fordham and a doctorate from Columbia, and was famous on campus for her freshman survey course in Western Civilization. I am sure many of those who took her class can still recite the list of English monarchs she made all her students memorize.

And who among us can forget the Thompsons! Ernest Thorne and Florence, both graduates of the New England School of Art, came from Notre Dame University to our campus in 1929. Here they set up our Art Department and were beloved teachers until their retirement.

Yes, we have been blessed by a faculty that has in many awe-inspiring and perhaps inexplicable ways changed the course of our students’ lives, led them down the right path from this green campus to the greater world and adult life beyond the walls of CNR.

Nancy Quirk Keefe Remembers

At this year’s Founder’s Day luncheon, Nancy Quirk Keefe came home again to recall for us her years as an undergraduate in the School of Arts & Sciences. Nancy spoke of Mother Celeste Shaughnessy, who taught classics and theology, and so much more. It was Mother Celeste who blessed all the generations to come by establishing in 1939 our Alumnae/i College.

While there were other Ursulines that Nancy Keefe remembered and cherished from her college days, she kept coming back to her memories of  Celeste, recalling how she made students understand their obligation to people who were poor, outcast, or simply others. “Mother Celeste spoke,” said Nancy, “of our ‘obligation in charity’ to break down barriers, to reach out, to do good. We (as students) regarded charity as something you do out of the goodness of your heart, voluntarily, when you feel like it. Mother Celeste’s idea sounded like a contradiction in terms. But she had it right. What an eye-opener.”

This tradition of faculty members who provide “eye-opening” experiences for their students continues to this day at The College of New Rochelle. We are blessed in attracting and sustaining wonderful teachers on all of our campuses, scholars who dedicate their lives to our students, who inform the community at large with their knowledge and expertise.

School of Arts & Sciences

Within the faculty of the School of Arts & Sciences, we need far more than two hands to count the names of women and men who make CNR such a wonderful and enriching world. How many of you can recall from your undergraduate days having class with Richard Cassetta of the Chemistry Department; Bill Maxwell of the Art Department; Dr. Ann Raia who headed our Honors Program for so many years; Diana Quandt in education; Dr. Dan McCarthy in political science; and Dr. Dennis Ryan of our Religious Studies department. The list goes on.

Recently, our CNR website profiled a young woman, Class of 2006, who said that the reason she came to The College of New Rochelle was because of the closeness of the community. The professors here gave her individual attention and helped her to succeed. She summed up by saying, “here at The College of New Rochelle I am a name, not a number.”  

Among the fine faculty members in the School of Arts & Sciences is Mary Virginia Orna, OSU, a professor at The College of New Rochelle for nearly forty years. I am confident many of you were once taught by Sister Mary Virginia, if not in one of her chemistry classes, than in her famous “Color and Chemistry” for non-majors, a course she not only teaches, but one for which she literally “wrote the book.”

Like others on the faculty who have devoted their lives to our students, she has the energy and enthusiasm for much more than teaching. Her legacy to humanity and to this College continues to evolve and nurture all of us. Sister Mary Virginia is on the governing body of the American Chemical Society, is Publications Coordinator of the prestigious Journal of Chemical Education, and Editor-at-Large at the Chemical Heritage newsmagazine.

Graduate School 

In the Graduate School, we have the exceptional Kenneth J. Doka, Professor of Gerontology. An ordained Lutheran minister, Dr. Doka has been on our faculty since 19___. A prolific author, speaker, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on grief and bereavement, Ken Doka is a respected teacher who has spoken eloquently and often to our faculty and alumnae/i on coping with public and private tragedy.

 One of his many contributions to our community at large is his participation in the annual Hospice Foundation of America Teleconference, as well as his service as a consultant to medical, nursing, funeral service and hospice organizations, businesses, and educational and social service agencies in the United States and throughout the world.

School of Nursing

In our School of Nursing, we are fortunate to have on our faculty, Dr. Mary Alice Donius who has been at CNR since 1995. Dr. Donius has developed a holistic nursing caring and healing procedure that is the model of practice for Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle. This model defines nursing as caring with compassion, empathy, and altruism with the intention of healing body, mind, and spirit, and is taught at the graduate level here at CNR.

 Also on the faculty of our School of Nursing is Associate Professor Dr. Joan Arnold, who has been deeply and actively involved with organizations studying infant deaths. Today she serves as the Chair of the Research Committee for the National Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs and is developing a research instrument to study the psychosocial needs of families when their baby dies. Now in her eighth year at the College, Dr. Arnold has primary responsibility for coordinating and teaching the Community Health Nursing course for Registered Nurse students, the final course before graduation.

School of New Resources

Since its beginnings, the School of New Resources has attracted a dedicated faculty especially sensitive to the needs of adult learners, and a faculty that reaches out and is fully engaged in the local community.

One example is David Ramos, an adjunct professor at our Co-op City Campus. Last fall David responding to the needs of the community, organized a Domestic Violence Conference on campus that drew over 225 faculty, staff, and students to focus on the crisis of domestic violence. With his background in social work and his connections within the city and state agencies, David was able to bring to our campus local authorities and agencies involved with this critical issue.

Another faculty member of the School of New Resources, and typical of many adjunct professors, is former police officer, Michael Popp, who went to graduate school after his retirement. Now with a Ph.D. in Sociology, he has taught criminal justice at CNR since 1992.

Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz has been an instructor at SNR for six years, coming to The College of New Rochelle after a career in the corporate world and working for the New York Times. The wealth of “real life” experiences that Yolanda and her colleagues bring to the classroom is one reason why the School of New Resources has been such a successful college program. We have a wonderful tradition of offering educational opportunities to the non-traditional student. Our ability to offer college and advance degrees to students of all ages on our main campus in New Rochelle, and our satellite campuses within greater New York City, is one reason we can proudly say that CNR does provide wisdom for life.

Special People

Teaching is a personal endeavor and no two professors teach the same way, yet all of our professors are passionate about their subject matter, articulate in their presentation, and just as important, they care about their students. Yes, we can count how many times a professor has published in a professional journal, note the number of books she or he has written, but how do you measure those moments in a classroom when the passion and enthusiasm and brilliance of a teacher inspires a student’s curiosity and demonstrates that the pursuit of knowledge is an adventure as thrilling as any other?

We know the value of education. It is no surprise that Nancy Quirk Keefe can vividly recall her teachers at CNR, among them the good Ursulines of her college life. Great teachers change us all.

What a glorious legacy we have at The College of New Rochelle. In the very best sense of the word, these “personalities” have made us who we are. CNR’s teachers, charismatic performers, experts, spiritual leaders, thoughtful professors, these dedicated women and men of goodness and scholarship have for one hundred years sustained and strengthened the mission of The College of New Rochelle.

The Heart of CNR

Yes, what we celebrate most in this Centennial anniversary of The College of New Rochelle is much more than buildings and lawns, more than words and paper. At the center of CNR is our faculty, from the founding Ursulines who created a College of New Rochelle for women, to all the hundreds of good women and men, who have followed closely the indelible footprints of Mother Irene and Augustine Gill, of Xavier Fitzgerald and Thomas Aquinas O’Reilly.

We continue today, one hundred years later, their mission, with faculty of scholarship and distinction. And we have been blessed with the support of all of you, alumnae/i and friends of CNR, faithful and dear friends, who have played such an integral part in what we have become, and what we will be tomorrow, and all the tomorrows to come as we move together through this glorious second century.

 On behalf of the College Community let me express my gratitude to you for your continued support.

Stephen J. Sweeny, Ph.D.

O F F I C E  O F  C O M M U N I C A T I O N S
29 Castle Place, New Rochelle, NY 10805



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