PAST CNR PRESIDENTS


Rev. Michael Carthage O’Farrell

 1904-1918  

Rev. Michael Carthage O’Farrell was born in Lismore, Ireland and came to New York to study for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest in 1868. O’Farrell was a gifted businessman and fund raiser and always had a great interest in education. He built schools and churches in the several parishes in which he served.  In 1876 he became pastor of St. Teresa’s parish on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he met the Ursulines. Seeing their skill and preparation as teachers, O’Farrell encouraged them in their various educational endeavors and to incorporate themselves in 1880. In 1897, he helped Mother Irene Gill, foundress of the College, to acquire Leland Castle. When Mother Irene Gill started the College of St. Angela in 1904, Father O’Farrell was named its first President and ably represented the College’s needs to its trustees. He died in 1918. O’Farrell was remembered as well-regarded by all with foresight, fine administrative skills, approachability, and a keen sense of humor. O’Farrell served as President of CNR from 1904 until his death in 1918.


Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph F. Mooney

 1918-1923  

MooneyRt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph F. Mooney was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from Fordham University in 1867 then entered the priesthood. Ordained in 1871, he soon was named professor of philosophy for the New York Archdiocesan Seminary in Yonkers. In 1890 he was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Manhattan where he served until his death. Sacred Heart was then one of New York’s largest parishes, and Mooney’s affection for his parish and its large school led him to refuse being named a bishop elsewhere. He was an eloquent preacher and was often asked to give public addresses. His stern appearance concealed what was said be a kind heart, especially towards the children of his parish. Mooney was asked to undertake many responsibilities for the Archdiocese of New York and accepted the presidency of CNR in his old age. He, like the other presidents who were priests, was assigned the responsibility by the cardinal and did his best to be present for Founder’s Day, commencements, and meetings of the Board of Trustees. Msgr. Mooney served as President from 1918 until his death in 1923.


Rt. Rev. Msgr. John P. Chidwick

 1924-1935  


Chidwick Rt. Rev. Msgr. John P. Chidwick was born in New York City. After receiving a B.A. and M.A. from Manhattan College, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 1887. Several years later, he was appointed a Navy chaplain and was assigned to the battleship, Maine. Chidwick had a special concern for young people especially the young sailors on board his ship. At the time of the Spanish American War in 1898, while harbored in Havana, the Maine  was blown up and chaos reigned as the ship burned. Chidwick refused to abandon the ship so he could tend to the terribly burned and dying sailors. The huge ship sank minutes after he left.  Gill Library has a bronze statue dedicated to Chidwick by “his kids” as a token of their gratitude to their brave chaplain. Chidwick retired from the Navy in 1903 and resumed parish duties before being named President of St. Joseph’s Seminary. From 1922 until his death, he was pastor of St. Agnes Church in Manhattan. Chidwick was named CNR’s third President in 1924. An avid historian, Msgr. Chidwick had a large private library which he left to CNR in his will. In a Christmas letter to Mother Ignatius, the Dean, he relates his interest in listening to the radio debates of CNR students with other colleges. One gets the impression that Chidwick’s interest in the “kids” of the US Navy expanded to include the young ladies of CNR. He was President of CNR  until 1935. In his memory and honor, the College’s first gymnasium building was renamed—Chidwick.


Rt. Rev. Msgr. Cornelius F. Crowley, S.T.L.

 1935-1937  

CrowleyBorn in Manhattan, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Cornelius F. Crowley, S.T.L. received a B.A. from Manhattan College before studying for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1894 and then studied at The Catholic University of America for a licentiate in sacred theology. After serving in several parishes of the Archdiocese of New York, in 1913 he was appointed pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in New Rochelle, a close neighbor of CNR. Under his leadership, he built a large parochial school, staffed by the Ursulines. The proximity of CNR to Blessed Sacrament Church and his knowledge of the Ursulines enabled Crowley to have a good sense of the needs of the College. Members of the Sociology Department and Sodality led different activities among the children of the parochial school. In an interview with a CNR student in the College’s Alumnae News, he lamented the effects of the Depression on employment opportunities and advocated social work as a good course of study, noting the many social ills prevalent at the time. He urged CNR students to be leaders. Named as President of CNR in 1935, he and the Board of Trustees endorsed the construction of Gill Library in the midst of the Depression. Crowley held several positions of responsibility within the Archdiocese of New York in addition to his responsibility for New Rochelle’s largest Catholic parish and parochial school. He died at the age of 67 in 1937 after serving only two years as CNR’s President.


Rt. Rev. Msgr. Francis W. Walsh, V.F.

 1938-1949  

Walsh Rt. Rev. Msgr. Francis W. Walsh, V.F. was born in Newport, Rhode Island and was ordained in the Archdiocese of New York in 1915. His first assignment as a priest was assistant to Father Michael O'Farrell, CNR’s first President. With the outbreak of World War I, Walsh enlisted as a chaplain and served in France. Suffering from the ill effects of being gassed during the war, he moved to Colorado to recover his health. He began broadcasting by radio as a way to reach the Catholics in sparsely populated areas of the west. Walsh returned to New York and was named CNR’s fifth President in 1938. In welcoming him, the Dean, Mother Thomas Aquinas O’ Reilly mentioned her happiness that he had been a professor and, like Speech-English majors at CNR, had experience in broadcasting. In his first address to CNR students, he stressed the gift of the Ursuline tradition in the education of women. Walsh was a faithful presence on campus (several nieces were alumnae), and he enjoyed good rapport with students and faculty. Among his papers in the College Archives is the draft of a stern telegram he sent to President Truman decrying the huge loss of human life as a result of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Walsh served as President from 1938 to 1949 and urged Cardinal Spellman to have Ursulines serve as CNR’s presidents. Walsh died in 1973.


Mother M. Dorothea (Katherine) Dunkerley, O.S.U. '19

 1950-1957  

Dunkerly Mother Dorothea (Katherine) Dunkerley, O.S.U. '19 was born in Texas, graduated from the Ursuline Academy in Dallas, and then from The College of New Rochelle with a degree in English in 1919. She returned to Texas to teach for several years  before coming east to join the Ursulines in New Rochelle. She joined the CNR faculty in 1929 and received a M.A. from Fordham University and Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America majoring in psychology and educational administration. Her dissertation was on Leadership Among College Women. After serving as assistant dean and dean, Mother Dorothea became CNR’s first woman president in 1950. During her tenure, she oversaw the celebration of the College's semi-centennial, strengthened the curriculum of CNR, and actively participated in fundraising. She served on the Board of Trustees for 35 years and served in leadership in the Community of St. Teresa’s.  After ending her service as President, she became director of institutional research. She was a recipient of an honorary degree from Fordham University and the Veritas Award for service at CNR. In her retirement, Sister Dorothea (the Ursulines changed their title to “Sister” in 1966) continued to remain in contact with the many CNR alumnae whose lives she had touched. At her death, one wrote to the Ursulines, “She was my rock, my island of serenity...for 48 years.” She died in 1982.


Mother Mary Peter (Margaret) Carthy, O.S.U. '33

 1957-1961  

CarthyBorn in Manhattan, the leadership abilities of Mother Mary Peter (Margaret) Carthy, O.S.U. '33  were evident during her college years. After graduating from CNR in the midst of the Depression, she worked in the registrar’s office at Columbia University for several years, before joining the Ursulines in 1937. In 1941, she began her CNR service as assistant to the registrar and a teacher in the History Department. Mother Mary Peter received two M.A.’s (CUA and Notre Dame) and a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America where she forged a lifelong friendship with her mentor, Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, the country’s best known historian of the American Catholic Church. She replaced Mother Dorothea as dean of the College in 1950 and became President in 1957. An intelligent, talented, gracious, and kind person, the new president endeared herself to all.  Mother Mary Peter oversaw the hiring of well qualified faculty, the establishment of the Core Curriculum, and the great increase of prestigious academic awards to CNR graduates. During her presidency, Angela Hall and Xavier Memorial Fine Arts & Administration (now Mooney) building were completed. CNR’s first honorary degree was given to African Cardinal Rugambwa in 1961. Leaving CNR in 1961, she became an editor of The Catholic Encyclopedia and associate professor at the University of Maryland. Sister Margaret returned to CNR in 1975 as the Dean of the Graduate School until 1979. She was the author of several books about the early history of the Church in New York. At her funeral in 1992, one of those she mentored, Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly, reflected: “Margaret’s capacity for deep, enduring friendships enriched the lives of many of us: former students, women she came in touch with over the years, colleagues…”



Mother St. John (Jessie Elizabeth) O’Brien, O.S.U. '34

 1961-1963  

O'BrienBorn in the Bronx, Mother St. John (Jessie Elizabeth) O’Brien, O.S.U. '34  lived most of her life in New Rochelle. A commuter student like her Ursuline predecessor and two successors, she was a student leader, a kind friend to many, and participated in many campus activities. She taught primary school for a few years after graduating from CNR in 1934.  As an Ursuline, she returned to her alma mater to teach mathematics and also served as director (dean) of students from 1942 to 1952. She received a M.S. from Fordham University and an honorary degree from Iona College. Her warmth and personal gifts led to her being appointed to various positions of leadership within the Ursulines. She served as prioress of the St. Teresa’s Community, director of novices and temporarily professed Sisters, assistant provincial, and director of Ursuline education worldwide. She was appointed President of CNR in 1961 and served as such for two years; the decade of the 1960’s would remarkably change CNR, the Ursulines, and the Church. Ursula Hall was completed during her presidency. Mother St. John met challenges of running the college, a convent, training young women to be Ursulines in a time of immense societal change with a twinkle in her eye and equanimity that sprang from deep faith and love for all. For the last years of her life, now known as Sister Elizabeth, she continued to guide many persons as a spiritual director. Her time of service as President at CNR was relatively short, but the spiritual energy she provided to her Ursuline Sisters over her almost 98 years of life continues to sustain them. Sister Elizabeth died in 2011.


Mother Mary Robert (Teresa) Falls, O.S.U. '33

 1963-1970  

FallsAfter teaching in elementary and high school for several years after her profession as an Ursuline, Mother Mary Robert (Teresa) Falls, O.S.U. '33 joined the CNR English Department where her love for Renaissance literature was generously shared with her students. She received a M.A. and Ph.D. in English from The Catholic University of America. For several years she served as director of the Ursuline House of Studies mentoring young Ursulines in their undergraduate and graduate studies. In 1963, a year after she returned to CNR as director of institutional research, and Trustee of the College, she was elected President. In her first year as President, Martin Luther King’s March on Washington fortified the Civil Rights Movement, JFK was assassinated, the War on Poverty began, and the first sessions of Vatican II were calling for reform in the Church, state and national funding were denied to CNR, and the College’s deficit increased. The consciousness of many American college students was being awakened and challenged. The President and the faculty strove to keep students aware of and participating in the deep social changes that the times demanded. The Vietnam War and the shooting of students at Kent State University were lively issues. And Mother Mary Robert (soon returning to her own name, Teresa) and the faculty endeavored to listen to students’ concerns, remain open to dialogue and to invite them to serve on study groups and college committees. Sister Teresa developed a remarkable resilience in addressing the serious issues that the times presented.  During her presidency, the Rogick Life Sciences Building was completed, named for the late Dr. Mary Dora Rogick, CNR biology scholar and professor. After serving as President from 1963 to 1970, Sister Teresa volunteered to serve in the Congo and at a teacher training college in Botswana with other Ursulines. Diagnosed with a serious illness she reluctantly returned to the United States and served as provincial secretary until her death in 1979.


Joseph P. McMurray

 1970-1972  

McMurrayComing to CNR after having served as president of Queens College for six years, Joseph P. McMurray was the first layman to be elected President of CNR. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brooklyn College, he did graduate studies at the New School and had previously served as Chair of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, Commissioner of Housing for New York State, and economic consultant and staff director of the US Senate Banking and Currency Committee. With his economic expertise, McMurray was seen a good candidate for the presidency of CNR at a time when a growing deficit severely challenged the College. He was the recipient of several honorary degrees: Iona College, The College of  The Holy Cross, Loyola University, University of Tampa, and American International College. A member of CNR’s Board of Trustees since 1966, the Board elected McMurray to the presidency of CNR in 1970. Until he was able to assume the office in 1971, the academic dean, Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly, served as president pro tem. As President, McMurray immediately addressed the College’s financial exigencies and succeeded in reducing the debt, acquiring NY State Bundy funding, enlarging the offerings of the Graduate Program, and laying the ground for the School of New Resources. He implemented difficult decisions regarding retirement, denied funding for various educational projects, and raised tuition. Assuming the presidency at a time of enormous social turmoil in American colleges, McMurray endorsed needed transition from an in loco parentis style of student services to one that placed more responsibility upon the individual student. His door was open to students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, and he invited dialog with all entities in facing the issues that would resolve CNR’s economic issues and result in a new life for the College. McMurray resigned in 1972. He died in 2001.


Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly, O.S.U. '51

 1972-1997  

Kelly Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly, O.S.U. '51 was a commuter student from the Bronx on a full scholarship, and she quickly became a student leader at CNR. Soon after her profession as an Ursuline and having obtained a M.A. in American Church History from The Catholic University of America, she began teaching history at CNR in 1957. Her leadership skills were already evident to the Ursuline presidents. As CNR academic dean from 1967 to 1972, she welcomed the arrival of a group of local young minority women on scholarships and worked with faculty and students to redesign the curriculum. In 1970 she received a doctorate in American intellectual history from the University of Notre Dame. The Board of Trustees elected her president upon the resignation of her predecessor in 1972, and she set to work on addressing the serious ongoing issues of CNR’s declining enrollment and deficit. The Graduate Program became the Graduate School and the “Experimental College,” proposed by several faculty members was named the School of New Resources. Within a few years, the innovative School of New Resources had grown to include six area campuses. The School of Nursing was added in 1976, and the College was redesigned into four Schools, each with its own dean. Soon after, administrative restructuring created four vice presidencies.  In addition to service on local, state, and national higher educational associations, Sister Dorothy Ann worked well with  alumnae, keeping them informed of changes and the rationale for the changes from a small Catholic women’s college composed primarily of young women of European descent to a large multiracial and multinational coeducational institution with the School of Arts and Sciences designated for women only (the “college” alumnae through the 1960’s remembered).The endowment increased as gifts and grants were received, and the School of New Resources received international and national attention. With access to higher education  a major goal of CNR’s Mission, Sister Dorothy Ann found ways to make the education she had received a reality for thousands more. After serving as CNR’s eleventh President for 25 years, she resigned in 1997 and served as Chancellor until 2001 when the Ursuline community asked her to assume leadership positions. As her term as Provincial Prioress of the Eastern Province drew to an end, she died suddenly in 2009. Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly is remembered as the second founder (after Mother Irene Gill) of The College of New Rochelle.


Stephen J. Sweeny

 1997-2011  

SweenyStephen J. Sweeny joined The College of New Rochelle’s administration in 1976 as assistant to the Provost. Over his 35 years of service at CNR, he assumed increasingly greater responsibilities and from 1981 to 1997 he served as Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs. In 1997 he succeeded Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly as President. During his 14-year tenure,  Sweeny oversaw material, administrative, and planning advancements.  The Co-op City campus of SNR was relocated to a new facility in 1997, and in 2000, the South Bronx campus of SNR was rededicated and named for John Cardinal O’Connor. Gill Library’s renovation and updating was completed in 2002. He led the College in celebrating its Centennial in 2003-2004 and saw donations to the College reach its highest level ever.  A long awaited Wellness Center was completed and dedicated in 2008. Sweeny was honored by many higher educational and Catholic organizations, and he endeavored to maintain the Catholic identity of CNR as a priority by leading trustee groups to Italy to experience the locations from where the Ursulines came into being and creating  the Office of Mission and Identity in 2009. A lecturer at Harvard University’s annual program for new college presidents, Sweeny lent his expertise to that group and also served on numerous Middle States’ evaluation teams. With his vice presidents, planning became a priority to maintain the educational and fiscal health of CNR. When Sweeny retired in 2011, the Student Campus Center was renamed in his honor, the Sweeny Student Center. Sweeny was an astute administrator, generous with the wisdom he had gained during his years at CNR, and very mindful of keeping alive the Mission of the College.

Prepared by Martha Counihan, O.S.U.
Archivist/Special Collections Librarian, Gill Library
Photos courtesy of CNR Archives



The first Catholic college for women in New York State, The College of New Rochelle was founded in 1904 by the Ursuline Order. Today, it comprises the all-women School of Arts & Sciences, and three schools which admit women and men: the School of New Resources (for adult learners), the School of Nursing and the Graduate School. The main campus of the College is located in lower Westchester County, 16 miles north of New York City. The College maintains five other campus locations in New York City. Visit the College’s website at www.cnr.edu..