Presently, Sister Ann Marie Coll is the Directress of the Montessori School which is a part of Alvernia College in Reading. Sister Ann Marie recalls that when they were freshman in college as postulants (postulants were young girls preparing for religious life) it was at this time that the first lay students were accepted at Alvernia College in 1962.
She quotes, “Since we as postulants and freshmen, were entering the religious order this in no way made an impact on us as the “to-be sisters.”
Resident students and commuters usually enjoyed the weekend dances held in the auditorium at Francis Hall. Since this was an all girls’ college, the students invited the young gentlemen from our neighboring Catholic College in Allentown to the dances. On their way to Alvernia, the boys stopped at a gas station for directions. The proprietor said to them, “Why do you want to go to Alvernia, there is only a bunch of nuns living there?” After this remark, unfortunately, only about three boys showed up. When invited they continued to attend the social activities.
During their juniorate religious training period, Veronica Hall, the first residence hall was under construction and the young sisters made a daily inspection of the progress of the building. It was exciting to watch the structure being completed. Sister Ann Marie goes on to say, “When in a solemn ceremony the Sisters were pronouncing their vows, we prepared a program to celebrate the occasion. Cautiously and quietly we borrowed a few props (planks) from the construction area to enhance our to-be state-like scenery. Then we conscientiously returned the borrowed props”.
For recreation, the student sisters often went skating where the science building or Bernardine Hall now stands. Every year in April, the ceremony of planting a tree took place. Today, one could see a fir tree planted in front of Francis Hall towering above the statue of our Blessed Mother.
The first graduating class in 1961 consisted of four Bernardine Sisters. The enrollment was gradually increasing and in 1966 Alvernia graduated the first lay students. Since we were sent out to the schools periodically to teach, it took us five years including summer studies to complete our degrees.
The Baccalaureate Mass and the Hooding Ceremony were held in the convent chapel of the Sacred Heart Convent. The Commencement Exercises took place the following day in the auditorium of Francis hall. The classes were small and the students appreciated personal attention.
During semester breaks, the Sister students offered their services in the library typing, mending books and also in other areas where help was needed. Alvernia was growing and we were grateful for all the opportunities given to us.
Interviewed by: Sister M. Alodia Podczasy, April, 28, 1999
The University Archives are located at the 951 Morgantown Offices on the first floor. Please contact Sharon Neal, Library Director to schedule an appointment.