History of the Mount: 60 Years in the Making

Image courtesy of: msmc.edu

By: Kimmy Kelly

In the year 1853 four German-speaking sisters of St. Dominic arrived not only in the United States for the first time but found themselves on the streets of New York City. There they first began the journey of education that would flourish in years to come. Thirty years later a small group of the sisters from the Second Street Convent was called to Newburgh by St. Mary’s Church’s pastor. They opened St. Mary’s Academy on Gidney Avenue. The year 1913 offered the sisters the opportunity to purchase “Rosenhof,” an estate owned by the Van Duzer family. The sisters continued their academic excellence in their new location and soon outgrew the place. They expanded to a new school naming it, Greater Mount Saint Mary which opened as a high school in 1927. Parts of the original high school still live on today as doors and window panes in the current Dominican Center. The New York State Education Department certified the Mount Saint Mary Normal and Training School in 1930, allowing the sisters to teach in elementary schools and giving them the opportunity to earn degrees in New York State colleges.

In 1954 things changed again as the Mount received a provisional charter and became able to grant associate degrees in arts after the completion of a three-year curriculum. Finally, in 1959, on Oct. 30, the Mount became the four-year liberal arts college it is today which sparked an era of growth. Aquinas Hall opened its doors for the first time in 1963, as well as Guzman Hall where all the beginning students could reside. The first group of graduates, 34 in total, celebrated their commencement in 1964 as the first to officially do so from Mount Saint Mary College. Until 1968 the Mount remained a fully female school, by 1970 over 50 male students were enrolled.

Sister Ann Sakac began her time as acting president of the college in 1976 and became the namesake for the current standing freshman girls resident hall which opened in 2003. The ‘90s were a time for immense growth for the campus as it held the openings of the Desmond Campus, the Elaine and William Kaplan Recreation center and the renovation of Hudson Hall. Throughout the 2000s, the Mount welcomed the building of the college courts, the addition of the Kaplan Family Mathematics, Science and Technology Center and the View to Aquinas Hall, as well as the purchase of the Dominican Center, which opened in 2014 with the Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary. 

Sixty years later, on the anniversary of Mount Saint Mary officially becoming a four-year college, the current Mount community was able to remember and recognize its founders and held the Founder’s Walk to commemorate the trip up from the waterfront the first sisters embarked on. Students and staff alike were able to experience a similar trek to that of the sisters, but today’s walkers were able to walk up from the water and see the beautiful campus that resides today, a campus the first sisters paved the way for all those years ago.

The Mount’s birthday festivities began with a ceremony at Unico Park on the Newburgh Waterfront, followed by the recreation of the original Dominican Sisters mile and a half walk up to campus and concluded with a celebration held on the Guzman Lawn. Mount Saint Mary has had exceptional growth in its first 60 years and will continue to do so in the years to come.