College for nothing and books for free
By SARAH RYKOWSKI
Saint Mary's News Editor
Forty years ago, students could attend Saint Mary's without paying a dime or taking out student loans. Staff students worked in the dining hall for 30 hours a week and worked off the cost of an education.
"I did enjoy being a staff student," said Sister Bernice Hollenhorst, now director of Saint Mary's Cushwa-Leighton Library. "It was a way to go away to college for those of us who might not have been able to do that otherwise."
Pearl McEachran, an associate professor of home economics and the head dietician, began the program in the 1930s. The program enabled the staff students to earn their tuition, fees, board, room, uniforms and a monthly stipend for books and other expenses by working in the food or dietary department.
"She is really the one who initiated the program," said Sister Basil Anthony O'Flynn, dean of students at the College from 1961-1968. "She was a wonderful worker."
Allene Pinkerton was the first staff student to graduate from Saint Mary's in 1941, according to an article in the winter 1953 issue of the Courier.
The staff students lived together on the fifth floor of Le Mans Hall, known as Fifth Annex today. In the 1940s, when Hollenhorst participated in the program, the women worked an average of six hours a day readying Reignbeaux Lounge for meals, serving the meals, clearing the tables and preparing for the next meal.
Staff students usually neededfive years and three summers of studying to graduate because they could only carry between nine and 13 credit hours a semester.
There were special privileges, however, granted to the staff students in recognition for the work that they did for the College. Another participant in the program along with Hollenhorst said that because the staff students worked longer and later hours, they were allowed to stay out later at night than the other students.
Although the program is no longer in existence, one of directors of the programs is still remembered today. An award named after Sister Maria Pieta, the staff student's hall mother for 17 years, is given to a faculty member every year.
While the free tuition program is long gone, vestiges of the staff student program remain at Saint Mary's.
"It was an outgrowth of the Depression years," O'Flynn said. "That was a time when people couldn't come in to school otherwise. These students worked a long time but they got tuition, room, board and a stipend. It was a wonderful program for the time."
Eventually, though, the program outlived its usefulness and practicality. The major problem with the existing staff student arrangement was that the students saw none of the fruits of her labors, save for the degree she received at her graduation.
"The students were not paid in cash then," O'Flynn said. "Their stipend went to books."
O'Flynn and her fellow administrators tried different options, but were eventually forced to scrap the staff student program for the current student worker system that exists today at Saint Mary's.
"We rethought it in the 60s, because we were living in an affluent society," Anthony said.
There were also other scholarship programs for students during the time the staff student program existed. Service scholarships were given to women who worked in the library, post office, art or music studios, on the switchboard, in the science laboratories, school offices and the supply store.
Service scholarship students also worked as typists or department assistants. Service students could work up to 24 hours per week and were reimbursed in much the same manner as student workers are today.
All News Stories for Tuesday, December 5, 2000