The efforts of all members of the Newburgh Dominican Congregation made the founding of the college possible. Certain members were placed in positions that had more responsibility for creating Mount Saint Mary College than others. Three members, however, are profiled in this section of the archives: Sister Agnes Alma McDonald, Sister Thomas Aquinas McManus, and Sister Mary Vincent Ralph.
The archives frequently refer to Sister Thomas Aquinas and Sister Mary Vincent as the co-founders of the college. It was Sister Agnes Alma, however, who began corresponding with members of the State Department of Education in Albany in 1925 about the possibility of establishing a Normal School for the Sisters.
The Newburgh Dominican Sisters archives provide records of the continued correspondence that came from Sister Agnes Alma to the contacts in the State Education Department that led to approval for the Normal School and, later, to the three year liberal arts college granting an associate degree, to the four year liberal arts college that was approved to award bachelors degrees, and finally to the masters degrees.
Sister M. Agnes Alma McDonald, OP
Beloved of several generations of Mount students, Sister M. Agnes Alma, OP taught at the Academy since her earliest years as a member of the community of the Dominican Sisters of Newburgh which she entered on February 1, 1917.
From a rich background, Sister brought the traditions of the nobility of the life of the soil and the scholarship of deep learning, blended with her own genuine charm and profound spirituality. In addition, she devoted assiduous preparation and constant study to her work, so that her teaching remained vibrant in its appeal and lasting in its influence. She was remarkable in her gift of understanding and an appreciation of the worth of each individual student, and her keen interest in the welfare of each one had endeared her to the hearts of all who came within her influence.
At the Mount, Sister Agnes Alma served as a member of the Community Council and was Secretary General of the Congregation from 1935 to 1953. She was Principal of the Academy from 1922 to 1934, during which time she introduced the school paper, The Gleam. For many years she was associated with The Mount Saint Mary Alumnae Association, both as moderator and as active faculty advisor. Sister Agnes Alma died on April 7, 1959 after an illness of several months.
Sister Mary Vincent Ralph, OP
Sister Mary Vincent Ralph, dean emerita of Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh entered the Dominican Order at Mount Saint Mary, Newburgh in 1915 and served as teacher and administrator on all three levels of schooling for almost half a century. In 1967 she was the first recipient of the honorary doctor of pedagogy degree from Mount Saint Mary College.
As a young religious, Sister Mary Vincent was teacher and principal of Thomas Edward Shields Memorial School, Washington, D.C., the first campus school of the Catholic University of America. After three years as teacher in Perth Amboy, N.J. and one year as principal and superioress at Holy Family school, New Rochelle, she returned to Newburgh where she remained until her death. She served, in turn, as prioress of the convent, member of the General Council of the congregation, director of studies, principal of the Casa San Jose (now Bishop Dunn Memorial, college campus school) and Mount Saint Mary Academy.
During her years at the Mount she co-founded its normal and training school which, under her optimistic and pedagogical guidance, became the present four-year liberal arts college.
Sister Mary Vincent was the first dean and just before her illness was assistant to the president, Sister Mary Francis McDonald. She died in 1968 after a long illness.
Sister M. Thomas Aquinas McManus, OP
In September 1920, Sister M. Thomas Aquinas, OP entered the novitiate at Mount Saint Mary-on-the-Hudson. To devote her life to primary education was her desire, and this was to be her life's work.
As Dean of the Normal Training School at the Mount, she exercised a deep influence on the young Sisters whose education she directed and whose ideals of teaching she shaped in the formative years.
Sr. M. Thomas Aquinas, OP passed away on August 5, 1947. Despite her sudden passing, she left a strong legacy of service behind at the Mount.