Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


College Misericordia

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Institution Name: College Misericordia
Original/Historic Place Name: College Misericordia, Villa St. Teresa
Location on Campus: 301 Lake St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1921-1924groundbreaking: June 3, 1921; dedication: August 15, 1924 Durang, F. Ferdinand
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Gothic revival, Beaux-Arts classicism
Style(s) of minority of buildings: Modern/post-WWII, Contemporary
Building group type: Informal; Other: the 99 and 2/3 acres of Villa St. Teresa, Dallas, PA, housed the Sisters of Mercy Mother House (provincial offices, novitiate, and convent), College Misericordia, and Our Lady of Mercy High School (the high school was discontinued after a few years at the suggestion of State Council of Education). The central portion of the original building was home to all until 1930, when McAuley residence hall was dedicated. The east and west wings of the main building were added in 1932. The first master plan was initiated by Sister Miriam Teresa O’Donnell, the college president, in 1969. The current master plan available in the office of Vice President of Financial Affairs.
Relationship to landscape:
none specified
Ideas associated with building group:
none specified
n.d.master plan (campus)

Significance: architecture, culture, education, religion
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The vision and courage of the Sisters of Mercy provided the first opportunities in higher education for women of all creeds when College Misericordia opened in 1924. As a Catholic institution, the college witnessed in its early years cross burnings on the campus by the Ku Klux Klan. They persevered in their mission, however, and within a few years, newspaper accounts of the achievements of College Misericordia and its contributions to the community were consistently laudatory.

Although the college was originally founded and run by the Sisters of Mercy, in 1924 the College and the Sisters became distinct corporations jointly occupying the campus. College Misericordia is now "founded and sponsored" by the Sisters of Mercy. There is no novitiate or convent, and the Sisters' administrative offices are independent from the College. As a Mercy-sponsored college (one of 18 nationally), College Misericordia seeks to preserve the ideals of mercy, service, justice, and hospitality. Mercy Center (built as the Novitiate and House of Studies) is now a state-approved nursing care facility. Another Mercy building, Trocaire, is a residence for sisters.

The College has shared its cultural programs, both college-produced and college-hosted, with the Greater Wyoming Valley for decades. Students and faculty have contributed both individually and collectively to the community's cultural landscape. Evidence of student activities, including war efforts, mission activities, and other community service is recorded in unpublished archives and scrapbooks, although this data is not comprehensive. The college's lasting commitment to community service was recognized during Hurricane Agnes and the devastating flood of 1972. The Sisters offered the campus as an evacuation center to more than 1,000 evacuees. The flooded Nesbitt Hospital in Kingston, PA requested and received permission to move patients, equipment and records into Alumnae Hall. Merrick Hall became the Red Cross headquarters and a 24/7 press room, and food service provided more than 5,000 meals per day.

College Misericordia is constantly evolving, interacting with the society in which it exists and responding to the ever-changing needs it seeks to serve. From a single building with 37 students, the College has grown to 13 buildings, including athletic fields and facilities and technology and service learning centers serving more than 2,000 men and women of all ages in 29 undergraduate and graduate majors. The demand for particular professional and pre-professional programs rises and falls, but the curricular structure has remained constant: liberal arts in the Mercy tradition.

College Misericordia has a notable record of "firsts" in the Wyoming Valley. The school offered one of the first non-traditional educations in the area teachers earned degrees while working and was a pioneer in higher education, tuition scholarships for gifted women, graduate education, nursing education, educational guidance, "alternative learner" programs, and, most recently, the "Women with Children" program for single mothers.

The campus represents religious, educational, and cultural functions in that is was the new motherhouse for the Sisters of Mercy in the Scranton Diocese, the first senior college in the Wyoming Valley, and in Luzerne County, PA, the first Catholic college in Luzerne County, and the first women's college in Luzerne County.

According to a September 12, 1924 article in the Times Leader, "it is particularly significant" that Wyoming Valley and Luzerne County's first college "should have come out of the foresight and zeal of a small band of religious women whose first emissaries arrived here less than fifty years ago."

I. Bibliographic sources:

Collection of master plans. Office of the Vice-President of Financial Affairs, College Misericordia, Dallas, PA.

Ference, Regina C. A History of College Misericordia. M. A. thesis, University of Scranton, 1963.

Herron, Mary Ualalia. The Sisters of Mercy in the United States 1843-1928. New York: Macmillan Co., 1929.

Kelly, Regina, and Agnes Toloczko Cardoni. At the Edge of Centuries: College Misericordia 1913-1999. Dallas, PA: College Misericordia, 1999.

Selected collections. Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Benevino Library, College Misericordia, Dallas, PA.

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Archives. Regional Community of Dallas, Dallas, PA.

25th Jubilee 1949-1950; 50th Jubilee 1974-1975; 75th Jubilee 1999-2000. Booklets. Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Benevino Library, College Misericordia, Dallas, PA.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office, Unknown
—details: Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Benevino Library, College Misericordia.

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