Educator and Innovator
2006 Women's History Month Honoree
Mary Aloysius Molloy used her unswerving sense of purpose, and inspired personal leadership to build a community of educators to promote the possibility of countless dreams for women. Molloy became one of the most successful educators during the era when higher education was opening up its doors to women."
Born in 1880 in Sandusky, Ohio, Mary Molloy grew up an only child in a sheltered family environment. From her earliest years, she excelled at every level of her education. In order to attend Ohio State University, she worked at a variety of jobs. This was unusual for men of her time, but even more so for a woman. Still, she received more honors than any young man or woman who had graduated from Ohio State University at Columbus, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. An English fellowship allowed her to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she graduated with the highest distinction and became the second woman to receive a Ph.D. from this university. Drawn to scholarship, Mary defied many of the social conventions of her time to make the dream of higher education a reality for thousands of other women.
She faced much resistance and a history of failures in establishing colleges for women. In the Mid-west, women in religious communities often took on the role of promoting women’s education. In the state of Minnesota, members of three Catholic religious communities who were among the states first wave of immigrants took on the role of establishing colleges for women.
Molloy did not shy away from the difficult issues of the time. All women seeking higher education faced prejudice from a society that was still debating the capacity of a woman’s brain. Catholic women often faced a double prejudice because of religious bigotry in society and opposition to education of women even within the Catholic Church. As an outspoken opponent of religious bigotry, Molloy’s leadership within national educational organizations did much to increase the acceptance of higher education for all women.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Molloy challenged the stereotypes that defined women’s intellectual capacity as inferior to that of men. She instituted a rigorous four year undergraduate curriculum and set the highest of standards and expectations that the work of all graduates of the College would be directed toward scholarship and/or public service. Molloy (known as Sister Aloysius Molloy, OSF after joining the religious order in 1923) served as President of the College of Saint Teresa from 1928 through 1946 Her leadership in higher education was recognized in 1947 when she became the first woman to serve as the President of the Association of Catholic College of the United States.
The College of Saint Teresa rapidly grew into one of the premier Catholic colleges in the United States. By 1989, when the college closed, over 25,000 women had attended and established a thriving community of alumnae. Today, there exists a community of nearly 8,000 living alumnae, inspired by the ideals of the College, who, serve others in their communities, their families, and their professions.