LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Three quarters of a century ago, seven friars founded a small college outside Albany, N.Y. This month, the more than 20 friars currently based there — along with students, staff and community members — are commemorating Siena College’s 75th anniversary.
“A diamond jubilee is always an occasion for gratitude. I, for one, am profoundly grateful to the giants of Siena’s past on whose shoulders we stand,” said Kevin Mullen, OFM, president since 2007.
“When they opened Siena’s doors for the first time on Sept. 22, 1937, the friars were expecting the 40 students who had registered, but 90 showed up. In the ensuing scramble for space, the old farmhouse became so crowded that the friars taught some of their classes in a stairwell. Undeterred by cramped quarters, economic hardship and an uncertain future, the friars soldiered on. They believed in each other. They believed in their students. They believed in what they were doing.”
This information was included in a letter mailed to the college’s full-time employees by Siena’s administration at the start of the academic year. A commemorative wall calendar accompanied the letter.
On each month’s page, this 2012-2013 “heritage calendar” displays historic photos along with facts about the college’s history. The inside front cover shows the Garrett home, the original academic and friar facility, before it was converted to St. Francis Hall. It also shows a photo of members of the Garrett family viewing a sign saying “Site of new Franciscan college, St. Bonaventure extension campus.”
Excerpts from History of 1st Two Years of Siena College by Adalbert Callahan, OFM, draw attention to the first friars on campus, to the letter from Thomas Plassmann, OFM, to the most Rev. Edmond Francis Gibbons, bishop of Albany, and to the fact that a provisional charter from the New York State Department of Education identified Siena “as an autonomous institution,” rather than a unit of St. Bonaventure College.
Copies of the 8.5” x 11” calendar can be ordered by sending a check for $7.00 to Gloria Douyon at Siena College Library. The project was sponsored by the college’s Office of Academic Affairs, the J. Spencer and Patricia Standish Library, and the Office of Alumni Relations.
The school community is also commemorating the 75th anniversary through campus events.
“We will have a year’s worth of celebration,” said Kenneth Paulli, OFM, chief of staff, adding that commemorations of the milestone will be coupled with several annual events.
The 13th annual Siena Festa Vino food and wine festival on Oct. 11, at the Marcelle Athletic Complex, is identified this year as Siena’s College’s 75th anniversary celebration.
Because large attendance is expected by the event planners, according to a recent Siena alumni e-letter, registration before Oct. 4 is recommended. This year, limited-edition magnums of St. Francis wine, etched with Siena College 75th anniversary, are available for pre-order through email.
“The vibrant undergraduate institution that gradually took shape on the old Garrett estate is the fruit of their faith, hard work, determination and commitment,” according to the Siena College website. “It is their stories, individually and collectively, that are the real history of Siena College, and its enduring legacy.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.