Fifty years ago this month, Ursuline College and Bellarmine College merged to form a co-educational college that is now Bellarmine University.
The university and the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville have launched a year-long celebration of the merger's anniversary, featuring events celebrating the legacy of Bellarmine's enduring Ursuline bonds. Information about the merger will be displayed on Bellarmine’s campus throughout the coming academic year.
The celebration began on Saturday, June 2, when 1968 graduates of Ursuline College — the last class to graduate from the college with that name — along with other alumnae took a tour of the Ursuline Campus as part of Bellarmine's annual reunion weekend. Prior to the tour, the Ursuline Sisters installed an outdoor banner on their campus to commemorate the merger.
Ursuline College was a Catholic college for women established by the Ursuline Sisters at 3105 Lexington Road in 1938, with roots going back to the opening of the Sacred Heart Junior College and Normal School in 1921. In 1968, it merged with Bellarmine — a Catholic college for men — after several years of increased coordination between the two colleges. The merged institution was called Bellarmine-Ursuline College for three years, while students who had initially enrolled at either institution completed their studies together on Bellarmine's campus. The name reverted to Bellarmine College in 1971.
“The Ursuline Sisters are happy that the fiftieth anniversary of the merger of Ursuline College and Bellarmine College is being commemorated in so many different ways throughout this 'Year of Ursuline,’ said Sister Janet Marie Peterworth, OSU, president of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. "I remember 50 years ago. The years leading up to the merger were difficult ones for the Ursulines. We saw our college of many years changing its nature from an important all-woman’s institution to a co-ed institution. And I suppose Bellarmine’s founders felt the same way when their all-male college went co-ed. It is wonderful to know that fifty years later Ursuline College still lives on in the historical memory of Bellarmine University. It is gratifying to see Professor Bob Lockhart’s beautiful statue of Saint Angela Merici on the campus, former Ursuline College president Sister Angelice Seibert’s picture on the wall along with Bellarmine’s presidents, and streets on campus with historic Ursuline names."
Today, the Ursuline Campus features the offices of the Ursuline Sisters and their Motherhouse Chapel, along with Sacred Heart Academy, Sacred Heart Model School, Sacred Heart Preschool and Sacred Heart School for the Arts. Brescia Hall, built in 1939 as a science and classroom building for Ursuline College, still stands and is in use by Sacred Heart Schools.
"Bellarmine's founding president, Monsignor Alfred Horrigan, once said that mergers involve many problems on many different levels and remarked that this merger was 'the single most difficult thing connected with my years at Bellarmine,'", said Dr. Susan M. Donovan, Bellarmine's president. "While it was surely challenging, we're grateful for the leadership and vision that he and President Seibert — and members of both communities — displayed in successfully negotiating and implementing this merger, which resulted in an exceptional institution of Catholic higher education that continues to emerge into regional and national prominence. The legacy of Ursuline College and Ursuline core values of community, reverence, service and leadership as well as their commitment to social justice and care for creation are continually present in Bellarmine's mission, curriculum and campus life.”
A full calendar of events for the year-long celebration will be announced in the fall semester. It will include:
• Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education's Teacher Education Induction Ceremony, featuring remarks by Ursuline Sister Paula Kleine-Kracht, in Bellarmine's Nolen C. Allen Hall (September 14 at 5:30 p.m.)
• a tree planting on Bellarmine's campus during the Blessing of the Animals (October 4 at 5 p.m.)
• Mass for the Feast of St. Angela Merici at the Ursuline Chapel (January 27 at 3 p.m.)
• opportunities for Bellarmine students to spend time with Ursuline sisters
• recognition of Ursuline alumnae at a Bellarmine alumni awards dinner and an athletic event
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