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Barry University Oral History: Linda Bevilacqua, Sr.



               Sister Linda Bevilacqua

Today is June 10, 1996. I am Sister Eileen Rice in the Barry Oral History room at the Barry University Library.  I am interviewing Sister Linda Bevilacqua. 

Sister Eileen:  Sister Linda, when were you born?

Sister Linda:  March 7, 1941

Sister Eileen:  And Where?

Sister Linda:  I was born in Jamaica, Long Island New York.

Sister Eileen:  Tell me a little about your education.

Sister Linda:  From 1a through 3a, I attended St. Thomas the

Apostle grammar school in Woodhaven Long Island and in 3b through 8b I attended the Immaculate Conception in Jamaica State.  I attended four years at the Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica State and graduated from Barry College in 1962 having attended four years.  I then earned a masters in education degree in guidance and counseling between the summers of 1964- 69 from Siena Heights college and a ph.D in Educational Administration from Michigan State University which was awarded in December of 1980.

Sister Eileen:  When did you come back to Barry?

Sister Linda:  I came back to Barry in August of 1969.

Sister Eileen:  And in what capacity did you come back?

Sister Linda:  In 1969 to 1970 I was the assistant Dean of

Students to Sister Helen Duggan.  In 1970-1978, I was the Dean of students and I came back again in 1981, and in 1981-1982 I was the director to alternative programs and in July of 1982 until the present I've been the associate vice-president for academic affairs and the Dean in the School of Adult and Continuing Education.

Sister Eileen:  Would you kindly go back to your student days, would you comment on what it was like to be a student here at Barry?

Sister Linda:  Well at the time, Barry was a woman's college and it was very small.  I don't know what our total enrollment was I think in my graduating class, we might have been somewhere between 50 and 60 students.  Most of us were traditionally aged students. Faculty was almost completely religious.  There were few lay people.  Peggy Husson taught Physical Education  with Gloria Klee.  We had a biology teacher who was a layman.

Sister Eileen: Just a year?

Sister Linda:  Yes, there may have been a few other laypeople in the offices, but they were not the instructors. 

Sister Eileen:  Do you think you got a good education?

Sister Linda:  Oh, I think I got an excellent education.  I had had a very good foundation in grade school and high school and I feel I got a very good education here at Barry.  I changed my major a few times.  I think I remember I might have been a sociology major then I was a Spanish major.  I finished in elementary education.

Sister Eileen:  Tell me a little bit about your experience here as Dean of Students.

Sister Linda:  We don't have enough time to do that.  I don't know, what do you want to know?  It was an interesting time, the seventies.  The college had begun to change.  There were male students enrolled though we were not completely co-ed until the middle of the seventies.  We had students from Biscayne College, now St. Thomas University.  We had male students in some of our majors.  It wasn't until right before I left, I don't know when, that we began to house male students.  They went through a lot of changes in the rules and regulations by which the students lived.  I think the first major change I made in 1970 was to abolish the dress code.  Students were following under the same dress code I lived under when I was a student and I just felt it was inappropriate.  There were a lot of changes that took place with regard to the way the students lived.

Sister Eileen:  Yes, the sisters were relieved of our duties. That was another change.      

Sister Linda:  Yes, that change happened gradually, I think because we still had sisters living in the residence halls.  I lived in a residence hall until I left in '78.  I guess it's been since '78 that there are no sisters living in residence with the students.

Sister Eileen:  You were here as a student under Sister Mary Alice?

Sister Linda:  Correct.

Sister Eileen:  Then you came back here and you were with Sister Dorothy and also with Sister Trinita.  And now you've been here under sister Jeanne.

Sister Linda: Right.

Sister Eileen:  Would you like to comment on the way they handled things as an administrator? 

Sister Linda:  Well, each woman has certainly her own distinct style of administration.  And you don't know whether that's a chicken or an egg situation because the institution was different under each president and the skills that were called for were different.  Sister Dorothy certainly was a builder and the college grew and developed and because of her many years of service in Florida she was very well known and the college enjoyed a fine reputation. 

Sister Trinita's style was certainly different from Sister Dorothy's.  Sister Trinita had a tremendous interest in the day to day operation of the institution and kept, close tabs on what was going on.  She wasn't an external president as either Sister Dorothy or Sister Jeanne.  Sister Jeanne came at a very crucial time I feel certainly in my Doctoral studies since my topic was direcctly related to independent higher education, I saw the handwriting on the wall and seemed that unless a major change took place at Barry University either in it's direction, or programming that Barry might not have survived the '80's because the forecasts were so severe.  Sister Jeanne is a risk taker and I think that some of the risks that she has taken at the University, thanks be to God, have proven to be very sound- risks and have done well for us. So I think that all three of them I have to say however gave me a tremendous amount of freedom as an administrator.  I never felt that any one of the presidents was breathing down my neck, involved in the day to day operation of the units that I was  administering.  I've always felt a great deal of freedom and trust and support. 

     I guess the biggest risk was with Sister Jeanne because we didn't have a school of adult education and when we decided to dissolve the consortium with Embry Riddle, it was known as the Miami Education Consortium.  Dr. Lee and I knew we were going out on a limb because that was a financially successful program and in the beginning it was a 50/50 proposition.  When we took it over in January of '83, we were 80 percent of the enrollment in that consortium and yet we were still splitting the surface 50/50.  Sister Jeanne had some real concerns as to whether we could do it on our own.  And so I was grateful for the trust she placed in me and that we took the risk.  But I think the record speaks for itself, that we have been very successful. 

Sister Eileen:  If you look back on your time here at Barry, first as a student for four years and then later in various administrative positions, can you think of anything humorous that happened?

Sister Linda:  I can think of so many things, as a student especially because so many of the rules and regulations were archaic and we had a lot of our fun as students just trying to get around those rules and regulations.  Lots of students in the 50's and early 60's will tell stories about hiding in the showers, about smoking in the bathrooms.  Trenchcoats- we always wore trenchcoats to cover up the Bremuda shorts which we were wearing, which were forbidden.  The sisters didn't allow us to do the twist.  I think they felt it was immoral.  I was notorious for always having a stereo and when all the sisters would have recreation after dinner, all of my friends would just gather in my room and we would just twist to our hearts content.  

We had great fun skipping all the religious ceremonies we had to go to like Holy Hour and Stations of the Cross on friday nights at 7:00 when normal people people would be going out on dates.  Rosary in October and May, first Sunday was closed retreat sunday.  You couldn't leave the campus if you wore a white dress and a white veil.  There were just so many things.  We had a lot of fun, I would say and there were many organizations which sponsored social activities that kept us very involved.  I was a very involved student.  I loved it here, and was very busy with not just my academics, but all of my social events and organizations.  I was class president in my junior year, I think I was class secretary my sophomore year.  I was active in Sodality from the very beginning.  We had what we called Olympics day and we did lots of things to get ready for that.  Yearbook- newspaper- I can't even remember.

Sister Eileen:  What about the time you were an administrator or an example when you were the Dean of students.  Anything humorous that you recall there?

Sister Linda:  Oh, yeah.  There were always a lot of things.  Panty raids by the Biscayne students and you never knew what that form was going to take.  Sometimes we knew they were coming, sometimes, we didn't know they were coming.  One time a Biscayne student was running through the hall I was on Dunspaugh 2nd and he grabbed a bra from one of the students and she came screaming after him saying "Give me back that bra, it cost me fifteen dollars, take this one it only cost four."  Another time, I woke up one morning to find a Snoopy Dog hanging from the roof.  The students had gone up over my room and hung a Snoopy Dog just to show me that they could do that.  They did crazy things like Tide slides.  They would wet the halls down sprinkle Tide and slide up and down till their hearts content.  They thought that was great fun. 

     Another time on Halloween, I opened my door to find a spider net had been constructed in my hall door so I couldn't get out.  It was a maze of string- unbelievable.  Another time, I heard the chapel bell ringing and went over to find that the students had climbed the belfrey and were ringing the chapel bells.  You never knew what they were going to do.  Most of the time the fun was harmless.  Sometimes, it wasn't.  Putting dye in the pool, soap in the pool.  Carying the Pelican from it's stand to the chapel.     And then of course there were a lot of things that the students did that I just didn't react to because they had to have their time to let off steam.  The one thing they always wondered how I knew what was going on and I used to say "well you forget I was a student here once before and nothing new has been invented under the sun when it comes to pranks."  A lot of times I just closed my eyes.  I think they thought I didn't realize what was going on but most of the time I did.  I just couldn't get on their back for everything they did.  Especially for residence students because this is their home and they had to have a way of expressing themselves. They did crazy things- balloon fights.  I would say most of it was good harmless fun. 

Sister Eileen:  Must have been interesting days.

Sister Linda:  It was very, very interesting.

Sister Eileen:  Now you went to study at Michigan State, but you didn't stay on campus. 

Sister Linda:  No, I lived in a convent which was about a mile from the campus. 

Sister Eileen:  You really didn't have any way to compare our students with those students, except when you saw them socially or in class.

Sister Linda:  Well, I never was in class with those students because I was never in class with undergraduates.  I was familiar with the graduate housing because a lot of my friends lived in married student housing on the campus.  Those were not the best of conditions.  In fact, I was just speaking to a friend of mine who is out in Fargo, North Dakota and we were laughing because I said " do you (his name was George) and Joyce ever look back to living in that apartment and wondering how your survived?"  Because they had two children and he said "you know, we never do.  It's as if we've blocked it from our minds."  It was very cramped quarters.  Especially for doctoral students.  And sometimes we didn't always have a desk or a carrel in the library, but most of the time we did.  So, it was hard for them and I was very fortunate being in the convent because I had a bedroom and a studyroom.  Michigan State scene was very different. The couple of years that I was there were some of their highest enrollment which was over 43 thousand.  The resident halls there are contained units.  High rises- some of them are high rises.  Some of them are very old buildings.  But the newer ones are high rises with full kitchens and dining rooms and classrooms.  They're concerned because I did a project for the residential life office of Michigan State.  They hired me to do a project and one thing I became aware of was their concern that some of their students would be too insolated.  That they would spend all of their time in the dormitories or residence halls with three or four hundred students and not really get too acclimated to the campus.  Especially at the freshmen year level, that was a major difference. 

Sister Eileen:  What do you predict is the future at Barry?  First the school of adult and continuing education.

Sister Linda:  Well, I think there's a pretty sound foundation over there in adult education.  I think that depending on what happens with the economy, it ought to be able to maintain and grow.  In every term it seems to grow which utterly amazes me.  That's not to say that we don't put a lot of effort into our marketing and recruiting and advertising.  But so many of our students receive partial payment for their tuition from their companies and organization.  If there were to be some serious economic conditions in the country that would prohibit them from doing that, then adult education might not have the successes that it has.  I can see some changes taking place. 

I think were I to stay we would have gone much more into the noncredit arena which we've not done because the credit degree program operation has been so time consuming.  And plus, we've only this year been able to fund a position for somebody to direct that part of the operation.  I can forsee that there will be more markets to develop.  We've already begun to look at Naples and Ft. Meyers and I can see with the new Diocese over there that that will be an area that will develop, hopefully as they get their feet into it.  Right now with exploration stages in the fall there will be one or two course offerings in either Naples or Ft. Meyers. 

Sister Eileen:  What about Barry?  What do you think is the future at Barry?        

Sister Linda:  Well, I think that we have weathered the storm from everything that I've seen as a danger signal.  I think we've eliminated most all of them.  The budget seems to be balanced. 

The endowment is very poor, but I think in time that that will come.  Barry seems to be enjoying a very fine reputation both locally and nationaly and while many independant colleges and universities have been experiencing declines in enrollment, we've been experiencing increases in enrollment.  So, I suspect that we will do very well.  I suspect the program in social work is a fine way for us to be in another ball park in higher education and having doctoral programs.  I suspect that the area, the neighborhood, and the geographic area in which we find ourselves will undergo some major changes. We may find ourselves becoming more of an urban university than a suburban one.  It might be too that developing new campuses, actually new campuses, extensions of the university will be in the near future.

Sister Eileen:  What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses.  Strengths first.

Sister Linda:  I think the strengths are number one its reputation.  It has a very strong reputation for being a  sound academic institution.  I think also the curriculum is founded and based in the liberal arts.  And even though we've developed several professional schools, I think that there's a real commitment here to the education of all the students and that liberal arts are very important to the formation of the profession. I think we maintain that.  I think we've also been able to consistently attract competent faculty.  We seem to retain very dedicated people.  In administration and throughout the faculty, we have some very fine people who could probably earn much more money elsewhere, but choose to stay here and make a commitment to the place.  I think some of the facilities are definitely assets to the institution such as the new Andreas building, the library, the auditorium, the Weigand center, even the residence halls.  I think they give students a variety of choice in the types of residence halls we provide, from the very small to the large, from the air conditioned to the non air conditioned.

Sister Eileen:  What do you think are the weaknesses?      

Sister Linda:  Well I think right off the bat I'd have to say the lack of endowment.  Though Sister Jeanne has certainly been working at that.  That could be a real serious weakness.  Another one might be that in the midst of our growth, we may have lost some of our personal interaction with our students.  I don't know.  I know we've kept the enrollment at 5000, and we are very close to that at this point.  I hope we stick to that because the research shows that once you pass the 5000 mark, you do become a different kind of institution.  I wouldn't want to see that happen.  I think we could lose part of our nature and the fact that we say we are a caring environment.  Sometimes I think we've been able to attract very competent qualified and committed faculty.  I am concerned about faculty that we hire that maybe we don't weed out soon enough.  I don't see that as a major problem though.  That's probably my idealistic nature that maybe I'd like to see us put more teeth in to it.  

Sister Eileen:  Anything else you'd like to say?

Sister Linda:  Well, I would say what I've said so many times that I think Barry University was one of the most positive forces in my life as a student.  I came here as a total unknown having just moved from New York to Miami.  I feel the Sisters here had a lot to do with my development and formation as a young adult.  I think they saw in me what I didn't see in myself and they brought a lot of talent and gifts out of me.  They gave me tremendous responsibilities as a student and I feel that Barry had a lot to do with informing me as an adult.  I have tremendously fond memories of being here as a student.  I almost cherish those times more than I cherish my days in administration.  I leave again and I always say that I'm still an alum.  I feel that association is very deep within me and next year is my class's 25th reunion.  We have already begun to plan for that and I would have been very active in that.  Now that I'm leaving the state, I won't be able to. 

Sister Eileen:  Well, you can come back. 

Sister Linda:  Oh, I will I hope.  And now I'll be a trustee and that will be another role to play.  Thank you sister.

Sister Eileen:  Thank you.

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Frances Sciurba