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Barry University Oral History: Mary Lou Desmond



                             Mary Lou Desmond

Today is August 4, 1995. I am Sister Eileen Rice in the Barry Oral History room. I have with me one of our graduates, Mary Lou Desmond. 

Sister Eileen: When were you born, Mary Lou?

Mary Lou: I was born in 1935.

Sister Eileen: And where?

Mary Lou: In Cleveland Ohio.

Sister Eileen: How many people are in your family?

Mary Lou: I have one sister and that was it. My mother and father and just my sister and me. 

Sister Eileen: Where were your parents born?

Mary Lou: My father I believe was born in Cleveland Ohio and my mother came from just outside there in the Painsville metro-higher area.  She lived a good deal of her life in Canada because her father was in the railroad and then came back to Ohio. 

Sister Eileen: Where and when did you attend elementary School, high school, college?

Mary Lou: Okay, elementary school was a school called Christ the King. It was a parochial school in Cleveland Ohio. I guess I got out in 1949. I couldn't tell you when I started, we'd have to figure that one out. That was what they called the Blue Nuns that would run it, but I can't tell you the legitimate name.  High school I went to a school in Willoughby, Ohio.  It was called Andrew School for Girls. It is still there today, well Christ the King is still there today. The high school Andrew school for Girls is still there. It was a girls' school then, still is today. It was a boarding school. A very interesting school. It was a school set up by husband and wife. They said that whoever died first, the money would go to a school and an endowment for that sex. Well, they both died in a fire, so they determined by law that the woman of the weaker sex died first and it became a woman's high school. It was an interesting place because it was a Vocational school where you actually came out probably better trained than anybody comes out in high school. Even then or today because you came out with a National Vocational training. When I came here to Barry in 1973, I actually did not receive a diploma because when you got out in May, you either had to take a job in your field and receive recommendation in the next six months or you go off to college and you can get nothing lower than a B grade until that following semester. If you completed all of these, you graduated in February. So, I basically was a freshmen in college and I went home to graduate in February of that same school year. It was kind of interesting. But, my major was business. I had a Sister who majored in foods and another one who majored in retail and you had your choice. You got a vocational field for it and then the following years you...

Sister Eileen: You had two sisters?

Mary Lou: No, I had just one sister, but I had two cousins that went also to the same school. Then of course I came here to Barry. I was an educational major. I started out thinking that I was going to get into Theater, then got into Sociology, started getting into social work, finally decided education would be my field, so I had enough minors in both social work. I guess we ended up with an english and we ended up with theology because of the number of classes we took. My major was education and I did graduate in 1957.

Sister Eileen: What did you do after that? 

Mary Lou: Well, that's kind of an interesting story. I met my husband. I knew him through someone, but I actually met him my Junior year of school. He came down, we began to date. The following year, I got a ring right here in the Chapel. He gave me a ring in December so that senior year I graduated one week and got married the next. I stayed right here in Ft. Lauderdale. We got married in Ft. Lauderdale, so we stayed even though I was from Ohio and he was from Philadelphia, we stayed here in Florida. For the next I don't know how many years, we did nothing but raise children. 

Sister Eileen: How many children?

Mary Lou: I have nine children.

Sister Eileen: Wow.

Mary Lou: I have seven girls and two boys. Until I put my last one into kindergarten, I was at home. The family, we ran a concession stand at a local park from the time that the last one was like two years old on. The kids worked it, I ran it. But, then when I put the youngest one into school, I went back to teaching. I had taught when we were first married from September to December, but in those days a pregnant woman could not teach in school, so I did it as long as I could because I had the baby in February. But, it being the first I understand I hid it fairly well by wearing larger clothes. So, I had only taught that length of period and then after putting this last one into school, I went back to teaching and I taught for three years. 

Sister Eileen: Where did you live?

Mary Lou: We lived in Ft. Lauderdale for about a year and a half and then the rest of our lives we lived in Miami. 

Sister Eileen: Oh, you've been here for a long time. 

Mary Lou: All this time.

Sister Eileen: So, what did you teach?

Mary Lou: I taught elementary school. I started out substitute teaching in the south in South Dade area and then the last year I taught full- time at a school called Coral Reef Elementary. Then, I was due to go back to school for my certification, I still had the nine kids at home and I was doing a teaching job which is a seven days a week job and there was like nothing left, so I said there's no way I am going to keep this up, so I went into banking. I was able to get a job in the bank that was close by. I then could keep hours. I worked 7:30 - 3:30 where I could still be home when the kids were home.  I have been with Chase Federal Bank for 15 years. I started as a mail teller, a year later went into the marketing department, stayed there for about six years, and then became a branch manager. I was a branch manager then until just last year in actually February. I went back into the marketing department. I stayed there until I guess the end of June. I retired from the bank and here I am back where I started 42 years ago as a freshman and now I'm back here working. It's kind of like the life has come full circle. 

Sister Eileen: How did you first hear about Barry?

Mary Lou: My one sister, Helen had gone her freshmen year to Adrian Dominican, the school in Adrian, Siena Heights. She had told my family, we were on vacation that summer, and my mother said, why don't we go look at your sister's school. So, we came down and the next thing you know, a year and a half later, I was here. 

Sister Eileen: How would you describe Barry when you arrived? Any of those things such as atmosphere on campus, students, and so on.

Mary Lou: Well, it was a beautiful place, there's no question from someone coming from Cleveland Ohio and arrived on the campus as it was. This is a whole other world. The students were certainly very outgoing. It was a smaller world then. I think there were about 125 in my class as a freshman and we graduated with maybe 72 or something like that so almost half type of a thing. But, everybody knew everybody. You were welcomed as if you were all one great big class. You had a big sister. As a freshmen you had a big sister who was once a member of the senior class. So, you got to know the seniors and then you filtered on down. So, as far as the atmosphere, it was certainly very warm and the students were very warm and friendly also. The Sister's as faculty and also they were in the dorms. They had rooms in the dorms, so you got to know the ones, whether you had a class with them or not, you got to know the ones in the dormitory. I don't recall that they were ever a problem in the dormitory because I don't know if they picked the certain ones that were more friendly or whatever, but we certainly got along well. I was never one to have a problem with rules and regulations which is probably part of where a big part of our class that dropped out were kids that did. They didn't want to be regulated in their dorms. 

     The lay faculty, I really didn't have a lot of lay faculty in those days. Very few, I can't think of the ones that I did. Of all the classes that I know that I did take that still remain in my mind, it was all with the Sisters.

Sister Eileen: You were in education.

Mary Lou: Right.

Sister Eileen: So, who do you remember from the teachers?

Mary Lou: Sister Dorothy Browne was big in our classes. I probably had some lay people in some of those classes, but they don't stick in my mind. Sister Mary Paul was one of my English teachers, I remember her. I had Sister Loyola because one thing I was lacking, I didn't have a language and I ended up taking Latin with Sister Loyola. She was a lot of fun. I had Sister Arnold. Sister Arnold was our class moderator for our four years. Sister Elaine was the sociology teacher. Sister Marie Carol I was very active with in that I was active in Choral and different things like that and Sister was there. Sister Maura and Sister Thomas Gertrude all relating to the choral, to the music. So many of us were involved in so many of those things. The one lay teacher I certainly will remember was our phys. ed teacher. 

Sister Eileen: Peggy Hartzall?

Mary Lou: Yes. Phys. Ed, my kids laughed, because in our day, phys. ed. was so different. My kids will often say to me did you ever play this or did you ever do this. Well, I was an athlete and as an athlete you did everything because sports for us then were field day type of things. It was like going to the olympics four times a year. I always said what a wonderful opportunity I had through athletics because I probably visited every college there was in the state in four years. We would go to Gainesville; we would go to Florida State. We went to Stetson, we went to Rollins. We went to Bethune-Cookman which was a marvelous experience in itself. All the schools would come together and we would participate for three days in every sport there was. It wasn't necessarily even who went home as the winner. I don't think that was even important. It was just done as a commodity. I guess somebody did always win. It must have been either that we never won or else it was not that important because I don't remember. But, it was a wonderful thing, so as a result you might go play basketball, volleyball, swim, play golf, be on the team.  You could do it all. You could play tennis. It didn't matter if you were the greatest, there were just so many of us that could go. We'd take two or three carloads full. So, that was a wonderful kind of different experience for me. Athletes today, you center in on one sport or something. We didn't have that opportunity. 

     We'd have the department and the curriculum mainly over the years narrowing down to education. I can't say enough about that because it was certainly a well rounded education. I ended up doing my intern teaching right up the street in Miami Shores Elementary by a gal by the name of Katie Lidow who was excellent and outstanding at the time. So, I was fortunate there. We did a lot of things. We talked about the role of religion on campus here and also community relations.  In those days there was a lot going out where we went to help. We used to go to St. Joseph's help home which at the time was somewhere in North Miami. I couldn't tell you exactly where. It's the same home that's now in Prine, but it was a home that we'd go to that was part of our requirements. We were asked to do it for our sociology classes. Sister Elaine used to have us go. We'd go and help out the little orphans and the little kids. You went once a week over there and spent probably a whole afternoon or more whether you did it on a Saturday or what I don't know. We'd take a bus and go. So, that put us out into the community. We did go off and there was an old senior citizen home and I couldn't tell you where exactly it was. We used to go there and work also. 

     Certainly the role of religion on campus was very, very important in our day in that we were required and expected to attend Mass in the morning. You didn't have to, but it was certainly the type of thing that they wanted and expected of you. I don't know if they would look down on you, I don't think that was the case if you didn't attend. Now every certain function we did have to go. It used to be a joke because those kids who would try and get out of it, Sisters would go down the hall and go looking for them. They'd find them in the showers and they'd find them around the beds. You'll always have those kind of kids that would pull that kind of thing. That was kind of the humorous side of the standpoint of people expecting you to attend things. 

     It has always given me, and this is one of the things that I am thrilled with coming back, it was a wonderful warm feeling. It kind of puts you into the cocoon if religion was a part of your life, it was wonderful to know that you had the Chapel there and certainly God is everywhere, but to have that feeling of when you go into a quiet place and you're kind of there specially and you can talk to God. So, this is a wonderful thing for me to be able to come back here. The Chapel holds a special feeling for me. Also, as I said my husband gave me my ring there. So, religion, I don't know, I'll have to see now that I've come back and I'll be on campus, how I feel about it now as far as how I think religion on campus is held today. 

Sister Eileen: What would you evaluate Barry today, it's strengths and weaknesses? You've lived in this area most of your life. 

Mary Lou: Well, that's really a question I'd like to further answer after I was here a while because I lived on the South side of town. I've always felt Barry needed more exposure in the city than it gets. Everyone hears about you or them, but we don't hear that much and you certainly have more Sisters since Sister Jeanne is here because she is so much more involved in the community. I've always thought, "Gee, there it is and I don't read that much about it." Being when I was first married and younger and the kids were younger, I couldn't get over here. The more I had and as the family grew, I never could get this far over here, it was quite a job. You just don't pack up nine kids and go off for an afternoon at the college. So, I'd like to get a feel for that and also know that I am back here and maybe answer that at another time. 

Sister Eileen: Do you have any stories you would like to relate?

Mary Lou: Well, let's see. About when I was in school? There were many of them I guess at the time, but I can't think of any just yet. There were so many of them as I said, so many good fun times, but nothing that would just come off my head.

Sister Eileen: Well, is there anything else that you would consider important as you look back at your days at Barry?

Mary Lou: Well, you know, this is kind of a funny thing, but our service to people, I don't know where this fits into the context of things, but that's where you put it together. One of the classes I took that I have probably used and where I say used, where it has a concrete showing of what I have done because certainly classes that I took, and courses that I have studied, or lessons that I learned even as we might put it have certainly taken a strong part of my life. But, the one class concretely, and I have told people so often is I took a Calligraphy class when I was here at Barry. Once you become a Calligrapher, you use that in numerous ways. It's helped me in my job, it's helped me when I was a school teacher, it helped me in my job marketing wise. Once you get into a company and anybody knows you can do anything like that, and so it would always become a joke. I did teach a couple of my kids to do it and they would say the same thing, "If there is one thing that you took concrete mom, you sure did learn that in college and you sure did use it." Again as I said, there are a lot of things that you have learned and carried from your training, but have made you what you are, but nobody is going to pick it out and say, "Wow, where did you learn that?" 

Sister Eileen: What does your husband do?

Mary Lou: My husband has passed away. He passed away four years ago. He traveled many, many years. He was in real-estate. Then, the last 15 years of his life, he worked for a tape company. He traveled basically in the state of Florida. It was headquartered out of Philadelphia, but he traveled through the states.

Sister Eileen: Well, thank you Mary Lou, it's good to have you back. 

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Frances Sciurba