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Barry University Oral History: Sarah Cavanaugh, Sr.



             Sister Sarah Cavanaugh

Today is July 25, 1995. I am Sister Eileen Rice in the Barry Oral History room and I have with me Sister Sarah Cavanaugh. 

Sister Eileen: Where were you born Sarah?

Sister Sarah: I was born in Detroit Michigan.

Sister Eileen: When?

Sister Sarah: In 1928.

Sister Eileen: How many in your family?

Sister Sarah: There are two Sisters, Sue and Mary Alice, my brothers there's four, John, Joe, Mike, and Pat. 

Sister Eileen: Four brothers? And where were your parents born?

Sister Sarah: My dad was born in Troy, New York. 

Sister Eileen: And your mother?

Sister Sarah: And my mother was born in Detroit. 

Sister Eileen: Where and when did you attend elementary school and your education in general?

Sister Sarah: We lived in St. Paul's Parish in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. I attended St. Paul's for twelve years. I started there in first grade. I guess I'm not really sure, it would have been in the thirties because I graduated in 1946. I did go to Kindergarten to a public school. That was just a morning Kindergarten. That was also in Grosse Pointe. I was taught by the Adrian Dominican Sisters at St. Paul's. 

Sister Eileen: And then after you graduated from high school?

Sister Sarah: When I graduated from high school, I worked for a while at the First Federal Savings and Loans Bank in Detroit. It was a very short while. Because I actually entered in September after I graduated and when I entered, I entered on September 8th, 1946 and so that gave me the opportunity to have a year of college at Siena Heights before I became a Novice. So I was at Siena Heights College and then in 1948, when I was professed, I went to St. Philip Neri in Chicago. I was there for three years and then I was brought back into Adrian in 1951 to study and I did that for my second semester of school. Then I was missioned to St. Rose of Lima and because of being down here in Florida and living around campus that first year and teaching right there in the neighborhood for eight years, I completed my Bachelor work here at Barry University. I was a major in Biology, Chemistry, a Math minor. I received a Bachelors degree in 1956. At that time Barry was beginning the Master of Education program, so I began that program and completed it in the summer of 1959. 

Sister Eileen: It didn't take very long.

Sister Sarah: No, it took a long time for the undergraduate.

Sister Eileen: No, but the graduate degree.

Sister Sarah: Yes, the graduate degree, we were able to go after school because we taught right here in the neighborhood. 

Sister Eileen: Then you got another degree later.

Sister Sarah: No, actually I had opportunities for study because I had some National Science Foundation Grants. I had one when I was first of all at Ft. Wayne, Indian I thought, "Well, I better get ready to teach high school Earth Science again because that was usually what we did. I had taught for three years in Aquinas from '59-'62. During that time I even taught Earth Science for which I had no credits. So, when I had the opportunity to go to the University of Notre Dame with this National Science Foundation grant in Geology I did that and that was an excellent program. 

Then I didn't get placed back in high school; I was made a Supervisor in Detroit. At that time, one of the big changes in the curriculum was modern math. So I got another National Science Foundation Grant to Michigan State and it was for people working with elementary math. Much of it was related to the modern math and also manipulative materials for the teaching of math. 

Sister Eileen: How long were you supervising?

Sister Sarah: I actually worked for the congregation from 1967, I was called an elementary school supervisor for two years then I worked with the Sisters in both of the Detroit provinces and Sister Rose William and I were partners, that's Margaret Moran. She did the Language Arts mostly and I did the Math and Science. Also, elementary guidance was a big thing at that time and I had been responsible for helping to write an elementary school guidance course while I was principal in St. Paul in Ft. Wayne. So that was another thing that we were trying to do workshops and so on. We would visit the schools and we had 90 schools. It was like straight supervision for a couple of years. 

Then we moved into so many of the changes that were brought about by the chapters. I was elected in Immaculate Conception Province to be the Director of Education which then became the director of the Apostolate and then became the provincial administrator. So, that was nine more years.

Sister Eileen: So, you followed Sister Edmund?

Sister Sarah: Not really. The group of provincials that I was with (because we had a provincial team) was after Mother Gilbert, then the Immaculate Conception Province. We first elected a provincial and she had a council. Then we were only in that mode for one year and then we became a provincial team. And so that was with Marcella Hess and Helen Sund, Adelaida Eiden, Joe Bolan, Margaret Urban was the first one and then I was re-elected and put in the second term. So actually I worked for the congregation for about eleven years. 

Sister Eileen: When did you go to Regina?

Sister Sarah: Well, then I went back to St. Gerard's which was an inner city school. The Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary were leaving. There was a principal and there were four teachers and they were going to have an empty convent. So, I accepted the position as principal and then was able to get a religious education coordinator, Cheryl Powers, and several teachers, Sister Jane Small who later left the congregation and Cheryl also left, but we had a number of people. Then we invited some of the retired Sisters because that was the time when we were trying to provide a variety of situations for retired Sisters. So, we invited Sister Mildred and one of our other Sisters who live with us. 

Because it was a time when people were seeking a good community and we could choose then we had several other Sisters, Sister Noreen O'Connell, Sister Eleanor Petrice, Sister Marie Michael who was a new Sister, and we had Sister Maria Romero who was working in the formation program. So, we had a house full. I was there as principal for seven years and then I accepted the position as principal at Regina. I was here for six years. 

The administration changed there. It was the president- principal structure. I was there led by ___, also with ___ for a year. Then I accepted the position at Barry University to work in the division of Institutional Advancement. I've been here six years. I'm starting my seventh year.

Sister Eileen: It doesn't seem possible. 

Sister Sarah: It's true, it goes fast.

Sister Eileen: Well, you first heard about Barry when you went to St. Rose of Lima?

Sister Sarah: Right.

Sister Eileen: And you came to Barry during that period. 

Sister Sarah: Yes.

Sister Eileen: You really have two different arrivals at Barry then.  You have the arrival of the St. Rose of Lima and then the recent one. Let's talk about the first one. What do you remember Barry was like?

Sister Sarah: Well at that time, that was in 1951. Barry was a college, it was all girls living on campus. We lived on campus the first year and we also shared the Sisters refrectory and we shared prayer in the chapel. We did that together with the Barry Sisters. We also participated in many of the extra- curricular activities such as programs that were offered in the auditorium. The campus was beautiful as it is today. We were very involved on a day to day basis on the refectory and daily Mass. They had that in the morning and then we would come home from school and we said prayers in the evening with the Sisters. 

Summers were spectacular because we had so many Sisters from all over the state of Florida coming for summer school and then Sisters from other communities. We had particularly great times there at the pool and at the fourth of July parties that we've had. We also were able at Christmas to celebrate and we celebrated St. Dominic's day with the Allegheny Franciscans and we also went to St. Francis Hospital to share community with them. 

Barry was relatively new, in fact I reflected back at one time that I don't think it really impacted me how new Barry was at that time because of somebody coming from the north. I felt that it had been here. You don't think about the dates.

Sister Eileen: What year did you come here?

Sister Sarah: 1951. 

Sister Eileen: That's when ____

Sister Sarah: I belonged to Barry because I lived at Barry.

Sister Eileen: Yes, that's right. Is there anything else you want to say about your early period here?

Sister Sarah: I really enjoyed not only being with the Sisters that lived at St. Rose, but also the Sisters that were part of the Barry community. We were really one and we really shared so many things and they were certainly gifted women because of the fact that they were teaching at the college level. They were also very humble and very caring minded and operative and so on.

Sister Eileen: So you had a very positive reaction?

Sister Sarah: Yes. 

Sister Eileen: Now how would you answer those questions today when you came back to campus?

Sister Sarah: I would say that it was very different because of certainly a much larger student body. The campus is still very beautiful. I would say that there is a great variety of students because of the International dimension and the great variety of cultures that we certainly have here as Sisters, the faculty. We did have an opportunity to gather together, to belong to a mission group of the Sisters. Most of our Sisters in my mission group are Sisters that work at Barry University. We don't have the same opportunity to pray together that we did, however many of the Sisters have the opportunity for the Sunday liturgy and the noon liturgy. But because of their schedules and their own circumstances, some of them don't live on campus and so they do other schedules and such slightly different. However I would say that there is still that great spirit of belonging to the Dominican family and being part of Barry and so my daily contact particularly with the students is very limited because I work in the Division of Institutional Advancement where the students are work study students. We do have a number of Sisters that have offices near ours which is on the second floor of LaVoie. I have the same experience with the curriculum because I am not really involved in the academic life, however, I belong to a number of committees within the university, especially during our SAC study, a preparation for that annual type of evaluation. I was on the institution effectiveness committee, I've been on a number of other committees, right now Technology, computer Tech.   

I feel that probably one of the things that was questioned at the SAC time was, "Are we still Catholic, is that still evident on campus?" Within these past few years, I feel that there has been a greater effort to deliberately focus on that question and I feel changes that have taken place in Campus Ministry, in the work that we're doing on admission effectiveness, just really focusing on not necessarily new things, but focusing on things that are happening to try to bring that question to the forefront. I feel that there had been a lot of work done and Barry had remained true to its mission in all these years and I feel that Barry is strong. It continues to be strong. I continue to be proud of being part of the Barry community. I feel that our reputation just continues to reach farther boundaries. I think some of that has happened because of the kind of publications, some of the successes that our students have had, for example: soccer, which has put us on the national level. I think that many of our students travel and they probably always have travelled and where I always go to conferences to present papers and so on. I think the fact that Jeanne O'Laughlin is a member of so many national committees and she has an opportunity to participate more fully in the local community than maybe the Sisters did years ago when our style of life was different. 

Sister Eileen: What were your accomplishments at Barry?

Sister Sarah: Well, I came as somebody that brought an experience of administration. I was not a fund raiser in a lot of ways. I belonged to the Institution of International Advancement and one of the main focuses is fund raising, but I feel that actually, I assume the administrative role. June Autrey as the executive vice president is the executive who does most of the personal contact with leaders of corporations and foundations directly with Sister Jeanne. He is the one that goes and asks for the big money. I have become the one that runs the annual funds as the phon-a-thon, we work with a telemarketing company. We try to promote Plain Giving Program and started the Covenant Society in order to make that program more visible. I have had that as a goal to get more endowment scholarships and I feel that we have made a lot of progress in that area, not to say that we haven't had scholarships in the past. I feel that to promote endowed scholarships are to make sure that there will always be scholarship money for the future. I still feel very stimulated and happy to be at Barry. I continue to learn new things every year. If we measured in dollars and cents, money does continue to go up. That's one way to measure. I feel that the people that work in our division seem to be happy about the work environment and I think I've had some part to play in that because I think that we're a group of people that are unified in working together to try to help Barry be a better place, not only in fund raising, but alumni, university relations. Especially then and the different departments.

Sister Eileen: What do you think is Barry's greatest strength?

Sister Sarah: I feel that Barry is a caring community and that is very strong and that many people in particularly, this becomes obvious in fund raising, that they respond to Barry because they consider it a very caring community. I feel that that is the over all umbrella because we are a carrying community, we're also doing a good job in academic excellence and religious dimension is still very strong and service to the community is excellent. I feel that we do all of those things to a better degree because we are a caring community. 

Sister Eileen: What do you think is Barry's weakness?

Sister Sarah: Some how or other, I think that even though we try very diligently to get the publicity out to the local community, there are still many, many people out there that say well, "Barry who? Barry where? Barry what?" Broward is just our next door county and that's not to say it's true of everybody, but that's probably the thing that irritates me the most is when somebody says, "I know that we have had some problems with papers in Broward." They did a story not to long ago on all of the colleges and they didn't even mention Barry University. They go, "How could then do that when they are right here?" So, I guess that's one of the things that disappoints me. It's how other people evaluate us and I realize that the whole communication thing is a problem and I also feel that we are so big on campus that people don't know each other. They don't know what each other is doing. There is a lot of things, so many things that are going on that are just so outstanding that people don't even know about it. So, I think that takes away a little bit from us.

Sister Eileen: Can you give me any humorous stories?

Sister Sarah: Nothing off hand about Barry.

Sister Eileen: Have you been through any experiences this year?

Sister Sarah: I don't know that we would call it humorous, but some of the heartwarming experiences that I've had because I have been able to be here at Barry at this time in my life is meeting former students from St. Rose of Lima and discovering that I was only about thirteen years older than they were and accidentally finding out the connections. I know I've met Andre Forley, he's a boy that I taught who, a will had mentioned Barry as a recipient and he was the lawyer. So, when I started doing business with him I asked, "Did you by any chance, go to Rose of Lima the school?" and he did at that time and I said, "Do you remember someone by the name of Sister Michael Henry?" because that was my name. He said, "Well, yeah." I said, "Well, I am Sister Michael Henry." He screamed and he dropped everything and he came right over and he continues to be in touch and it's like I feel like I'm his long lost girlfriend. He treats me like, you know, he is certainly very attentive in many ways. He also has been a help to us. He has done some of our charitable remainder trusts and some of the work that he's donated that service. I had the same experience getting oil in my car and me and Ted LeVoie, and again it was in the conversation. As a result of both of those, both of these gentlemen have gathered other students and had lunches and dinners and to have an opportunity to see other students. They're certainly not very funny, but they are touching. It's really one of the first opportunities I've had because I've never been good at keeping in touch with people. I did teach some of the students more than once, so I remember that I had one group three times because I kept moving from 3rd to 5th, to 7th, to 8th. 

Sister Eileen: Is there anything else that you would consider important that you would like to contribute?

Sister Sarah: Well, I guess I always liked to express my opportunity of how great it is to be an Adrian Dominican and what a really outstanding life that this has been to be part of this group of women; to have been really happy and have had the opportunity for educational and spiritual growth, just being able to work with and to know these really outstanding women.

Sister Eileen: Well, thank you Sister Sarah.

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