Under the leadership of Jacqueline Grennan Wexler, the early 1960s are recognized as a time of innovation, growth and change at Webster College. Some of the changes include changing from an all-female student body to co-educational, the construction of the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, and the establishment of a Master of Teaching program in Kansas City.
Committed to innovation, social justice, diversity and academic quality, Jacqueline brought national attention to St. Louis as few others have done. She left an impression on everyone she met, from business leaders to entrepreneurs to the faculty she worked with and the students she taught.
Here, Jacqueline’s cousins, Mary Grennan Hupcey and Anne Coerver, share their thoughts about attending Webster when Jacqueline was president (1965-69).
Mary Grennan Hupcey retired this fall from her 50-year career as a teacher, most recently with Holy Family School in Florham Park, N.J., where she taught for 10 years. She and her husband just returned from celebrating this event, which coincided with their golden wedding anniversary, on a Danube River cruise. Mary is a first cousin once removed to Jacqueline.
Also a teacher is Anne Coerver who taught 39 years in the St. Louis Archdiocese, 33 of those at Mary Queen of Peace in Webster Groves. Anne is also a cousin once removed to Jacqueline.
In an effort to attract students who lived outside the Midwest, then President Francetta Barberis and Sister Jacqueline, then academic vice president, visited New York where I lived. They wanted to diversify the student body, including students from other states and other countries. They were a dynamic duo — very open and sincere. My uncle decided to send his daughter Phyllus to Webster to major in drama. I wanted to major in math and Webster offered both, so I decided to go there, too.
My mother, Lucille Lordan, was the resident nurse at Webster College. I went to live with her in the dorms at Loretto Hall while attending high school at Nerinx Hall. When I graduated from Nerinx, I began my studies at Webster, majoring in theology and education and continued living in the dorm.
It was an exciting time. But when you are in the middle of it, you don’t realize how important the changes are. The college changed from all girls to co-ed and the first males to attend were former military servicemen. The Loretto-Hilton Theatre was being built, and I remember a big celebration with Conrad Hilton who donated funds to help build it.
It was a place where everyone got along and you were expected to perform your best. The 1960s were definitely a time of change. The programs were very interesting, and I enjoyed learning innovative teaching techniques. The teachers were ahead of their time. Sr. Mary Mangan stands out as one of my most inspiring teachers. She was commuting to Yale on weekends to complete her doctorate degree. We were very fortunate because we had excellent teachers who made us want to succeed and prove to them and our parents that it was the right decision to send us there.
The only buildings were the Administration Building (now Webster Hall) and Loretto Hall. The Music Building was acquired during that time and the Loretto-Hilton Theatre was built. When Jacqueline was president she lived in a house on Edgar Road where she hosted students, faculty and other guests. Students were required to wear gowns (robes) to attend mass and there was a formal dress-up dinner once a month. We had a curfew to return to the dorms at a certain time in the evening. Once my roommate didn’t come back to our room on time, and I didn’t report it. She and I found ourselves washing a nun’s car the following Saturday.Photos copyright of Webster University
I love the way the campus has expanded, and I admire that they have so many international campuses and programs. My children were able to spend a semester or year abroad when they were undergraduates and that was life changing for them, so I appreciate that Webster now sends students abroad during their undergraduate years. I still attend my class reunions and love seeing everyone again.
I've always been proud to say I graduated from Webster College. It is amazing how it has grown since I graduated. I am happy to see the progress Webster has made while still keeping the Loretto traditions.