Mundelein College provided Catholic women's education in Chicago from 1929–1991.
1929: Founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), the groundbreaking of the Mundelein College skyscraper occurs on November 1, the day after the stock market crash that began the Great Depression. The Art Deco style building was designed as a self-contained “skyscraper college” which included classrooms, laboratories, offices, an auditorium, a gymnasium, a pool, and living spaces for the women religious operating the school.
Image: BVMs at the entrance of Mundelein College, 1930.
1930: Mundelein College begins classes in the fall with 378 students enrolled. Although they intended to only admit freshmen, excitement from the community led the BVMs to also admit sophomore and junior students.
1930: Sister Mary Justitia Coffey is the first President of Mundelein College. Coffey oversaw the construction of the building, chose the first faculty members, and continued to lead the new college through its first decade.
Visit the Voices from Mundelein Media Portal to listen to an interview with Sister Irma Corcoran, BVM. She describes her memories of Mary Justitia Coffey, BVM and her experiences as one of the first faculty in this interview.
Image: Mary Justitia Coffey, BVM, 1930.
1934: The College expands through purchase of Philomena Hall and the White Marble Mansion. The White Marble Mansion, now called Piper Hall in honor of donors Kenneth M. and Virginia G. Piper, was renovated to become the college’s library.
Image: Students outside of the library, a white mansion now known as Piper Hall, 1960s.
1936: Sister Mary Consuela, BVM, is installed as the second President of the college.
1938: A nine-story Foucault pendulum is installed in an empty elevator shaft of the Mundelein skyscraper. The instrument, which measures the rotation of the earth, is the largest of its kind and gains national attention. This is just one of the educational opportunities provided to students by Dr. Mary Therese Langerbeck, BVM, the head of the physics department and the only woman religious in the world to hold a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Image: Student observes the foucault pendulum, 1938.
1939: Sister Mary Justitia Coffey begins her second term as the college’s 3rd President.
1939: By the end of the decade, 22 academic, social, and athletic clubs are up and running. Literary publications such as The Skyscraper and The Mundelein Review also begin circulation.
See Mundelein College yearbooks in our digital collections.
Image: Mundelein basketball team, 1940.
1941-1945: Students and staff join the war effort. Staff and faculty members were granted leaves of absence to enter army or government services. Student activities included blood drives, planting victory gardens, and fundraising for American troops. Students in the Home Economics Department developed and shared recipes that didn’t require rationed food items.
Explore collection items and read more about Mundelein’s involvement during World War II and civic engagement throughout the 20th century in our online exhibit, Activist Mundelein.
Image: Student participating in wartime fundraiser, 1942.
1945: Upon retirement of Sister Mary Justitia BVM, Sister Mary Josephine Malone BVM, becomes the 4th President of Mundelein College.
1948: Mundelein creates the Magnificat Medal, awarded annually to outstanding alumnae of Catholic women’s colleges. Mundelein alumna Virginia Broderick creates the design for the medal. The first medal is awarded in 1949 to Mary M. Friel Mannix, President of the National Council on Catholic Women.
1949: Mundelein College’s debate team becomes the first Catholic women’s college team to be accepted into Delta Sigma Rho, a national honor society devoted to public speaking.
Image: Mundelein Debate Team, 1940s.
1951: Following Sister Mary Josephine Malone, BVM, as President is Sister Mary John Michael Dee, BVM.
1955: Mundelein celebrates its 25 year anniversary with a Silver Jubilee Dinner. Cardinal Stritch and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley are in attendance for the festivities.
1957: Mundelein College is the largest Catholic women’s college in the United States.
1957: Sister Mary Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, becomes Mundelein’s sixth President. She remains in this office until 1975, becoming the college’s longest-serving President.
Image: Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, President of Mundelein College, 1959.
1957: The construction of the BVM Scholasticate building begins. The building will be the home to BVMs and other women religious who attend Mundelein College. This building later becomes Wright Hall.
1961: Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM, known as Sister Jean, joins the education department. Sister Jean served as an instructor, Academic Dean, and other administrative roles at Mundelein College for 30 years and joined the staff of Loyola University Chicago in 1991 following the affiliation. She gained national fame during Loyola’s Men’s basketball NCAA tournament success in 2018 while she served as the team’s chaplain at the age of 98.
Image: Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM, 1960.
1962–1963: Coffey Hall opens as the first residence hall built by Mundelein. The following year, the college purchased nearby apartment building Northland Hall to house the increasing number of students who want to live on campus.
1962: Mundelein College conducts a two-year self-study to evaluate current programs and services and plan for the future. The results of the survey led to innovative changes including continuing education for adult students and innovative revisions to the curriculum.
1963: Mayor Richard Daley joins Mundelein president Ann Ida Gannon, BVM and other members of the community for the installation of a new traffic signal at Kenmore Road and Sheridan Avenue. Concerned about the safety of students and faculty crossing the busy intersection, Gannon and parents of Mundelein students wrote letters to the mayor requesting the traffic signal.
Image: Ann Ida Gannon, BVM and Mayor Daley with the new traffic signal, 1963.
1964: Mundelein enrolls its first male student. The college’s highly respected Home Economics department attracted the attention of John Harper, who needed two more courses to be able to apply for the U.S. Army Medical Specialist Corps’ Student Dietitian Program. Harper was admitted as a special student to complete the courses and was later accepted into the Army’s Dietetic Internship Program.
1965: The Degree Completion Program begins. Although originally begun to serve Mundelein alumnae who never finished their degrees, the program is now open to all women over 26 years of age who seriously wish to continue their education and who have graduated from high school.” Mundelein was the first in the area and one of the first colleges in the nation to offer an Adult Degree Completion Program.
1965: Seven Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one lay faculty, and twenty-eight students travel by bus to Selma, Alabama to join Martin Luther King, Jr. and participants across the nation in the historic civil rights march. Supporters who stayed behind kept vigil in the college chapel, praying for social justice and the safety of the participants. Some students did not support the trip and protested the use of student council funds.
Explore collection items and read more about Mundelein’s involvement during the Civil Rights Movement and civic engagement throughout the 20th century in our online exhibit, Activist Mundelein.
Image: Mundelein College Students at the Selma to Montgomery March, 1965.
1966: In an effort to increase diversity in the student body, a Mundelein College chapter of Upward Bound begins through the efforts of Sister Mary St. George, BVM, Sister Mary Eloise, BVM, and Sister Mary Julia, BVM. The Sisters of the concentrated much of their efforts on recruiting high school students from the inner-city of Chicago to provide encouragement and support in preparing for college.
1966: Mundelein hosts the Chicago premiere of the film The Trouble with Angels. Stars of the film, Hayley Mills and Rosalind Russell attend the event. The film is based on the novel Life with Mother Superior by alumna Jane Trahey, who wrote about her experiences in a Catholic high school and at Mundelein College.
Image: Mundelein Students and faculty greet the leading actors in The Trouble With Angels, 1966.
1967: The newly built Learning Resource Center opens to the students and staff of Mundelein College, providing a modern space for the library and other academic support services. This building was later named the Sullivan Center.
1968: The Graduate Religious Studies program is established, the first in the Chicago area. It is the first master's degree offered by Mundelein College. A Master’s in Liberal Studies is added in 1983.
1969: Mundelein College United Black Association (MuCUBA) is founded. The student organization provided community for black students, advocated for more supportive services and a Black Studies program, and planned programs such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations. To support Chicago's growing black population and increase campus diversity, Mundelein faculty agree to forego salary raises to fund scholarships for about 50 young black women.
Image: Members of MuCUBA participate in a program, 1970.
1970: The campus is declared “on strike.” Part of a nationwide movement at high schools, colleges, and universities, the students along with some staff, protest the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and the tragedy at Kent State University. Students hold marches and plan teach-ins to discuss these important issues.
See archival documents and photos related to student involvement in protesting the Vietnam War and other issues from in our online exhibit, Activist Mundelein.
Image: Students participate in march outside Mundelein College, 1970.
1971: Mundelein College amends its charter to allow men to enroll in the college. This was done due to the growing popularity of Mundelein’s adult education programming offering classes on nights and weekends. Mundelein’s traditional weekday program remained focused on young women throughout the college’s history.
1974: Mother Teresa of Calcutta visits Mundelein College, the first of two visits to the school. Students and community members packed McCormick Lounge in Coffey Hall to hear Mother Teresa speak about her missionary work.
1974: Mundelein expands its offering to adult students with the opening of the Weekend College in Residence. The first of its kind in the nation, Weekend College allowed students to earn a bachelor’s degree by attending classes only on Saturdays and Sundays. Students were able to live on campus during the weekends in order to take advantage of all of the college’s resources.
Image: Mundelein Weekend College students, 1985.
1975: The college's seventh President, Sister Susan Rink, BVM is installed.
1976: To address and support Mundelein's and Chicago's growing Hispanic populations, the college creates the Hispanic Institute. Programs at the Hispanic Institute connected professionals in ministry and service with the language, culture, and needs of people from Latin American countries in order to better serve these communities.
Image: Dancers perform at a Hispanic Institute program, 1970s.
1979: Cesar Chavez, promoting a nationwide lettuce workers strike, speaks at Mundelein College. Following the visit, Mundelein’s dining hall begins serving only lettuce grown on unionized farms.
1980: An example of exceptional Art Deco architecture, the Mundelein skyscraper is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Image: Mundelein College, 1940s.
1981: In celebration of Mundelein’s 50th Anniversary, the college enters a float in Chicago’s Columbus Day Parade and hosts the Golden Jubilee celebration. Mother Teresa attends the reception and is the recipient of the Magnificat Medal.
Image: Students ride a parade float for Mundelein's 50th anniversary, 1981.
1983: In recognition of women student leaders at Mundelein College, The Sister Mary Ann Ida Gannon, BVM Leadership Award Program is established. Now called the Gannon Scholar’s Program, the initiative awards scholarships to incoming students and supports them on the path to becoming leaders.
Image: Gannon Scholars with Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, 1989.
1983: Dr. John Richert, the only non-BVM President of Mundelein begins his tenure.
1985: Alumna Sister Mary Brenan Breslin takes over the office of President. A member of the class of 1958, she is the first and only president who was a graduate of Mundelein.
1991: Mundelein College affiliates with Loyola University Chicago. Sister Carolyn Farrell, BVM oversees Mundelein during this transition as its last president. Many of Mundelein’s programs are added to Loyola’s curriculum and Mundelein’s Weekend College becomes known as Mundelein College at Loyola University.
1993: The last class of Mundelein College graduates receive their diplomas. The legacy of Mundelein College lives on in new and strengthened programs at Loyola and in the new Gannon Center for Women and Leadership, established this year. The Women and Leadership Archives was established the following year and holds the records of Mundelein College’s 60 year history.