History of Stonehill College
Although only in its seventh decade the roots of Stonehill’s history run deep. Formed on the former estate of Frederick Lothrop Ames (1876-1921) the property was acquired by the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1935 for use as a seminary. In May 1948, the Congregation (which also founded Notre Dame University in 1842) gained approval from the state of Massachusetts to amend its original charter granted in August of 1934 and open a Catholic College for men. Three months later 134 men began classes. The campus consisted of two buildings, the Ames 50-room Georgian style mansion which also served as quarters for the priests and seminarian students and the Ames gymnasium which housed an indoor clay tennis court and marble swimming pool. In February 1949, the first academic building built by the college (the Science Building) opened, providing science labs and classroom space.
During its first years students and faculty created clubs, sports and traditions, many of which continue today, including the college newspaper, The Summit, first published on November 3, 1949; the men’s basketball and baseball teams; and the Speech Arts Society known today as the Stonehill Theater Company, which continues to perform one production each semester.
Saddled with debt and tuition dependent, Stonehill faced a difficult decision in 1951 when the Korean War draft and recall of veterans to service decreased the college’s enrollment. To avoid closure, the college made the decision to enroll women. One of those women Luice Moncey entered as a transfer student in September 1951 and became the first woman graduate at the school’s second commencement in 1953. 1952 would be the school’s first commencement and only class of all men.
Slowly, however, enrollment grew and as it did, so did the need for additional space. In 1957, Stonehill’s third president James Sheehan (1955-1958) oversaw the construction and opening of Holy Cross Hall, the College’s first academic building, built on what is known as lower campus. Today, this area serves as the academic quad of the college, but was the former field for Frederick Lothrop Ames Guernsey cattle operations. A second building was built on lower campus in 1959. The Student Union Building was the first non-academic, student centered space built by the college. It allowed the cafeteria and bookstore to move out of inadequate space in the basement of the mansion house. The building also offered space for student clubs and faculty offices. The end of the decade also brought two important milestones to the collection, first enrollment passed 600 for the first time and the college received provisional accreditation from the New England Association of College’s and Secondary Schools (full accreditation was received in 1962.)
The 1960s continued Stonehill’s growth, but was also a decade of change. Prior to 1961, with the exception of seminarians all students commuted to the college from home or college approved residences in nearby towns. In the fall of 1961, O’Hara Hall opened as a dormitory for men. Named in honor of Cardinal John C. O’Hara, CSC, Archbishop of Philadelphia, the building served as a residence for male students until it went coed in 1993. The first dormitory for women opened in 1967. Named after the school’s second president Fr. Francis Boland, who was president when women were admitted to the college in 1951, Boland Hall was a residence for women until 2003 when it went coed. Coed student housing came to campus soon after Boland Hall opened with the contruction of Colonial and Commonwealth Courts which allowed students to live in coed apartment style townhouses rather than the traditional dormitory.
The College’s expansion, however, was not limited to residence life; academic space, programs and extracurricular programs grew as well. In 1962, a new library was built. Funding for the building came from a $500,000 gift from Cardinal Richard Cushing. It was decided that the building would be named for both Cushing and the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Throughout the 1960s new faculty were hired and new majors approved. In 1970, the degree-granting Evening College was established. The 1970s also brought study abroad programs and ROTC opportunities for students. Campus expanded with the new College Center (1973) an addition to the library (Anthony E. Casino Wing, 1976) and the construction of St. Mary’s Chapel and the Human Resources Center (1978). But possibly the major change of the 1970s was the creation of a lay Board of Trustees.
Until 1972, responsibility for the College was vested in the former Eastern Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross. On February 24, 1972, responsibility was transferred to an elected and primarily lay Board of Trustees. The Congregation also transferred equity consisting of 384 acres and buildings constructed for and accommodated to educational purposes. Both the spirit and the letter of the transfer called for Stonehill College to continue as a Catholic institution of higher learning.
Stonehill’s academic growth also continued. New majors in Finance and Marketing and minors in Asian, Irish and Environmental studies were added to the Stonehill curriculum. A co-operative educational program with several other colleges in Southeastern Massachusetts (SACHEM) was started, which increased the number of courses available for students and provided expanded library services. Student service organizations, active at Stonehill from the outset, evolved to meet contemporary needs and emphasized assistance to the disadvantaged.
(Rev.) Bartley MacPháidín, C.S.C., a professor of religious studies, was appointed as the College’s eighth president in 1978. The first alumnus (Class of 1959) to hold this position, he became the longest serving president in the College's history (1978-2000). His tenure brought growth and recognition to the College and a total of 20 buildings were added to the physical plant including five new residence halls between 1978-1999.
As the campus grew so did various programs including 14 new academic programs and 12 new varsity athletic teams. The College’s academic excellence was also recognized nationally, when on November 25, 1985, U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking of colleges and universities placed Stonehill fifth among the larger, comprehensive colleges and universities in the East. On August 30, 1999, the magazine ranked Stonehill first in the best Regional Schools in the North- Liberal Arts Colleges category.
After 22 years as president, (Fr.) MacPháidín retired and (Rev.) Mark Cregan, C.S.C. (Class of 1978) was inaugurated as Stonehill’s ninth president. Under Fr. Cregan’s direction enrollment has grown to over 2,300 students. He modernized the College’s governance structure and today Stonehill’s undergraduate program offers 32 major programs in the liberal arts, natural sciences and business, with over 120 faculty members, 81 percent of whom hold doctoral degrees. Since its first commencement exercises in 1952, the College has graduated more than 20,000 students. The College’s vision for the future is to provide a quality higher education that equips alumni for thoughtful reflection throughout their lives, for useful careers and for citizenship, service and leadership in the Church and the world.