Santa Clara University

Office of the President

50th Anniversary of Coeducation, 2012

50th Anniversary of Coeducation Luncheon
Remarks by Michael E. Engh, S.J., President
Santa Clara University
28 April 2012

Celebrating the Pioneering Women of Santa Clara University

It is a particular pleasure to greet and to welcome so many alumnae back to Santa Clara. Gatherings such as these allow us to relive the stories and renew the living tradition that is Santa Clara.  You are the living memory of this institution, the ones who carry the many reminiscences that allow us to re-collect what would otherwise be lost.  You provide a valuable and important service to this university to remember who we are and how we came to be.

Historians love anniversaries, and the bigger the better.  We relish the research, the review of past developments that led to the occasion being celebrated.  We also delight in finding those forgotten facts that the dust of history sometimes covers up or obscures.  We enjoy those details that complicate the story and enrich it so it can not be easily simplified.  As an historian, I confess that I share in this peculiar propensity of my colleagues in the historical profession.

Today we celebrate the pioneering women of Santa Clara, who have graced our campus, enriched the academic community here, and challenged us to be a better Santa Clara.  But which pioneering women do we honor?  The women admitted "temporarily" in 1942 during World War II in technical programs needed for war-time production?  Or the women admitted to the Business School for evening courses in 1948?  Or the women who came in 1956 to study in the law school? Or the student nurses admitted to undergraduate courses in 1957, the first 27 arriving by taxi from O'Connor Hospital?  Or perhaps we are toasting those women enrolled for the first time in the graduate business program in 1958?  Or in the summer session in 1959?  Or do we salute the women enrolled when Santa Clara, finally, went coeducational and opened all its programs to women in the academic year 1961-62?

Which group of women do we celebrate? Which date do we commemorate today?  Complicated, isn't it?  Far be it from this man to determine.  Whichever date we select, I think we can agree that Santa Clara has been slow in acknowledging the women who pioneered so many "firsts." We know many of the milestones in the history of women at Santa Clara, thanks to research by Jerry McKevitt, George Giacomini and others.  We learn more from the reflections of early faculty members like Elizabeth Moran and Dean Mary Emery (who was also one of the first women law students).  And today we benefit even further through your recollections as pioneering women students.

The legends around coeducation are rich, diverse, and poignant. The stories of hazing, the dress code, the rules, the lack of accessible bathrooms, the editorials in The Santa Clara newspaper, not to mention the sometimes less-than-welcoming tone from some of the faculty. My very first Alumni event as the yet-to-be inaugurated president brought me face-to-face with a pioneer coed. She wanted me to know just how much she and her classmates had endured.  She made an indelible impression!

I feel bemused and sometimes embarrassed for some of my early Jesuit brothers for their attitudes. I feel compassion for the women who were treated with disrespect. I also take great pride in the fact that these women sought to make positive change. They helped to create a new culture that ultimately ruled the day when women became integral members of the student body.

If you believe the records, it looks like everyone and their mother (and their father!) wanted Santa Clara to open its doors to women.  In 1960, Fr. Patrick Donohoe wrote that for ten years, groups had been lobbying Santa Clara to adopt coeducation, to offer a Catholic education that is accessible to a growing population in the Bay Area. He described how Santa Clara was besieged by requests from all sides: from private individuals, city managers, boards of supervisors, board of regents and innumerable alumni and friends. Nothing less than the Catholic faithful wanted it so.

Coeducation - a noble endeavor and one that served a great community need and desire. An endeavor that educated strong women of integrity, of persistence; women who changed the tagline, if you will, of the Jesuit ideal "men and women for others."

When I mentioned earlier that Santa Clara temporarily enrolled women during World War II, Santa Clara had dwindled to a student body that totaled five dozen men. We were in the middle of the war, a small Catholic Jesuit college in the Valley of Hearts Delight, and Santa Clara opened its doors to women to offer classes in engineering, science, and management training.  Sixty years later, it is worth noting that Santa Clara's School of Engineering now holds the highest percentage of women faculty of any university in the United States.

When women enrolled in the School of Law, one of the first students was the late Mary Birmingham Emery.  In an oral history she recorded, she exhibited her "I don't give a damn" attitude towards her male counterparts of 1960. She displayed that clearly when she described them as "male" but not necessarily "men."1 (I wonder how many of you might concur with Dean Emery's take on Santa Clara males in these early days.) Our own Herman Hauck, S.J., president in the 1950's, acknowledged the less-than-mature nature of the male species: "Initially, men resent the 'intrusion' [of coeducation], but time heals these superficial vanities and laziness."2

Fr. Hauck presented measured, reasoned and practical opinions about coeducation. He went on record in 1954 to a Jesuit at Loyola University in Los Angeles: "we at Santa Clara hold that coeducation of itself is neutral pedagogically, morally, and vocationally; its goodness or badness follows only upon the curricula, facilities, and Faculty…Our position, then would be that, for the good of the Church, the Catholic colleges should do what is immediately feasible – offer co-educational registration – and then study to achieve what is the more difficult – lower the costs of education."3 (1954) The study is ongoing -  how do we lower the cost of education?!

It is true that economics played a part in widespread coeducation across the campus: "If economics can become apostolic there is no reason why we should not employ this means to a wider audience for our work."4 Mission-driven, faith-based, financially-challenged – sound familiar? The population growth of the Bay Area was cited as a driving force for the 1961 decision.

But the nobler among us, Fr. Joseph Diebels, Academic Vice President, in 1954 presented his opinion to Fr. Hauck about coeducation relative to the good of the Church. "…since we are not educating in a vacuum but in a very specific type of community, … co-education would be a great benefit for the Church, due to the fact that Catholic girls [sic] are in education to stay and therefore we face some definite responsibility towards them."5

Women indeed were here to stay; and we are all the better for them. By inviting women to be a part of the University community as far back as the 1940's, Santa Clara acknowledged its role in serving women, serving the collective academic community, serving the church, and growing from it – not just in enrollment, not just in finances, but in diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of culture. An interesting footnote about diversity goes back to 1961. In that first year of coeducation in the undergraduate program, women from Germany, France, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Hong Kong inquired about attending Santa Clara. This tells me that Santa Clara touched a nerve for women far beyond this Valley of Hearts Delight.

There is no getting around it - you made history: for Catholic education, for higher education in California, for the local community and for Santa Clara University. We are proud to call you members of the University community. We are proud of your achievements; grateful for your presence; and today in a special way we thank you for all you have brought to this institution.

Thank you.


1. Mary Emery, 17 May 1977, Santa Clara University Oral History Collection, Santa Clara University Archives and Special Collections.

2. Hauck to Ferrer, July 29, 1957, President's Papers, Santa Clara University Archives and Special Collections.

3. Hauck to Hynes, February 22, 1954, President's Papers, Santa Clara University Archives and Special Collections.

4. Donohoe, S.J., Patrick, "The Possibility of Coeducation at University of Santa Clara, University of San Francisco and Loyola University of Los Angeles," October 1959, President's Papers, Santa Clara University Archives and Special Collections.

5. Diebels to Hauck, February 5, 1954, President's Papers, Santa Clara University Archives and Special Collections.