“We want people to understand that the Brother’s transferred the college to an original group of people that they trusted,” said Brother Francis Kelly Director of Campus Ministry at Marist College.
In 1905 the history of Marist College began, when the Marist Brothers purchased the McPherson estate, which included 44-acres of land, then in 1908 the Beck estate was purchased, together the two purchases include the 110-acres that formed the main campus of what is now Marist College.
Under Dr. Linus Richard Foy, at age 28 he became the youngest college president in the United States in 1958. An article given to me by Brother Francis Kelly stated, “Dr. Foy’s 21-year tenure saw dramatic developments as enrollment went up from 150 student Brothers in 1958 to 1,800 lay (people of religious who are not priests, ministers etc.), students in 1979.” In 1966 women were then allowed admission to the college, during this period the college also strengthened its core liberal arts curriculum, and became one of the first institutions in the country to offer internship programs.
For the college once named Marian College until 1960, the school realized it was necessary to transfer itself from the power of the Marist Brothers to an educational board in 1969. “In order for the school to get more financial aid from the government we separated ourselves as a non-secular school,” said Irma Casey, professor of Modern Language and professor at Marist College since 1977.
Today when students walk on campus there is still a significant presence of the religious heritage that once started Marist College in the early 1900s. During the transfer to the Marist College Educational Corporation with an independent Board of Trustees, it was important to the Brothers that they remain an integral part of the school’s success for years to come.
“The Brothers are still a powerful presence in the college and there is a great respect and working relationship between them and the college” said Brother Kelly. The founding fathers emphasized excellence and service in the community, which has now been embedded within the heritage and spirit they have left behind.
When I spoke to Brother Francis Kelly, also a former student of Marist College from 1969-1973, he was around when the official transfer occurred. He stated three theories that could explain why the transfer happened according to his documentation and memory.
“In the sixties, the Brother’s seemed to think there was a need for new leadership, the Marist Brothers, under the Jesuits primarily, who mainly run secondary schools and as the college was growing from a Brother Training school into a Liberal Arts college, the Brother’s realized they did not have the man power to start a full-out college. Somehow there was help needed to fulfill all these roles for a complete transfer, and they put it into the of hands people who do know it.”
“It was a time of financial concern and we (the Marist Brothers) needed the expertise of civic leaders, local business people and corporation to keep the college solvent”
Which Kelly described as the murkiest theory- “The government was giving out financial aid called Bundy Money to students, which at the time must have been the name of the program, and to my understanding is that private colleges with religious ties were not able to receive this money, somehow, but I’m not for sure this acquisition of money was necessary to keep the school afloat.”
More importantly than any of those theories, is the emphasis Brother Kelly placed on the transfer of powers, the Marist Brothers amicably gave their power to the educational corporation that runs the school today while the Brothers are still greatly valued.
Some more information Brother Kelly found says that in 1969, or even as early as 1965, ownership was transferred from the Marist Brothers to the Education Corporation body that currently runs Marist College with an independent Board of Trustees- majority of them non-religious people but one or two Brothers always remain on the board.
The heritage of the Brothers and the religious affiliation still lives on today, that is why well over half of the student body is still catholic according the religious studies professor John Knight. While the school continues to be accepting and accommodating to all different religious beliefs it was always important to former President Dennis Murray to continue the religious traditions of Marist College.
Brother Kelly ended off the interview also emphasizing that “there’s still a catholic presence on campus, which is different from owning and directing under catholic affiliation. The Marist Brothers understand their place and role, and know they are not the owners but work for the college.”