The College of St. George of Staten Island
By Dr. Pelham Mead
Each and every College and University in the United States whether a Catholic College or Private or Public College always has something to hide. It seems to be standard procedure to sweep problems under the rug rather than deal with the problems in an honest and outright manner. Sadly, faculty and students suffer in the end from the indiscretions of the Presidents, and administrators. When monies are stolen from accounts and the person is caught, most Colleges deal with it internally so as not to let the story get into the Newspapers and produce a bad image of the College. Colleges and Universities are often afraid of the impact of a bad story and how it will affect their alumni contributions. Their justification is when a major bad story breaks that puts the College of University in a bad light; there is a domino effect as to public opinion and alumni opinion. Colleges or Universities are afraid that alumni will stop making contributions to the school because of bad story of embezzlement, violence on campus, child sexual abuse, administrative misdeeds, and other negative stories.
Take for instance the case of Joe Paterno, the Football coach at Penn State University. This scenario shows that he reported a case of suspected sex abuse of young boys by an assistant coach to his superiors, and they in turn swept the problem under the carpet until all hell broke loose in the fall of 2010, and the story came to the surface when one or more victims told their story to the Police and the Newspapers. The story went viral and Penn State was put in a very poor light nationally and internationally. The first effect of this poor image would be alumni concern and a sudden decrease of alumni contributions. Some alumni are such large contributors that they often have great leverage with the University Trustees. In the Penn State situation the Trustees needed to exercise “damage control,” since the case was in all the National Newspapers. They fire Joe Paterno immediately to stop all the News stories. That had a limited effect. It may also have been that the politics of Penn State Trustees had asked Coach Paterno on numerous times to step down and retire. This bad news provided an opportunity for them to finally be able to take action in getting 85-year-old Coach Paterno to step down. While he was coaching he was a powerful man that could tell the President and the Trustees what he wanted to do. Look at the numbers at Penn State. The football stadium seated 65,000 people all paying for tickets. The alumni contributors for the football program specifically, and boosters as they are called, always raise funds for the Football program for full scholarships, uniforms, travel funds, coaching salaries, trainers, printing and marketing expenses. Penn State was an empire of Football income and contributions, and at Penn state as well as any other campus the bottom line is money.
This book, although fictional in nature, is based on events that actually happened at many Colleges across the United States over a period of twenty years 1980 to 2011. In no way is this book intended to cause malice toward any College or Institution or President or administrative or faculty individuals. The real intention of this book is to show what really goes on behind the scenes in Colleges and Universities in the United States and how “cover up” is the motto of the day.
The first story is about a fictitious Catholic College in Staten Island, New York called St. Georges College. This College was on the property belonging to the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Originally, like so many other Catholic Colleges, St. Georges began as an all Women’s Colleges in the early 1900’s, and due to declining enrollment became a coed College in 1960. Many small Catholic Colleges that do not have a wealthy alumni base suffer from the same problems. The problem is a low or poor alumni funding to help the college survive or die. Many people do not realize that all Colleges and Universities are tuition dependent as their main source of income. The smaller Colleges, public and catholic, do not have research departments that generate a lot of federal grants for scientific research, and a lot of funding for faculty, scientists, and facilities.
Smaller Colleges also suffer from their inability to have good grant writers. They often have only one Development administrator who usually cannot write grants, but only organize grants. It is the professors that have to write grants, or knowledgeable administrators that have the time and the motivation. These kinds of administrators that are well informed as to federal and state grants are a rare commodity.
One source of income for Catholic Colleges used to be endowments such as naming a classroom for an alumnus contribution. Large million dollar donations would grant an alumnus getting a building named after them. This worked well for a few decades, but after time, each and every classroom, building, gymnasium, pool, sports field, etc. had been named for some alumni that gave money. Even scholarships were named after the alumni contributor. Special graduation awards went to departments where previous alumni had funded the awards in the past and present.
Eventually the selling of names on classrooms and buildings much like the selling of pews in churches in the 1800’s and early 1900’s became a thing of the past. Catholic colleges did not have many means of raising funds especially after the Diocese of New York or any other supporting Diocese began cutting funds to Catholic Colleges, and even Catholic Schools in the 1980, 1990, and 2000’s.
Since tuition is the main source of income for Catholic Colleges, unlike their Public College counterparts who also get funding from the State. Catholic Colleges try to keep the tuition low so that they can serve 2nd generation immigrant students, low income, and minority students. Small Catholic College realized they couldn’t compete with publically funded State Colleges, so they target their students from the lower end of available students. Since their mission is to help the poor and the minorities, they practically give away the tuition in grants, scholarships, and special financial awards. These scholarships are based on need and usually reduce the already low tuition to 50% less than full tuition. If the housing or enrollment is limited at a small Catholic college, then they are in trouble. They will always be capped at the amount of students they can house and enroll. Commuter students comprise a large portion of many College and University enrollment. St. Johns University in Queens had 20,000 students in 2010, and only a few hundred live on campus in the few dormitories. This means that almost the entire St. John University student had to commute everyday.
At St. George’s College of Staten Island only 20% of the students commuted. There were enough dorms on campus to house 2,000 students. The dorms were all old, rundown, and not very attractive. They were cheap as far as monthly rent goes costing only $100 dollars a month for a dorm room. St. George’s College did not make much money on dormitory fees, and in the summer the dorms were mostly empty.
In the early years of St. George’s College the majority of the college faculty were Nuns from the Order of the Holy Cross. They worked for no pay except a small 10% living allowance, and they all lived in housing on the campus. The College in the early years 1930 through the 1950’s made a nice profit, because it’s faculty costs were extremely low. This changed over time because the Nuns were not getting new novices after WWII, and many were dying off. By 1980 70% of the original Nuns teaching staff at St. George’s College had passed away. Only a dozen teaching and administrative Nuns remained at St. George’s College as of 2000. Many other Catholic Colleges run by Nuns were suffering the same thing with a decline in Nuns on the teaching staff.
Chapter 1-The Betrayal of the Nuns
At an all Women’s College in White Plains, New York, the “Sisters of Life.” ran a College called Northern Westchester College. It suffered a decline in teaching Nuns, and enrollment during the 1960’s. During this period of time there was the anti-war, anti-establishment, and anti-church movement in the United States. Their enrollment dropped to an all time low of 300 students. They converted to coed by 1965, but the change came too late, and they were faced with closing. A large University from New York City wanted to locate a Medical School in Westchester on the property the Sisters of Life. The Northern Westchester College was prime property in White Plains. They negotiated a deal to support Northern Westchester College, and at the same time build their Medical school on the same grounds. By 1970, the Northern Westchester College was closed, and the Medical school was booming with enrollment. The Sisters of Life were left out in the cold when the college finally closed, even though the University promised to promote and keep Northern Westchester College open no matter what.
Another group of Nuns called the “Sisters of the Humble Poor,” has a viable Catholic Prep school in Westchester that began in 1901. Their school “St. Peters Prep of Westchester,” began to lose Nuns as they died out, and few replaced them. Originally the rich families sent their children to the famous St. Peters Prep of Westchester because it was well known as a good Catholic school that placed many graduates in large well known Universities such as Princeton, Yale, and New York University. After WWII, the teaching Nuns had dropped to only 1/3 of the faculty, and lay teachers had to be hired which increased the costs of the Prep school. The buildings of the late 1800’s were crumbling and the neighborhood around the Prep school slowly became a slum. By 1975 the Sisters of the Humble Poor were forced to sell the Prep school or default to New York City in taxes. They sold it to a Jewish school that promised on the sale contract to never sell the school buildings or property to private housing developers. The Jewish Yeshiva lasted ten years, and then went out of business. They sold the property and buildings to a private housing developer who wanted to put in condo units. The “Sisters of the Humble Poor,” sued the Jewish Yeshiva, and after many years in court they won a one million dollar judgment. Unfortunately, the one million dollars came too late, because by the time of the settlement there were only four Sisters of the Humble Poor still alive. They donated the money to St. George’s College of Staten Island in exchange for a home for the four surviving Nuns to retire, and live out their lives. St. George’s College gratefully accepted the contribution, and repaired its one hundred year old roof on its main administration building. “Easy come, easy go” became the motto for the “Sisters of the Humble Poor.”
The “Sisters of The Divine Heart,” of Westchester, New York was another group that was taken advantage of by another College. They had a K-12 Catholic School in New Rochelle, New York for over 100 years, having been an orphanage originally. It served Civil War children of fathers who were killed in the war. During the Civil War the “Sisters of the Divine Heart,” served in the War for both the North and the South in Medical hospitals. After the war they formed a small orphanage in New Rochelle sponsored by a millionaire that wanted to leave a legacy in his name so they named the Orphanage Sampson’s Orphanage. In 1910, the orphanage became an elementary school, and in 1922 it became a high school also handling grades K-12. By the late 1930’s, after the depression, they got a charter for an All-Woman’s College called Mount New Rochelle Catholic College. By the 1960’s, the College was in major financial trouble so it merged with Rochelle Shore College. Rochelle Shore College promised to maintain the Mount New Rochelle College, and its buildings and provide housing for the retired Nuns of the “Sisters of the Divine heart.” By 1972, Rochelle Shore College had become a University, and it closed down Mount New Rochelle College, and sold it for a handsome profit to private housing developers. Unfortunately, the “Sisters of the Divine Heart,” had trusted the Rochelle Shore College trustees, and there was no clause preventing them from selling the property at any time in the future. They were eventually left out in the cold.
In Tarrytown, (Westchester County), high on the top of the Mountain was another All Women’s College Called High Mount College, that actually lasted until the 1990’s by providing a weekend college for women, evening programs, and an accelerated three year degree program for women. They refused to become a Coed College, and it cost them. Hartford College made them an offer to rent space on the college grounds, and they accepted. After five years, a problem developed with the Hartford College faculty, who were union, and the non-union High Mount Faculty. The Hartford College faculty was restricted to only the one building they leased from High Mount College. Problems developed and Hartford College threatened to pull out. As fate would have it, High Mount College was going under financially. They could not keep enough all woman enrollments to survive. They made a deal with Hartford College to buy the property and buildings so long as it continued to support High Mount College. Three years later Hartford College got it’s revenge, and pulled out of the property, and sold everything to a private school, and made a huge profit. High Mount College was closed forever.