Each generation of Immaculatans have experienced strong leaders who have guided Immaculata through the early development stage, times of war and unrest, the “glory years” of basketball championships, and the technological age to make Immaculata better than they found it. Our current president, Barbara Lettiere ’72, continues to guide Immaculata into the future.
This page contains brief biographical summaries of IU’s ten presidents. The first seven profiles were originally published for the Presidential Legends story in the 1999 Immaculata Today magazine.
Mother M. Loyola Gallagher, IHM
November 1920 to April 1930
Mother M. Loyola Gallagher’s organizational vision and musical talent blended a higher education structure into a framework of elegance, gentility, and courageous planning. Mother Loyola spearheaded the efforts that resulted in the granting of the college charter and in accreditation by the New York State Board of Regents, the Catholic University of America, the American Medical Association, and the Middle States Association—all within a ten-year period. Sister Catherine Joseph Haughey, a colleague and history professor, wrote of her in her memoirs, “She made us feel it was a privilege to teach. She often reminded us to make recreation and table talk more worthy of educators: topics of interest, authors, books, and games.”
Her commitment to excellent faculty prompted Mother to invite professors from local universities so that the new college would have initial preeminence in instruction. So valued was her leadership that, in 1923, when she was elected Superior General, the IHM Motherhouse was transferred to Immaculata College. It remained there for the next 17 years. She led with integrity and poise: her leadership saw the establishment of a board of trustees, annual audit procedures, the change of name from Villa Maria to Immaculata, and a new building—Lourdes Hall (1927). The students’ dedication of their 1935 yearbook to Mother reads, “To your interest and kind concern, we owe much of the happiness of our college years.”
Rev. Anthony J. Flynn, S.T.L., Ph.D.
April 1930 to January 1935
Father Flynn came to Immaculata as the prominent author of a religion textbook series. A man ahead of his time, he was well known to the archdiocesan high schools where he preceded “distance learning” by teaching religion from the central office in the school. Father Flynn taught religion and economics during his presidency, but he is best known to students by his name which appears on every official program of the college, for it was Father Flynn who wrote the words of the Alma Mater. They remain “a beacon ever bright” to his memory and to all Immaculatans.
Rev. Msgr. Vincent L. Burns, Sc.D., Ph.D.
January 1935 to May 1936 and September 1946 to September 1954
Msgr. Vincent L. Burns served two terms as president. An appointment by Dennis Cardinal Dougherty to rector of St. Charles Seminary interrupted his first term. Upperclassmen remember his courses in philosophy and theology, but all students listened to his homilies at First-Friday Holy Hour in the college chapel. During his presidency, the college built the Field House (1949), later destroyed by fire in 1967, and Bethany (1950), today the Mary Bruder Center.
A gentleman and a genial presence on campus, he loved to regale students with his accounts of trips taken during summer “break” and he frequently challenged them to a game of tennis. Some years ago, Catherine Houston ’29, reminiscing, called him a “man of prestige.”
Rev. Dr. Francis J. Furey, D.D., Ph.D.
May 1936 to September 1946
The “Doctor,” as the Rev. Francis J. Furey was called, led the college through the difficult years of World War II. This was the period that saw the birth of student government at Immaculata. In addition to lecturing in religion and philosophy, Dr. Furey also taught Italian. Alums from the forties remember him fondly for his support and encouragement during the trying years following the attack on Pearl Harbor. During his presidency, the college engaged in multiple peace effort projects. In 1942, the college offered a defense program with classes at night for both men and women. In 1943, the college inaugurated an “accelerated” program to allow students to complete a baccalaureate degree in a shorter time span. In that same year, the United States Department of the Treasury named a hospital plane after the college as a tribute to its efforts in the defense campaigns.
After his tenure as Immaculata’s president, his importance and significant spiritual influence were recognized and he was appointed rector of St. Charles Seminary and subsequently named Coadjutor Bishop of San Diego and Archbishop of San Antonio.
Sister Mary of Lourdes McDevitt, IHM
September 1954 to July 1972
The appointment of Sister Mary of Lourdes in 1954 to the presidency signaled the return of IHM leadership to the top position in the college. A flurry of building expansion occurred during her tenure: Marian Hall, Gillet Hall, Good Counsel Hall (1954), Faculty Center (1962), Loyola Hall (1963), DeChantal Hall (1966), and Alumnae Hall (1970). In 1972, the Mighty Macs gained national prominence with their first national basketball championship title. During Sister’s tenure, the first stirrings of convulsive change in higher education were felt. The Immaculata of the 1960s saw curriculum revision, the abolition of the strict dress code, the Field House fire, the formal establishment of the Evening Division, the first Alumnae Amethyst Ball, and the celebration of the Golden Anniversary of the college.
Sister Mary of Lourdes will always be remembered for her extraordinary ability to relate to people – all people. One of her distinctive characteristics, accessibility, prompted a special name for the Terrace Lounge of Alumnae Hall: The Open Door. A sportswoman and athlete in her own college days, she became, during her faculty and presidential years, a popular chemistry teacher, a trusted colleague and a treasured link between the college and her alums. An excerpt from a letter in the Alumnae News of Spring 1960, the year of the fortieth anniversary, is significant. She writes, “You, as alumnae, must play an important role in the mission that faces us in the next forty years. Our alumnae love us, and we love you…May the story of our coming years be a story of great women as members of our faculty, alumnae and student body. You have the power to save the future of Catholic education. Use it.”
Sister Marie Antoine Buggy, IHM
July 1972 to July 1982
Sister Marie Antoine’s term saw much of the unromantic stuff that can be categorized as “normal clean up”: procedures for future presidential searches, revision of college handbooks, Lourdes library renovation. A librarian in her former appointment to Immaculata, Sister’s expertise in this area led her in 1978 to the project of needed expansion of the old library. Forward thinking prompted the opening of continuing education in the day for women, and the initiation of a curriculum revision featuring the integration of knowledge through a Freshmen Colloquium.
Energy crises, dire predictions for the future of women’s colleges and especially Catholic women’s colleges, the rising tide of diminished enrollment, trimmed budgets to meet the demand of exigency – these were the “hard times” that clouded the whole environment of higher education in the ’70s. A great woman of undaunted courage was sent to fill the leader’s position. Hers was the driving force that saw the college move solidly through the turbulent seventies and regain stability by the end of the decade. The words of Thomas Carlyle, selected by Sister Marie Antoine for her final Annual Report of 1981-1982, are significant: “Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, it also has hope.” Sister Marie Antoine, a woman of courage, integrity, prayerful strength and great hope will always be remembered as a model for all of us who face and overcome daunting challenges.
Sister Marian William Hoben, IHM
July 1982 to July 1992
Genuine leadership creates trust and invites fellowship. This could well be the theme that captures the spirit of Sister Marian William’s presidency. First, the woman. Sister’s gift with words translated into countless invitations to speak, to preside at public events, to act as mistress of ceremonies. Her wit and humor and her engaging personality, coupled with her fantastic ability to charm an English class, made her one of Immaculata’s best loved and sought after teachers. Her expertise in accreditation issues gained the attention of the Middle States Association resulting in a long-term commitment of her time and talent to chairing and arbitrating evaluation visits and outcomes. Sister Marian William spoke of Covenant at her inauguration and she did, in fact, make a covenant of service to the IHM Congregation and to the college. Her range of roles made her newspaper moderator, department chair, dean of college advancement, academic dean, and ultimately, president.
Second, the administrator. Growth and expansion became the keywords of this presidency: the first inter-office administrative computer system, the inauguration of six new master’s programs and the initiation of programs leading to the granting of doctoral degrees. The highlight of these ten years was the realization of a dream many years in the imagining: a freestanding, state-of-the-art library. Gabriele Library (1993) houses print, media, and information technology hardware and software, with an instructional design center for faculty. Her successes she attributes to others, but no one contests the charismatic leadership that led to the catapulting growth of the adult population, and the steady increase in alumnae giving and trustee support. Sister Marian William fits the legendary profile of her predecessors. Her message rings with humility and credibility: “My many years at Immaculata College have taught me to respect what has gone before, while welcoming creative and practical possibilities for the future.” What better way to lead is there than with the wisdom and the impact of that message?
Sister Marie Roseanne Bonfini, IHM
July 1992 to July 2002
Sister Marie Roseanne was already a well-known figure at Immaculata when she was selected as the eighth president of the college. She had served as professor of French, academic dean and director of Institutional Research and Planning. Her presidency coincided with a period of rapid change in technology. Thus one of her major objectives was to build a campus-wide infrastructure that would support the present and long-term growth of computer culture. Eight computer labs were installed and the campus, including student residences, was networked. Gabriele Library was opened in 1993 and soon became the information-technology hub.
Academic developments resulted in a variety of new programs and ways of serving potential students. A change in governance resulted in a three-college configuration: the Women’s College (traditional undergraduates), the College of LifeLong Learning (adult undergraduates) and the College of Graduate Studies. Immaculata joined the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE), a collaborative initiative with seven other colleges. Students benefited through access to libraries and courses at neighboring sites.
Further discussion on program delivery modes resulted in an accelerated program. Implemented in 1995 for adult students, this modality provided flexible scheduling and, in some cases, shortened the undergraduate experience. Graduate offerings on both master’s and doctoral levels were either begun or expanded, and off-site campuses supported both graduate and professional studies. These decisions about the shape of college governance provided the groundwork for a study of Immaculata’s readiness for university status.
Throughout her tenure as dean and president, Sister Marie Roseanne supported programs and other opportunities for faculty enrichment. She also continued to teach when her schedule permitted, and, thus, never lost touch with the changing needs of the student population.
Sister R. Patricia Fadden, IHM
July 2002 to July 2017
Sister Patricia Fadden’s first month as president was a moment of double transition. In June, the college received confirmation that university status had been approved, effective in August. Thus, Sister Pat became the ninth president and, at the same time, the first president of Immaculata University. A mathematics teacher with advanced degrees in education, Sister Pat’s experience extended from elementary classrooms to administrative roles at several Philadelphia area high schools and the Archdiocesan Office of Education. Sister’s background of professional memberships and activities included committees dealing with secondary schools for the Middle States Association, as well as several years on the Immaculata Board of Trustees.
During the early years of her presidency, Sister Pat faced the question of co-ed enrollment. Following an extensive study, the Board of Trustees voted to accept males into the Women’s College and rename it the College of Undergraduate Studies. Sister led the transition and the first male residents arrived on campus in 2005. One result of the enrollment of full-time males was the challenge of expanding both sports programs and sports facilities.
The lighter side of these years included the arrival on campus of a film crew in the summer of 2007. The story of the Mighty Macs who won the first national women’s college basketball championship was translated to celluloid history, and many areas of the buildings and grounds, as well as faculty, staff and students, became part of the adventure. At about the same time as the release of the film in 2011, three trophies, representing the team’s achievements, appeared in the foyer of Alumnae Hall. A few years later (2014) the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame trophy was added to the display.
Behind the scenes of the coed transition and the celebration of basketball success, the university, under Sister Pat’s leadership, continued the daily undergraduate and graduate development of new programs and majors. Tangible evidence of the growth can be seen in student enrollment as well as the Draper Walsh Stadium (2006) and the Lillian Lettiere Admission and Financial Aid Building (2012).
Barbara Lettiere ’72
July 2017 – present
After graduating from Immaculata with a degree in mathematics, Barbara earned graduate degrees from both Notre Dame and Rider universities. A career in marketing and finance followed in which she moved through various positions in the Bell Atlantic Corporation. In 2002, success in the public sector led to her appointment as vice president for Finance and Administration at Trinity College, Washington, DC. This period of her career also led Barbara to new contact with Immaculata. She became a member of the Board of Trustees in 2002, eventually serving as the first lay chair. During this time, she extended her service to IU by a major donation to the building of the Admission and Financial Aid Center, named for her mother.
Her road to the presidency followed a revision of the university by-laws that opened the office of president to lay candidates, and Barbara assumed that responsibility on July 1, 2017. Since that day, her presidency has been filled with financial and enrollment challenges as well as the development of new programs and the renewal of existing spaces. In the academic arena, new degree offerings and partnerships with graduate schools have been promising. Undergraduate enrollment has benefited from guaranteed admission agreements with individual high schools and diocesan systems. In the long-range plan, a science pavilion is on the list for the centennial year.
Tangible effects can be seen in the new IHM Student Center, the restoration of the dome and the ongoing upgrades to classrooms in Good Counsel and Loyola halls. Summer projects for 2019 included a continued refreshing of students’ spaces, and the preparation of rooms in Alumnae Hall for athletic training and simulation labs. The most visible, and exciting, of the projects was the completion of an eight-lane track and other spaces for track and field events in the Draper Walsh Stadium.
Immaculata is alive and well. Both the academic life and the physical health of the campus have benefitted in the early years of the tenth president.