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Villanova Celebrates Women's History Month
Women's History Month At Villanova
This week, Villanova joined the world in celebrating Women’s History Month. This year, we commemorate this event with special significance as 2021 marks the 50th Anniversary of women being admitted as students to Villanova Prep. We honor and celebrate the tremendous contributions, achievements, and lives of all of our Alumnae over these past 50 years. We also honor all women who, though they were not students, helped shape and lead Villanova throughout her 96 year history. We celebrate this occasion with a commemorative seal to honor the 50th anniversary of women enrolling at Villanova. The two figures are modeled after two Villanova graduates, one from the Class of 1971 and one from a recent class thus representing all Alumnae from 1971 to the present.
The story of women at Villanova is vast and diverse. We hope to tell some small part of this story by highlighting 10 women, or groups of women that made Villanova and the world a better place. You can follow along on our social media for these stories or our website. Please join us in celebrating Women’s History Month and 50 years of women at Villanova.
The first group of women we’d like to honor in our 10 day series was an obvious choice: the six women of the Class of 1971. These women were the trailblazers who began to forge the path so many women have followed since. There names were:
Sheila Chase †
The move to go coed was prompted in large part by the closure of the nearby St. Catherine’s School for Girls in Ventura. But the decision was also based on the desire to admit girls, as it was seen as a way to better prepare both young men and women for the modern world. “My twin sister Sheila and I were delighted to be there and found Villanova to be a welcoming, gentle environment,” says Cathy Chase Bautista (‘71). “There must have been a bit of a scramble to prepare the campus for us...I still remember that half the boys' bathrooms had hand painted signs saying ‘Girls’ taped over them.”
While these six led the way as seniors, the 36 girls in the sophomore through junior grades also played a major part in making Villanova an exceptional school for women. A Girls Association was formed under the direction of Mrs. Marcella Titus, the new Dean of Women. This Association worked to help the girls get involved at Villanova and support each other in this new environment. The girls wasted no time becoming involved in the yearbook and school newspaper as well as throwing dances and leading the student section at sports games. Just two years later, Villanova had its first female ASB Student Body President in Barbi Dee Bennett (‘73) and first female editor of the school newspaper in Connie Roe (‘73).
In the Spring of 1971, Villanova graduated her first six Alumnae. Terry Blair, the salutatorian, remembers the occasion fondly: “While it was an honor to give the salutatory address, the surprise award of the Christian Conduct Medal had a more lasting effect on my life. That reminder to practice kindness has created more joy in my life than any academic excellence.”
These young women led the way for all future generations of Villanova girls, and for this we pay them tribute.