Connecting people through the power of history and culture

Sister Colman O’Connell (1927 – ) When Sister Colman O’Connell, born in 1927, came to the College of St. Benedict as a student in 1945, she had no idea of the many and varied positions she would hold in that collage. She received a B.A. from the College of St. Benedict with a major in English an a minor in speech, A Masters of Fine Arts at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan in An Arbor. The College of St. Benedict has been the fortunate recipient of her many talents for over 50 years. She began by teaching in the Theatre and Dance Department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University from 1954 to 1974. From 1974 to 1977 she was Director of Alumnae and Parent Relations and Annual Fund Director. From 1977 to 1984 she was the Director of Planning. For two years, from 1984 to 1986, she was the Executive Vice President, and in 1986 she was named to be president of the college, a positions she held for ten years. Among her goals as college president were to strengthen the study abroad program so that the benefits of international education would be available to each student; to reinforce the ties of the college with the monastery to assure the Benedictine quality of education be enhanced; to construct or renovate buildings that would match the high quality of the faculty and the Student Body. Sister Colman is a born leader. She admits that being president of the college was the best job of her life. She enjoyed relating to the faculty, the staff, the trustees, and the many other people associated with college leadership. The College of St. Benedict has been her life. After she was no longer president she became the Vice President of Institutional Advancement and later Senior Development Officer. Sister Colman believes that society should make it possible for every woman capable of earning a college degree to have one. It is her conviction that the importance of St. Benedict’s Monastery.


Sister Adelgundis Gergman (1879 – 1949) Sister Adegundis Bergman was born on February 9, 1979 in Freeport, Minnesota. Her parents were John and Agnes (von Handorf) Bergman. She became a member of the Sisters of the Order of St. benedict, St. Joseph, in 1899. The education of young women was always a driving force in her life. She saw the need to establish a college, not only as a means of educating young women, but also as a way to train young Sisters to become teachers. A college for young women was unheard of at the time, and the administration of the community was not at all sure this was the correct thing to do, but Sister Adegundis argued the advantage of teacher training for the Sisters and overcame the uncertainty of the administration. She was on the teaching staff of the college when it opened in 1913 and is considered to be one of its early promoters. She served the college in many capacities, as academic dean, as teacher and as librarian. She was the academic dean of the college from 1928 to 1932. In this capacity she had a tremendous amount of energy to do whatever needed to be done. One of her greatest accomplishments was to lay the groundwork for the accreditation of the college by the North Central Association.


Patricia “Pat” Samuel (1943 – ) Patricia “Pat” A. Samuel promoted the cause of women at St. Cloud State University (SCSU) for 22 years beginning in 1981 as she expanded women’s curriculum and raised awareness of feminist issues. Her leadership as the first tenured Professor and Director of Women’s Studies compelled the development of a Women’s Studies major in 2005. Samuel spent most of her youth in Winterset Iowa, where her parents taught. It was William and Dorothy Samuels’ provocative “Why Not?” philosophy that roused Samuel’s thirst for action dedication to doing good (even if counter to the prevailing culture), and conviction in the power of education. She received a B.A. in Humanities from Shimer College in Mr. Carroll, Illinois, in 1963, whereupon she left for Africa to instruct future Kenyan women teachers. Samuel pursued future social change, earning a law degree, lobbying and organizing for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Washington, D.C. and conducting educational research as the first woman professional hired by the California think-tank, Institute for the Future. She secured a professorship in 1979 in the Department of Social Change at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, but a disheartening layoff prompted her move to SCSU. Samuel invigorated SCSU women’s programming and enrollment grew. “Women’s Studies: A Feminist Reader” was published, and Women’s Awards for Excellence were given. A collaborative effort with the College of Business resulted in a speaker series about changing gender roles in business, and a determined Samuel and others succeeded in creating the Women’s Center. Samuel further engaged the community, co-developing films about women workers in cooperation with the Labor Council and holding a “Mothers & Daughters” conference, attended by 200 central Minnesota Women. “Education shouldn’t be just book learning; it should do some good, having ‘real-world’ credibility.”


Isabel Lawrence (1853 – 1935) Isabel Lawrence was one of St. Cloud Normal School’s most beloved teachers. Born in Maine in 1853, Lawrence was educated at Main’s Bowdoin College and at the Oswego Normal School, New York. After her father’s death when she was five Lawrence’s mother struggled to support and educate her children. A precocious student, Lawrence began teaching at age 15, and at 19 was selected to direct the teachers’ training program at the normal school in whitewater, Wisconsin. Lawrence arrived in St. Cloud in 1879 where she launched a distinguished career as a teacher in the model school –a practice teaching program—at St. Cloud Normal School. “I love to think of Miss Lawrence – a small (four feet ten inches), dark-haired woman, a colleague wrote, “who was always busy and nearly always armed with writing pad and a fountain pen with green ink. She was fond of yellow, which was very becoming to her. She often wore a neck decoration of two golden yellow satin loops and long streamers flying out a yard or two in length. She made an attractive and interesting picture and the children loved those ribbons too.” During her 47 years at St. Cloud Normal School, Lawrence spent one year -1915-1916-as acting president. In 1906, a women’s dormitory, Lawrence Hall, was dedicated in her honor. Lawrence was a charter member of St. Cloud’s Reading Room Society and an honorary member of the St. Cloud Business and Professional Women’s Club. She also was recognized on the national level as a leader in the Minnesota League of women Voters. In 1929 a writer for the St. Cloud Daily Times Said, “Longfellow Wrote: ‘A lady with a lamp shall stand in the great history of the land.’ But Miss Lawrence has a flashlight and is moving forward so rapidly that unless you are constantly on alert, you will even lose sight of her.”