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Celebrating Immaculata University’s Historic Past and Ambitious Future

One hundred years—a dream, a goal, a reason to celebrate. These possibilities came together at Immaculata as faculty, students, alumni and friends gathered to celebrate the centennial of the university charter. The mild fall weather was a welcoming gift to those who gathered on back campus to salute the university, its founders and the many faculty members and graduates who form the memory of this beautiful hill.

The historians among the crowd recalled the story of Mother Camilla and her conviction that the hill she saw, when she passed on the train, would be the site of a college. Others recalled their personal experiences. All those who attended the centennial events shared in the happiness of celebrating an historic event.

On Saturday, reunion events continued with the Golden Macs lunch in the Great Hall and the alumni celebrating their 50th reunion gathered in the rotunda. After lunch, Archbishop Nelson Pérez celebrated Mass at the chapel in Villa Maria House of Studies, a spot that many remember as a large field which students passed on their way to Mary Lake.

After Mass, the party began, with several tents erected on back campus to accommodate the revelers. The main tent was huge, standing 60 by 130 feet, with additional space for dancing. As the day faded into night, guests witnessed beautiful fireworks that illuminated the dome from high above. During the gala, there was music, excited chatter and general joy at greeting friends. Regardless of class year, conversation included memories of friends, favorite teachers and special spots on campus. Most conversation were a happy repetition. For each, his or her time at Immaculata remains a special gift.

The Reunion of the Century

To kick off centennial weekend, alumni celebrating their 50th class reunions gathered in the Great Hall on Friday evening. A private dinner for the classes of 1970 and 1971 allowed alumni to catch up with friends and classmates. Other reunion classes, including the Silver Mac classes of 1995 and 1996, gathered in the tent on back campus for a casual outdoor celebration.

The festivities continued on Saturday with the general meeting of the Alumni Association and the State of the University address by President Barbara Lettiere. The 50th classes were then presented with their Golden Mac pins. For lunch, alumni gathered in the tent and the 50th reunion classes enjoyed a special lunch in the rotunda. Alumni celebrating from the classes of 1940 through 1984 attended the Golden Macs lunch in the Great Hall. Approximately 600 alumni and guests attended reunion weekend. Alumni traveled from 22 states and Peru to attend this special centennial celebration.

The Mass and the Party

The Immaculata community joined the 25th and 50th reunion classes as they processed into the Sacred Heart Chapel at Villa Maria House of Studies for the centennial Mass. Archbishop Nelson Pérez served as the principal celebrant along with Immaculata alumni Reverend Kyle Adamczyk ’12 and Reverend Christian Scalo ’14. Other Mass concelebrants included Monsignor John Savinski, Reverend Samuel Verruni (former chaplain at Immaculata) and Reverend Carl Brachoss, O.Praem. (current chaplain).

Musicians for the Mass were a diverse group with more than 50 participants from the IHM Sisters, faculty, staff, alumni, current students and professional musicians.

The party kicked into high gear once the gala began in the tent after Mass. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were honored with the Alumni Medal during the gala. Sister Mary Ellen Tennity, IHM, general superior, accepted the award on behalf of the congregation.

With the theme “Through the Decades,” many alumni dressed for the occasion—including flappers from the 1920s and hippies straight from the 1960s. The Class of 1985 (celebrating their 35th reunion) wore matching T-shirts, and the class of 1990 created T-shirts that read: “I’m an ’80s kind of girl.”

Food stations located throughout the tent served high-end food popular throughout the decades. Guests enjoyed a special cocktail, Mac Fizz, created just for the centennial.

As the sky darkened, the crowd moved from the tent onto back campus to witness the beautiful fireworks and to sing the alma mater. Back inside the tent, the DJ played hits from all decades that got everyone moving—even President Lettiere jumped onto the dance floor.

A Centennial Symphony

With a long and outstanding tradition that goes back to the university’s founding in 1920, the Immaculata Symphony paid tribute to the university’s centennial during its annual fall concert.

Music Director Joseph Gehring led the symphony, which is composed of university and community members, for a memorable evening of works both old and new.

The concert featured “Centennial Overture,” a newly commissioned work by local composer Joseph Lorini for choir and orchestra, which highlighted the Immaculata University alma mater in a new and exciting way. Adrian Smith directed the Immaculata Chorale, which was joined by an alumni choir, to sing the alma mater. The alumni choir, created just for the centennial concert, consisted of 18 alumni from the 1960s through the 2000s.

Charter Day

The college charter was granted by the College and University Council of the Department of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on November 12, 1920. This date is celebrated annually by the campus community—but this year’s celebration, 101 years in the making, was special.

In recognition of the centennial, items were placed in a time capsule, which will be housed in Immaculata’s archives. The items included: Catherine Houston Kealy’s 1930 class ring and pin, a crucifix and chain worn in “The Mighty Macs” movie, a copy of the college charter, a map of campus, the Centennial Program Journal, a centennial lapel pin, and the front cover of The Daily Local News for November 12, 2021.

President Lettiere read the charter and Oriana Weatherington ’23 explained the meaning of the time capsule before Father Carl Brachoss, O.Praem., blessed it.

The 100th Carol Night

As the oldest and most beloved tradition at Immaculata, it was fitting that Carol Night would conclude the two-year centennial celebration. The 21-foot Douglas fir, adorned with over 2,000 lights, provided a beautiful backdrop to showcase Immaculata’s musical ensembles and voices.

Seniors Francesca Kalie, Olive Monye, Gabrielle John and Kelly O’Brien brought in the Baby Jesus, and senior music major Julia Gillies performed “O Holy Night”. Peter McHugh ’24 served as narrator.