Women of Xavier

Timeline of Women at Xavier


  • New regulations mandating teaching certification led to the creation of the St. Xavier summer school program in 1914. In 1917, 93 nuns were enrolled in the downtown campus. Enrollment in the teacher-training program grew to 175 in 1919. St. Xavier leaders explored the possibility of creating a full teaching college for women, however, the plan would never reach fruition.

June 1918

  • The first women graduate (women religious) from Xavier University.

Fall 1918

  • The Department of Commerce and Sociology (also known as the School of Commerce and Sociology or the Evening College) opened to women. After the end of the war, women continued to attend some weekend and evening division courses offered at the downtown campus.


  • In the fall of 1919 St. Xavier opened its School of Law—the first professional school of the college. Two young women, Anne M. Overman and Mary L. Prout, were enrolled as members of the freshman class.” (Bennish, 129) They both graduated in the Class of 1922.


  • Alumnae Association formed. Catherine Carter, a School of Law graduate, became the first president and Luella Sauer, also a charter member, helped to create an annual scholarship.


  • To assist students enrolled in the School of Commerce and Finance evening classes, Florence C. Albers was appointed Dean of Women. She was the first woman administrator in the history of the University. Albers had earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Xavier. (Fortin, 169)


  • Xavier created a graduate school in 1946 where 112 of the 117 enrollees were religiously dedicated women. At the time, no lay women served as faculty members.


  • It was not until the 1950s that Xavier discontinued the rule excluding women faculty members from employment at the University. Prior to this, some women had served as part-time instructors.


  • First temporary woman faculty member in the undergraduate day division was hired in the Department of Biology (Fortin, 264).


  • “Mrs. Marjorie C. Dew, first woman to serve full-time on the Xavier faculty, received her doctorate March 19 during commencement exercises at Kent State University. Mrs. Dew, who joined the English faculty in September, did her dissertation on ‘Herman Melville’s Existential View of the Universe.’ ( Xavier Alumnus, April 1966, 5)


  • Mary Louise Faeth was named the University’s first Dean of Women in the undergraduate day school. (Fortin, 263-264)
    • “Miss Mary Louise Faeth, a native Cincinnatian, became the first female Assistant Dean of Students in Xavier's history when she assumed the position July 1 [1969]. She will be working under Dean of Students Patrick J. Nally and in conjunction with the other assistant deans.” ( Xavier News, 9/24/1969, 1)

Fall 1969

  • The day division of the undergraduate college opens to women.
    • "Xavier has broken with one hundred thirty-eight years of tradition and opened the doors of its day division undergraduate colleges to women. Fifty-two coeds are presently registered and attending classes. Of these, twenty-three are freshman and twenty-nine, including many familiar faces from Xavier's evening division, are transfer students. Nine of these ladies live in Dr. Link's Villa complex." ( Xavier News, 10/01/1969, 3)
  • Kathy Keating, a swimmer, became the first female to represent Xavier University in intercollegiate sports.
    • “...Kathy Keating, 19, starred Saturday in her debut as the first female to represent Xavier University in intercollegiate sports. Miss Keating won both events in which she competed as part of the Ohio Collegiate Women's Swimming Championships at Denison University. She won both the 50 and 100-yard breaststrokes with times of 34 seconds and 1:13.6 minutes, respectively." ( Xavier News, 11/12/1969, 4)


  • First coeducational housing implemented in September 1970.
    • "Based upon faculty and administrative recommendations, President O'Connor has officially approved coeducational housing on Xavier's campus. This developed program of coeducational housing is to be implemented September, 1970. (Historically, women have been housed in Kuhlman Hall the past several summers and presently nine coeds are housed at the Villa, located on Ledgewood and Victory Parkway.) ( Xavier News, 3/11/1970, 3)
  • Xavier Women’s Rifle Team formed.
    • "The newly-formed Xavier Girls' rifle team whipped the XU Pershing Rifles, 872-805, in a challenge rifle match Friday at the university rifle range..." ( Xavier News, 4/15/1970, 4)


  • Women's intercollegiate basketball began.


  • Xavier swimming team presented the University with its first women varsity letter wins. ( Communique, 02/04/1972, 1)
  • Nelida Fontana and Janet Fortin applied for and received the Danforth grant to open the Breen Lodge Women’s Center. Breen Lodge closed in 1980.
  • Committee on Status of Women is formed. ( Communique, 02/25/1972, 1)
  • In the spring of 1972, a three-day campus seminar featuring a series of lectures and panels on women’s issues and society is held. (Fortin, 265).
  • Women’s drill team started. ( Communique, 03/10/1972, 2)
  • Women's intercollegiate volleyball began.


  • JoAnn Coors becomes first woman to serve on the University Athletic Board. ( Communique, 03/23/1973)
  • The 1973 Homecoming half-time saw the reinstatement of the Homecoming Queen tradition along with the establishment of the position of Homecoming King. Mary Nurre was Xavier’s first, last and only Homecoming Queen. The Xavier versus Dayton  homecoming game ended in a 28-28 tie, with Xavier battling in the final seconds to maintain the score.
  • Maureen Cherry becomes the first woman admitted to Xavier’s ROTC unit.
  • Sue Wideman is named Director of the Radiologic Technology program and goes on to become Director then Dean of the Center for Adult and Part-time Students. In 2001 she is named Associate Academic Vice President for Non-traditional Programs.


  • Iris Keels becomes the first female appointed as Director of Staff Personnel. ( Communique, 02/05/1974)


  • Brigid Harmon is the first female valedictorian at the undergraduate commencement exercises. She later worked at Xavier as a faculty member of the Department of Economics.
  • Julie O’Donoghue becomes the first woman Student Government president.
  • Laurie Massa became the first woman to coach the women’s basketball team.
  • Cleaster Whitehurst-Mims becomes the first full-time African-American female faculty member at Xavier. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communication Arts in 1971, her master’s in 1975, and taught at Xavier from 1976 to 2006 in Communication Arts.


  • Lisa Marie Maechling was valedictorian, in 1978 Barbara Lewis, and in 1980 Mary Joan Stentz.
  • Sharon Mattingly becomes the first woman to coach a men’s varsity team at Xavier as the coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams. ( Communique, 10/1977, 11)<
  • Kathleen T. Mahoney becomes first female to receive the Father Finn Award.


  • Peg Dillion becomes first woman Dean of Students.


  • Xavier acquires Edgecliff College in 1980, combining the student bodies and faculty from each institution. With this merger, women students comprise 49 percent of the student population and 10 women faculty are added to the professoriate. 


  • Phyllis Smale becomes Xavier’s first woman trustee. (Fortin, 296)


  • Women become the majority of the student body: 51 percent in undergraduate and 47 percent in the graduate programs.


  • Joan Connell, PhD, becomes Xavier’s Academic Vice President. She is the first woman vice president at the University. (Fortin, 317).


  • Janice Walker, PhD, becomes first woman chair of the department of mathematics.
  • Maxine Urton begins the degree in Sports Medicine, at which time Xavier was the only school in Greater Cincinnati offering the degree (President’s Report, 1993).


  • 25-year anniversary of undergraduate women at Xavier. Women comprise a third of the full-time faculty and 84 percent of academic staff and hold nine chairs in 25 academic departments.


  • Establishment of WORTH (Women Offering Rights, Truth & Happiness).


  • Janice Walker, PhD, became the first woman dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


  • Women’s basketball is the first team in University history to reach the “Elite Eight” in the NCAA tournament.


  • Dawn Rogers becomes the first female Athletic Director. 


  • Women of Excellence is formed.
  • In fall 2007, the Women’s Center reopens. It is devoted to providing advocacy and resources, advancing education and academic excellence, and promoting research focusing on women, girls and gender.


  • Debra Mooney, PhD, is the first lay person and woman Chief Mission Officer. 


  • Barbara Howard is elected the first woman to serve as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Howard graduated in 1976 as a member of the fourth class of women at Xavier and was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Alumna Award.