Daemen College Yearbooks Now on New York Heritage!

The Western New York featured collection for December 2018 in New York Heritage is that of the Summit yearbooks from Daemen College in Amherst, New York.
Like several smaller, private colleges in the region and across the state, Daemen’s history, reflected in the pages of its yearbooks, has been shaped in some ways by various state and national events occurring throughout its existence. Daemen started out as an all-female institution, called Rosary Hill College, organized by the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity – an order of religious Sisters dating back to 1835 in the Netherlands. The foundress of the Order was Mother Magdalen Damen (hence the origins of the later name change!). The Order came to America in 1874, at the request of the congregation of St. Michael’s Church in Buffalo, who saw a need for German speaking nuns to instruct the children of the growing population of German immigrants living predominantly on Buffalo’s east side. The Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Charity were responsible for the creation of many community elementary and high schools in the Western New York region and elsewhere in the country in those early years.
Daemen College was established by the Sisters in 1947, just after WWII. This was a time when many women who had joined the war workforce were being let go so GIs returning from the war could resume their old jobs. But many of these women wanted to continue to have careers after the war and so turned to higher education opportunities to be able to do so. The burst of industrial growth caused by a wartime economy did not slow down after the war, and so the US also required a larger, better educated workforce to sustain this growth. The result was the country (including this region) experiencing an increase in the establishment of public and private higher education institutions in the immediate aftermath of the war. Rosary Hill College graduated its first class in 1952 and issued its first yearbook at that time.
Early in 1959, the Roman Catholic Church announced Vatican II, an event focused on reviewing and revising Church doctrine. One significant change inspired a more “outward-looking” Catholic faith, willing to embrace secular and non-Catholic communities. So too, life at Daemen became more secular in both academic offerings and campus social life. In addition, the 1960s was a tumultuous time in American history and culture: the Vietnam War, civil rights and the women’s movement were all impacting life in small Catholic colleges, including Daemen. The College became co-educational in 1971 and nonsectarian in 1976, changing its name to Daemen College. In 1992, New York State amended the college’s charter, authorizing the award of graduate level degrees as well as baccalaureate degrees as more and more students were pursuing post-graduate studies in America.
College yearbooks are a great window on the past and New York Heritage currently offers viewers a look at about 45 yearbook collections from across New York State – with more to come!

Leave a Reply