“But that’s not what you’d put in a search engine to find it,” she told her audience Saturday afternoon at the National Orphan Train Museum in Concordia. Instead, the title is a search-engine-friendly “Marymount College of Kansas: A History.”
Ackerman, a 1978 graduate of Marymount College who is now professor of language arts at Kansas State University at Salina, spent nearly four years researching and writing the book that was released by The History Press in November.
She said the publisher suggested calling it “Marymount College of Kansas: The History.”
“But there are many histories,” she explained. “Each student, each teacher, each person connected to Marymount can tell you their own history of the school. The history that I documented is the paper-trail, carefully preserved in the Nazareth Motherhouse archives.”
She focused on the vision and determination required to begin planning a college in 1910, at a time when women did not have the right to vote and there were no institutes of higher education for women in Kansas.
As a part of her presentation, Ackerman talked a bit about a 17-year-old Irish immigrant girl who became the visionary Reverend Mother Antoinette Cuff and went on to petition Pope Benedict XV for permission to complete Marymount College.
She also told the story of William Carr, who served as the college’s “chief engineer” for 44 years — and who preserved evidence of all his projects, thanks to his hobby of photography.
Marymount was built by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, under Cuff’s leadership, and cost an estimated $1 million by the time it opened in 1922. It was operated and staffed by sisters for more than 60 years. Ultimately the Diocese of Salina took over its operation in the early 1980s and then closed it in 1989.
After Ackerman’s presentation, she signed copies of her books for the dozen or so in attendance. Admission to the museum — including a display about Orphan Train riders who later became Sisters of St. Joseph — was free for those attending the presentation.
The event was co-sponsored by the National Orphan Train Complex and the Sisters of St. Joseph.