Digital Commonwealth

Elms College Formative Years (1899-1928)

Elms College Alumnae Library

Presented here are items that illustrate the early years in the history of the College of Our Lady of the Elms (originally Our Lady of the Elms Academy, popularly known as Elms College), from 1899 to 1928. The academy, named on August 2, 1899, was co-founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph (SSJ); its first incarnation was founded in Pittsfield in 1897 and evolved into a parochial school for St. Joseph's Parish. In 1899, Bishop Thomas Beaven, at the suggestion of Rev. John J. McCoy and working with Mother Mary Albina Murphy, purchased property in Chicopee, and the Diocese worked with the SSJ to co-found an academy for girls there to meet a perceived market for a boarding school. Elms College evolved into a normal school between 1908 and 1910, with the goal of training teachers for the commonwealth. In 1912 and 1913, the college, which had to that point purchased buildings as the campus grew, built its first building, the college chapel. Its second fully constructed building, O'Leary Hall, was completed in 1924. It marked the evolution of the academy into what would become the College of Our Lady of the Elms in 1928, when Bishop Thomas Mary O'Leary and Mother John Berchmans co-founded the present College, one year after the SSJ petitioned the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to empower the granting of degrees.