Bona’s Pioneer Women
They were hell-raisers. They were trailblazers. They just didn’t know it … then.
But today, the early women of St. Bonaventure share a connection — with each other and with the classes that followed them.
When the “co-eds” of the late ’50s and early ’60s —the first to live on campus —returned for a May 2009 symposium, members of the Class of ’62 were there. Patricia Dunn, Donna Donato Peppy, Trish Mahoney Dumser and Marge Ballak Drake shared their stories of dress codes, curfews, freshman rules, and the “conduct of Christian ladies.”
“Most of us came with the idea that we were on a scholarship that we had to keep, or we were on our way to professional school,” noted Dumser at the time. “In fact, in the bulletin — girls today would not believe this
— it says, ‘to succeed on campus, remember you have over 400 male classmates, but you came to Bonaventure to study something besides the nearest tall, dark and handsome collegiate.’”
The women spoke of acceptance — or the lack thereof — that they experienced as early Bonaventure women. Said Dumser: “Some liked us, some didn’t and some were very clear on that.”
Then-freshman Amanda Klein was among those who listened to the 2009 symposium. She interviewed the women later for a series of articles in The Bona Venture. “I was struck by how strange it seemed, to hear them speak about how unwelcome they were — when my experience has been so much the opposite. The friars today are the most welcoming people I know.
“These women loved their time at Bonaventure. They played practical jokes; they formed their own community at the Motherhouse; they forged a bond. There was no anger, no bitterness.
“In spite of the challenges they faced, they had a good Bonaventure experience.”
And lessons for the next generations of Bonaventure women? “I’m grateful to them,” says Klein. “I’d like to think that we repay them by taking part in all the opportunities we now have. We are so lucky now.”