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SMWC names Conservatory of Music Auditorium in honor of Sister Marie Brendan Harvey

Note: The following press release was provided to us by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered on campus for a celebration of the Conservatory of Music and the official renaming of its auditorium. As part of the Aspire Higher Campaign, Conservatory of Music renovations have been underway for the past year and a half.

This photo, taken in 1983, depicts Sister Marie Brendan Harvey presenting a recital of Sacred Music.

The Conservatory of Music houses an auditorium, a historic treasure opened in 1913. The 735-seat auditorium is patterned after the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany, which was destroyed during World War II.

Although a beloved treasure, years of deferred maintenance took a toll on the Conservatory of Music’s auditorium. “There was no question about the need for renovations. The space no longer provided an ideal enjoyable experience for the community, which is the ultimate goal of the space. It needed to be refreshed,” explained Catherine Saunders, associate vice president for advancement.

During Reunion 2021 at SMWC, the Aspire Higher Campaign’s Conservatory of Music initiative was publicly launched. Since then, more than $1.1 million has been secured for building renovations. In addition to the more than 200 alumni and friend donors supporting the auditorium updates, several local and state organizations have joined them by provided much-needed gifts and grants. Partners include the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Wabash Valley Community Foundations, Sisters of Providence, Indiana’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) and the Vigo County Commissioners.

During Reunion 2021, it was announced that the auditorium would be renamed to honor the legacy of Sister Marie Brendan Harvey, SP, ’51. Harvey, a beloved alumna professor, administrator, musician and founder of the SMWC Madrigals, passed away in 2016. Although renovations continue, Saunders shared that it was time for a celebration. “With a significant portion of the renovations and updates to the auditorium complete, it was time to officially rename it and bless the space. The campaign and renovations to the building will certainly continue,” Saunders said.

Following a formal dinner where the auditorium’s name and tribute signage were revealed, Janet Clark, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs opened the program in Harvey Auditorium sharing how admired Harvey was at the woods. “Many will forever cherish Sister Marie Brendan’s voice, not just for its musicality but for the love and kindness that radiated through it. Tonight, as we remember and honor her, let us celebrate the profound impact she had on our lives, our community and the world of music and education,” Clark said.

The late Sister Marie Brendan Harvey (left) and the late Sister Francis Angela Kolb look over the album “In God’s Providence.”

Joynelis Caminero Santiago, a junior therapy major, who spends a significant amount of time in the building for her classes expressed the gratitude felt by students. In speaking to all donors who were present, she said, “Many of you here tonight have personally invested in this effort to bring our historic gem back to its glory. Your gifts made a difference! Thank you for supporting historic preservation. And thank you for investing in our Woods experience.”

Kathryn A. Martin, ’62, Ed.D., SMWC trustee, shared a reflection about Harvey and the impact she had at SMWC. “Today is a blessed day for all who knew Marie Brenda, had her as a teacher, as a colleague or as a friend, as many of us had,” Martin said.

Remarks were also given on behalf of the family of Marie Brendan Harvey, SP, ’51. “Our three children experienced her kind words and unfailing interest in their comings and goings. She was a delightful dining companion and an expert in recommending the best seats at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. Marie Brendan nurtured a love of music within the entire family. There was no one like her. It is fitting that the Auditorium in the Conservatory of Music be dedicated in her name. We love her and miss her, but I am sure she is now busy directing the heavenly choir,” said Michele Whitehead, niece-in-law of Harvey.

The evening included a musical tribute by the SMWC Chorale and Madrigals to honor the occasion and Harvey. The event concluded with a blessing led by Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, SP, ’74, and SMWC trustee. “Provident God, continue to bless this house, we pray. Make safe this grand old space with your loving presence by night and day. May its doors be ever open to the joy and love that finds its source in your loving Providence,” Sister Dawn said.

Future renovations to the building include exterior updates, funded by the OCRA grant, and ADA all-gender restroom on the first floor and the restoration of the historic dome that crowns the space. Although the work continues, the celebration shared a positive look to the future of the Conservatory of Music.

Below you will see a video of the celebration.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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