Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hazard Yet Forward

Hazard Yet Forward is the motto for Seton Hill College. That is where I went for undergrad. I remember the first time I went into the cafeteria. I had gone to the wonderful salad bar, eaten my lunch and went to empty my tray. Just as I was getting ready to leave I looked above the doors and there it was in beautiful medieval looking script"Hazard Yet Forward".

I was later to learn that this was the motto of a distinguished Scottish family-the Seton family.

Seton Hill College (SHC), yes it was college when I went there, not university like it is now. SHC was a Catholic, all female liberal arts college run by the Sisters of Charity. Located in Greensburg, PA on top of a huge hill. (better to protect all the virgins from the townies). I absolutely grew to love it. I wasn't too thrilled my freshman year. All of those roomates were a bit much for me. For the next 3 years I had a private room, which I seldom if ever locked. I remember I started locking it, but then I forgot my keys a couple of times. These rooms had transoms at the top of the door. I can remember climbing up the door and shimmying through the transom, balancing on the built-in dresser that was right by the door and down to the floor. When I think of this now I marvel at being so small I could fit through the transom. Too much junk in the trunk for that these days. I was always a good climber, and I still am, but geez!!

For 3 years I had the same room in Canevin Lowe Hall. On each floor there was a nun. Now that I think about it, it must have been hard for the nuns. In my freshman year we petitioned and had a sit-in so that we could have open dorms. What this consisted of was on Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays we could have "boys in our rooms". WHOOPIE!!!!!!!!!! Each nun had a suite at the end of the hall. My floor had Sister Mimi Jo. Actually it was Sr. Miriam Joseph. She was this amazing Poetry and English Lit professor. She was elderly then, and you just knew that it must have been something for her to have to live on a floor with a bunch of rowdy women and then to have men on the floor on the weekends. During the week if a man was on the floor say to fix something all you would here is, "Man on the floor", "Man on the floor". I had Sr. Mimi Jo for a poetry class where I totally embarrassed myself by butchering Wordsworth's A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal. I actually butchered some part of Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn as well. Just too introverted to speak in front of people. I'm actually to introverted to speak to one person most times, but that's just something I have to deal with day in and day out.

When I went to SHC only females were admitted. If an SHC student wanted to take some courses at our brother school, St. Vincents College you were permitted to do that, and vice versa. St. Vincents is located in Latrobe, PA. Home of Arnold Palmer and Rolling Rock beer (yak spit and bear pee).

Through the years there was much scuttlebutt about Seton Hill going coed. I always thought it would never happen, but then in 2002 the school went officially coed. Now we have Seton Hill University. I don't think I will ever get used to that. Seton Hill was the one place that I really felt empowered. I don't think I have felt that way about too much of anything since then. There was just something about those professors, mostly nuns, mostly female, pushing you to do your best, encouraging you to try new things.

I know that I should look at this as not abandonment of women's programs, but as an expansion of women's education to include men, but it still doesn't set well with me.

SHC has changed in other ways as well. They now have a nursing program, new dorms have been built, and I hear the library is better than ever.

I wonder if the students still go "tearoom", "borrow" the cafeteria trays to go sledding, have the big bonfire to usher in autumn, during mid-terms and finals have the cafeteria open until late at night with all sorts of snacks available and have the ice cream parties. (that's where I learned that maple walnut ice cream mixed with peanut butter and french vanilla ice cream with hot fudge and pretzels really is heaven))

I am not a "stay in touch" sort of person. I burn bridges very easily, but I always make sure that the SHC alumni office has my contact information. I love reading the Forward and all of the other SHC information.

I miss who I was then and I miss all of the wondeful friends that I made there. I loved those women and I know that they loved me. I have yet to find that sort of camaraderie anywhere else,and I am very grateful that I had that in my life if for only a short time.

"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education".
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910), Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)


Dennis G. Jerz said...

I'm an English professor at Seton Hill. I was hired in 2003, so I never knew Seton Hill College, but I've learned quite a bit about the school's past from the faculty staff who've been here for a long time.

I enjoyed reading this glimpse into Seton Hill's past.

Anonymous said...

I attended "the Hill" from 1996-2000 and while I'm thrilled that my cousin's son is attending my alma mater, I feel something precious was lost when it went co-ed. It makes me sad and wistful.

Page said...

I know I'm leaving this 6 years late, but had to comment that I, too, lived on Mimi Jo's floor for 3 years (the Canevin end) in the era of no boys & yelling out "Man on the floor!" upon exiting the elevator. My era was 79-82. I met friends there that I still have. My application to my education may not have been the best at the time, I learned so much about how to conduct my life & relationships there. And that has been worth every penny.

Joanne D'Itri Fantone said...

Funny how things come to you when you are in the frame of mind to receive them. I happened upon your blog today, the first day of 2014, New Year's Day, a day when our motto, Hazard Yet Forward, fills me with courage to step boldly into unwritten history. I was a Fifth Maura frosh and then a Brownlee upperclasswoman for the rest of my sojourn on the Hill, 1974-1978. When I went back to give my much younger sister the "insider's" tour, my Brownlee room was on display, red velvet rope and all, for all prospective students to view as a model room. "Freshmen?", I queried our official tour guide, "why show these rooms to freshmen?" I thought they should see the freshman dorms of Maura, upper Can. and Lowe, and Admin. "This IS a freshman dorm now," smiled the young guide. I have to admit, I felt a little bit of hot color come creeping up into my face at the thought. When I mentioned taking the elevator to the roof to walk up to Fifth Maura, the guide almost giggled. We were told that no one crossed the roof anymore, too dangerous. The elevator stopped at Fourth. Craziness! Little changes here and there made me sad, but I realized that my sister wouldn't miss them. Life goes on. SHC prepared me well for life outside of acadamia, and even though I left quite a bit of promise at the gate, I wouldn't change my college experience at SHC for anything. Now, even Mrs. Boyle is gone, and there aren't too many people left there who would know me. Hazard Yet Forward. Life goes on.

Anonymous said...


Seven years later, I comment. Isn't the internet a fabulous thing! I graduated from Seton Hill in 2012 and yes, it was coed then, but the spirit that you described, of empowerment and encouraged is still very much alive and kicking. Oh and the cafeteria is still open late during exams, though there aren't trays to borrow for sledding anymore.