Iona College: The evolution of an identity in a changing world, 1940-1990

Melissa H Larriviere, Fordham University


The identity of American Catholic colleges and universities has always been in a crossfire: caught between their ontological reality and historical contingencies. What has emerged is an issue of self-definition. At one time, the identities of these institutions were anchored to very secure moorings. After the social and religious upheaval of the 1960s, a time that proved to be a watershed for Catholic higher education, the identities of these academies had to be renegotiated. Now, more than thirty years later, Catholic institutions of higher learning continue to redefine their identity, attempting to evolve and remain relevant while staying rooted in beliefs and traditions. This historical study traced the evolution of the identity of Iona College, a Catholic institution that was founded in 1940 in New Rochelle, New York, by the Congregation of Christian Brothers. The history covered a period of fifty years. It commenced with the college's founding in 1940 and concluded in 1990, its jubilee year, and its purpose was to illustrate how one Catholic college attempted to preserve a set of ideals and traditions while responding to the practical realities of the world. The history was developed by drawing on primary sources such as archival collections owned by the college and those owned by the Congregation of Christian Brothers. Secondary sources and oral interviews supplemented the primary research data. By tracing the evolution of Iona's identity, a story developed that provided insight and an understanding of how a Catholic college met the challenges of contradiction between two conflicting forces. The study illustrated that no college can prosper, be effective, or remain vibrant without both maintaining a connection to the past and adapting that connection to the present. If the institution is willing to stay engaged in the dialectical process, with the aim of trying to come to a truth, then it will remain a vital entity. Iona College has continued to meet the challenges.

Subject Area

Higher education|Religious education|Education history

Recommended Citation

Larriviere, Melissa H, "Iona College: The evolution of an identity in a changing world, 1940-1990" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9839512.