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Class of '71

Cassie Bendel

Posted on October 05 2021

Class of '71

To the Mountain Mamas of ’71 – Thanks for the memories!

Dear reader, the following post was written to honor the Mount de Chantal class of 1971 and was to be read as part of a presentation during the (now cancelled) alumni reunion. Whether you were part of that class or not, we hope you’ll enjoy this look back in time…

Welcome Class of 1971 – you’ve made it 50 years since high school! 

When Vanessa and I graduated in 1999, the famous refrain that we heard was “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of ’99, wear sunscreen”. I wonder what the words of wisdom might have been for you ladies who graduated in 1971. Would it have been buy stock in IBM? Pay a visit to a little place that would open that October called Walt Disney World? Or maybe, it would just be those words that call back all West Virginians “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, which was released on April 12, 1971.

Since we’re already talking about coming home, let’s go back in time now to the school year that was 1970 to 1971. My first stop on my tour here through the archive was the scrapbook from that year. And a big thank you goes out to Bettyann Stewart, who was the alumni historian at that time, for keeping such great pieces of history. From my perspective, as someone who has spent hours pouring over details in the life of the Mount, 1970-71 was a pretty exemplary year in terms of upholding what the school meant. 

One of the first pages shows how directly involved some of the members of the class were in activism. We’ve got a newspaper photo of a letter-writing campaign to the president of North Vietnam demanding better treatment for U.S. Prisoners of War. Members of the “Volunteers in Action” collected letters from friends and classmates by the hundreds and then took to the streets of Wheeling and Marshall County to collect letters from the greater public. Debby Rownd represented Mount de Chantal in this venture.

Then we’ve got the famous – or should I say infamous – Black Panther incident. I’m sure you remember the whole story, but if you follow our blog, you might have already read Christina’s wonderful retelling of the incident complete with interviews from an alumna. The “Rally” – and I put that heavily in quotations – was meant to bring awareness to the deaths of the Black Panther Party members Mark Clark and Fred Hampton. Three ladies were briefly suspended for leaving school that day – December 4, 1970 – but as they say, let’s hope it didn’t end up on their permanent record. The alumnae, Donna, summed it up by explaining that the whole thing was about boys and that it must have been one slow news day in Wheeling. 

(I’m skipping over the history parts because I know I don’t need to tell you much about the year that was 1971 – you were there! It’s a little like my son trying to explain 9/11 to me. I know, kid. I lived through it. Let me talk!)

Otherwise, back within the hallowed halls of our MdeC, the big financial push for the year was focused on the school’s capital improvement campaign. A number of fundraisers were held to help support that mission including a puppet show that spring by Sister Mary Paul Miller. Sister Mary Paul had a collection of some 30 puppets she called “The Merry Marionettes”. She went on a 25-school tour over a period of about 3 weeks! That June, she told the Wheeling News-Register, “Miss Mary Ann Hopkins and I gave 38 shows to a total of around 10,000 persons during this period.” At $0.50 per ticket, Sister was able to raise $5,000 for that fund!

I want to mention my favorite image from that year and it’s of May Party Queen the late, and very beautiful Mary Murphy. You know, the 1970’s isn’t particularly known for its lasting contribution to fashion, but I think Mary’s dress

and hair are one for the ages! This dress would have been a classic in any era. Mary is of course flanked by attendants Peggy Smith and Julie Heyl. And -- Fun fact – the little girl in this photo, Jill Burkhart, went on to teach dance lessons locally as part of her family’s Burkhart Dance Centre.

Finally, I’d like to just share some images with you that I’m sure will bring back many memories, both from school days and past reunions. One thing that continually amazes me about Mount de Chantal is its diversity. It was a place that managed to bring girls together from far and wide to create a community of strong-minded women. Those women who didn’t stay, took with them what they learned at the Mount out into the world, making a much more far-reaching impact than what can initially be imagined.

Thank you for listening. Here’s to you, Class of 71! May you blessed with many more years of friendship.

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