The Class of ’69 was on the cusp of a new era, in many ways: theirs was the last all-female class that the College would graduate. They had seen the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet transition from traditional habits to street clothes. Our Golden Roses reminisce about living, learning, and becoming the best of friends during this pivotal time as they prepare to celebrate their 50th anniversary at HOME.COMING & Family Weekend, September 27 through 29, 2019.
Elizabeth Basen ’69, Ph.D. B.A., Biology Madison, New Jersey
Currently vice president of global regulatory affairs for Chinese pharmaceutical firm MaxiNovel, Dr. Elizabeth Basen ’69 has worked in healthcare for more than four decades. She’s been in charge of medical communications for Ives Laboratories, worked for 21 years at Wyeth Consumer Healthcare in medical communications and then global medical affairs, and then clinical trials and regulatory intelligence for PTC Therapeutics. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience in pharmacology (in which she has a master’s and doctoral degrees) and toxicology.
Plus, she’s a whiz at analyzing tissue samples under a microscope.
“Sister Tess (Wysolmerski ‘53) taught my histology class,” says Basen. “We spent many hours looking at slides under a microscope.”
At the time, she hated it. But she loved Sister Tess, who was passionate about teaching. “She really brought out the best in her students,” says Basen. “And it was because of Sister Tess that I got my first job.
“When we were getting near graduation, she said, ‘I have the perfect job for you.’ It was a position for a biologist with MBR Ltd in Albany.”
Guess what it involved? Looking at microscope slides with samples from animal tissues.
“I learned a lot,” says Basen. “I learned to love it.”
While at MBR, Basen learned from her colleagues that she would have to earn an advanced degree in order to move up in her field. She remembered a professor from St. John’s University (Jamaica, New York) who had given a lecture at Saint Rose about forensic toxicology. “I contacted him about graduate programs,” she says. After I was accepted into the program there, he was my mentor and advisor for both my M.S. and Ph.D.
“Without the guidance from him and Sister Tess, I would not have been able to achieve and advance in my career,” says Basen.
She has vivid memories of her time at Saint Rose. She remembers being placed in an English class full of English majors in her first year. The professor was so impressed with Basen’s paper that she started reading it out loud to the class. “She said, ‘This is outstanding!’ and I expected an A.”
To her surprise, Basen, received a C. She asked about the low grade after the rave review. “The first few lines were really outstanding,” was the answer. “But it went downhill from there!” Another vivid memory is from her first days at MBR. “For some tests they were running, they needed a special sort of rat – a South African long-tailed rat,” says Basen. For some reason, some of these rats were housed in garages at Saint Rose. Basen went to cage them before they were picked up by the professional animal handler.
She put two or three rats in each cage – since it was difficult to get them into the cages, she had to spread them out over many cages.
When the animal handler appeared, it turned out that he had wanted the rats consolidated into only a couple of cages.
“He was wearing these big, thick, gauntlet-type gloves,” says Basen.
When the handler realized she had wrangled all those rats with her bare hands, he looked at her in disbelief. “These are vicious, ferocious animals!” he told her. “I hadn’t given it a second thought,” she says.
Basen is looking forward to returning to campus for her Golden Roses anniversary, seeing how the campus has grown, catching up with old friends, and sharing old memories. It’s a pretty sure thing that none of that will involve handling any rats or slides, though.
Kathleen Burns Bragle ‘69 B.S., Music Slingerlands, New York
Kathleen Burns Bragle ’69 remembers the day her tuba practice disrupted Mass.
The incident was completely innocent: It was Day One of her Brass Methods class, and she had begun diligently working through her beginner book, “A Tune A Day.”
“I lived in Rosary Hall (now Moran Hall), next to Saint Joseph’s, and my bedroom was on the second floor, with the big bay window. I was sitting on the window seat with my music stand and tuba,” she explains. “I had reached the last piece in the book, which was ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ and I was playing it, oompah-pah-pah, and having a ball.”
Someone suddenly rushed up to her door and called out that Mass was starting. “I looked out, and there were all these people in the chapel, staring at me and laughing hysterically,” says Bragle. “The priest couldn’t even get started.”
Kathleen Burns Bragle ’69
After graduating from Saint Rose, she went on to earn an M.S. in Music Education from the University of Illinois, and was in the first group of music educators in New York State to receive national certification. Before retiring in 2012, she was a beloved music teacher for 36 years in the Schalmont Central School District (Rotterdam, New York), and loves thinking about the hundreds of cards she’s received from grateful former students.
She stays in close contact with many Saint Rose classmates, and has many more fond memories of shared times. Her most important Saint Rose relationship, though, was with her instructor for Philosophy of Education, Dr. George Bragle. She took the class only because it was required for graduation; while she enjoyed the class and the instructor’s dry sense of humor, she remembered him as only one of her many excellent professors.
“Near graduation, he told our class, ‘Let me know what you’re up to – keep in touch,’” she says. She sent him a note thanking him for her last grade (which was an A), and received a letter from him. “It was so hysterical that I showed it to my mom,” she adds. “Just observations on things, like how I would miss the Northeast because I was moving to the Midwest.”
She wrote back. He wrote back. And so it continued. “The next thing I knew, we had fallen in love through our letters,” she says.
She came back to Albany for Thanksgiving 1970 and saw him, then again in December, when they met for lunch. “That was our one and only date,” she adds.
They married the following November. “There were more nuns at our wedding than at anyone else’s,” says Bragle.
The couple had three children, bought the first house built in Slingerlands (1790), and purchased a house in Cape Cod in 1998, shortly after George retired from teaching. He sadly passed away in 2017, but Kathleen and her classmates have memories of him that are as vivid as ever.
“At his wake, I talked to Sue Pezzolla ’69, who was in a horrible traffic accident in our senior year, and spent commencement in the hospital,” she says. “She told me that when she was there, George brought her a tape of music to listen to. I never even knew he’d done that.”
Susan Heim Pezzolla ‘69 B.A., English Albany, New York
Sue Pezzolla ’69 is the perfect person to provide handy pointers for your poinsettias, proven practices for your perennials, or tips for the happiest houseplants. The 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award for Horticulture from the New York State chapter of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, Pezzolla recently retired from her longtime job as a community educator for horticulture and master gardener coordinator for Cornell University Cooperative Extension.
As a student during the late 1960s, Pezzolla remembers Saint Rose undergoing a drastic transformation. As a first-year student, she had to not only request permission to attend a football game, but detail what she would wear: a blouse, sweater, slacks, and sneakers. She was shown a list of “proper collegiate attire,” written by someone who felt that women should always wear skirts.
“By our junior year, there was very little of that still around,” she says. “There were no more formal dinners. The Sisters began wearing street clothes. The College decided to go co-ed.” She remembers, years later, seeing a young man wearing a varsity Golden Knights jacket and marveling at how much had changed.
The most momentous incident of Pezzolla’s time at Saint Rose happened shortly before commencement. She had attended a social event at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) after finishing her coursework for the semester, and caught a late-night ride back to Albany with a couple of RPI students and their dates. Her driver had dropped off everyone except Pezzolla and one other passenger, and was stopped at the intersection at Manning and Western when another driver ran the stoplight. Swerving to avoid the oncoming car, Pezzolla’s driver plowed into a huge maple tree.
Susan Heim Pezzolla ‘69 and her husband Peter
Pezzolla spent 10 days in the Albany Medical Center trauma unit, then more than a week in the ICU (the other passenger had a similar situation; the driver did not survive). She needed surgery for multiple internal injuries and had both arms and legs in casts.
She heard workers wondering aloud whether she would make it. A priest insisted on performing Extreme Unction. “One day, you’re on top of your game, about to graduate, and then all of a sudden you’re on the other end of things,” she says.
Fortunately, Pezzolla also had strong support. A young doctor in the unit kept her spirits up with encouraging remarks. “He kept saying, ‘I know you’re going to be OK,’” she adds. “His name began with S, so that’s the middle initial of one of my sons.”
Her jaw was wired shut, so Mary Kiernan ’69 brought and fed her homemade egg custard. Numerous teachers stopped by. “They were all so kind,” she says, although one docked her grade because she missed final exams.
Since she couldn’t make it to commencement, Saint Rose President Sister Clarence Paul brought it to her, complete with mortarboard and commencement program. Another put Pezzolla in touch with a good lawyer to help cover her astronomical medical expenses.
A friend, Bea Manti, wrote a poem for Pezzolla and solicited others to send her notes. As a result, Pezzolla’s scrapbook is full of cheerful handwritten notes and doodles from the likes of Norman Rockwell, Ted Kennedy, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Pat Nixon, William Buckley, J. Edgar Hoover, and Johnny Carson.
Pezzolla cherishes the bonds she formed at Saint Rose, and treasures every chance to get together. “I recently reconnected in North Carolina with a classmate I hadn’t seen for 25 years,” she says. “You fall back in time, as if all those years had never passed.”
Maury Lovejoy Rowlands ‘69 B.S., Sociology Laguna Beach, California
At her daughter’s wedding in California last summer, Maury Rowlands was overjoyed to see three of her lifelong friends from Saint Rose: Barbara Kutz Walsh ’69, Maureen Miller Klein ’69, and Mary Kiernan Candon ’69. “I was so happy to see these friends, with whom I stay in close contact,” she says. “And I have so many other wonderful memories of all the caring women at Saint Rose,” she says.
Since graduating, she went on to work as a social worker, a museum manager, and a real-estate broker. In addition, she’s done a lot of volunteer work for various organizations over the years, and currently volunteers for organizations that help recently diagnosed cancer patients.
She is proud of being a breast-cancer survivor. “It’s something that many people look at as something bad, but I feel that something good always comes of something bad,” she says. Her favorite quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Rowlands’ proudest achievement, though, is raising three strong, beautiful daughters with brilliant careers who are committed to giving back to their communities. “One is a marriage and family therapist, another works for Make-A-Wish, and the other is a business owner who does a lot of volunteer work,” she says, adding that she’s also gratified to be happily married for 47 years.
Among her fondest Saint Rose memories are gathering with friends in the Camelot Room for lunch. Aside from the heartburn engendered by the prospect of a pop quiz in Professor Walter Hahn’s class, she says, those times in the Camelot Room were wonderful. “We crammed for classes, solved the world’s problems, and decided where we would spend our Friday nights,” she adds. “I feel we got this great sense of fortitude, courage, and problem-solving. There was so much friendship and the spirit of helping each other.”
Her decision to attend Saint Rose had been largely influenced by the positive experience of her beloved aunt, Marcella Lovejoy ’35. As a “day hop,” Rowlands commuted to campus, and many recollections involve her car, an aged Renault with certain limitations. “We four friends would drive up to Lake George for a weekend getaway, and we would have to give the car a rest at the end of the northway,” she recalls. In addition, the Renault’s reverse gear would frequently be on the fritz, so Rowlands has many memories of her friends having to help her push the car out of parking spots. “Thanks, ladies!”
Rowlands, who lived in Loudonville at the time, also remembers throwing a raincoat over her pajamas early Friday morning for the long drive to campus for her 8:30 a.m. class (“my only class in my senior year!”). She remembers good times in Spanish class with Sister Inez and Maureen, and Barb. “Sister Inez would call us to the board, and there would be lots of giggles,” says Rowlands.
All these years later, Rowlands loves thinking of the camaraderie that began among her friends at Saint Rose and continues to grow. “Some of us have had cancer, losses of husbands, and everything else,” she says. “Through it all we’re always there for each other. There is absolutely nothing like lifelong girlfriends.”
Lorraine Molineaux DeCuyper ‘69 B.S., Elementary Education: English Malta, New York
The second-eldest of 12 children, Lorraine Molineaux DeCuyper didn’t originally plan to go to college. The oldest daughter, she grew up in the family’s house on South Lake Avenue in Albany doing laundry, housework, and taking care of the younger kids (“The first 10 of us were born in 11 years,” she explains). Her career aspiration was to work as secretary in her father’s travel agency.
Then, one day in her junior year of high school, her school put on a College Day. When her father found that her brother had attended the event and she hadn’t, he wanted to know why.
He told her, “Think about it. You can go to Saint Rose.”
Although it was a tough slog catching up on all the college-prep courses that her peers had already taken, DeCuyper applied and was admitted to Saint Rose. “That was a turning point in my life,” she adds.
She decided to major in education (her father had suggested music, but she felt she didn’t play well enough) and loved school. She says she felt supported and welcomed. But it wasn’t until the end of her senior year that she realized how much.
DeCuyper was the first of her group to become engaged to be married, in November 1968, and planned her wedding for August 1969. “My friends invited me to a birthday party for a couple of classmates who had birthdays in the summer, and I showed up at the campus center for this birthday party,” she says. “I walked in and it was decorated for a bridal shower – for me. My mom, my sisters, and my grandmother were there. I didn’t realize until that moment how much my presence meant to my classmates.
“That’s the kind of friendships that we formed here,” she adds.
And decades later, in about 2006 or 2007, DeCuyper had a chance meeting with Father Paul Cox, who had been associate pastor at her family’s parish, St. Vincent de Paul, when she was in secondary school. She learned then, more than 40 years later, that he had been the one to suggest that her father send his daughters to college.
“When I look back over my past, I see that God was guiding everything I did,” says DeCuyper. “It’s not just that Father Cox said, ‘Vince, think about sending your daughter to college.’ It was all in God’s plan.”
After graduating from Saint Rose, DeCuyper agreed with her husband, Conrad, that she would stay at home to raise their children. “That allowed me to become very involved in our children’s school, St. Madeleine Sophie (Guilderland), and do a lot of volunteer work at St. Madeleine Sophie parish,” she says.
She also became increasingly involved in her church. Her pastor encouraged her to earn a degree in theology at St. Bernard’s Institute in Albany – and when he found out she couldn’t afford it, insisted on paying the bill himself.
In about 2002, the diocese of Albany was interested in cultivating a pool of qualified individuals to work as parish life directors, and approached DeCuyper as a potential candidate. “I didn’t think I could do it, but they did,” says DeCuyper. Her opportunity came at Saint Joseph’s in Cohoes, which needed a director.
She fell in love with the parish. It wasn’t easy – at first, not all the parishioners were happy about having a female leader – but she won them over with her quiet, strong leadership. DeCuyper loved working there and continued for six years, then retired to focus on her family.
She and Conrad, their five children, and many grandchildren meet every two years for a joyous group vacation.
She and Conrad are planning to renew their vows for their 50th wedding anniversary on November 10, 2019. “I feel so blessed, so overwhelmed, in thinking how intimately God has been involved throughout my life,” she says.