OVER THE SUMMER, Saint Rose suffered the loss of five women who spent a combined 335 years serving the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet — the College’s founding congregation. They were alums of the College, and some later employees, and they lived Saint Rose in the world every day by helping others without seeking praise or recognition.
Sister Frances Eustace, CSJ, ’55, Sister Catherine M. Crispo, CSJ, ’58, Sister Charleen Bloom, CSJ, ’57 Sister Rose Regina Smith, CSJ, ’50, G’90, and Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ, ’66, G’92 will be remembered for their innovative spirit, academic pursuits, and deep love of serving the dear neighbor.
“They would encourage us not to settle for what is, but to think about and dream about what could be,” said Sister Mary Anne Heenan, CSJ, ’68, chair of the Saint Rose Board of Trustees. “Each one of them is an example of having done that in their lives.”
“The values and mission of Saint Rose stem from the founding by the Sisters of St. Joseph 100 years ago,” said Heenan. “Their commitment as Sisters of St. Joseph, as well as their immersion in The College of Saint Rose — the two fit very nicely together, and that was their life.”
Meet each of them in the profiles that follow.
SISTER FRANCES EUSTACE: A Love of Books, People, and Adventure
Sister Frances Eustace, CSJ, ’55, Ph.D., once wrote, “There is a saying that ‘God writes straight with crooked lines.’ I find this sentiment confirmed and validated by my own interesting, circuitous route to religious life.”
Eustace is proof that life is not linear. She worked for Curtiss-Wright during World War II before entering the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1945. She taught English at Saint Rose between 1956 and 1976 and spent five years as department chair, and dedicated the next 20 years ministering at hospitals and parishes before retiring at age 70.
She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Rose, and a master’s degree in English literature and a Ph.D. in English education from The Catholic University of America.
Eustace passed away on June 19, 2019. Those who knew her will remember her for her tenacity, curiosity, and determination to help those in need.
“She was a mentor to all of us — she also was a friend and loads of fun,” said Sister Katherine Hanley, CSJ, ’61, Ph.D., who worked with Eustace in the English Department. Hanley said Eustace was generous with her ideas and shared resources, lesson plans, and literature with her colleagues. Before starting her career at Saint Rose, Eustace conducted doctoral research focusing on how other institutions taught English in first-year classrooms.
A widely read academic with a thirst for political, theological, and fiction books, Eustace was also full of adventure, Hanley said. Each January, the two English professors would take 30 students abroad to visit famous literary sites in England, Ireland, and Scotland.
“She was a very dynamic teacher — full of energy,” said Sister Joanne St. Hilaire, CSJ, G ’74, who took a grad class taught by Eustace in the early ’70s. “The students were comfortable with her because she saw them as adults and treated them that way.”
Although she spent two decades educating and mentoring at Saint Rose, Eustace had a calling later in life that led her down a different path.
After Eustace spent a year working among the poor with Dorothy Day at St. Joseph Catholic Worker House in New York City, she retired from Saint Rose and dedicated the next 20 years ministering to homeless communities, people suffering from drug addiction, the elderly, and patients afflicted with AIDS.
“She was very straightforward and appreciated justice from the inside. There was never a question about what was right,” said Father Bertrand Fay, who was a professor of religious studies at Saint Rose and a close friend of Eustace.
SISTER CATHERINE M. CRISPO: A Small But Mighty Force in the Community
Sister Catherine M. Crispo, CSJ, ’58 spent 75 years ministering to those in need. She passed away on July 12, 2019, leaving giant shoes to fill.
“She was a dynamo — she never stopped,” said Sister Anne Lawrence Clark, CSJ, ’59, G’66. “Even in her later years, she was a go-getter and always worked to better people’s lives and bring people closer to the Lord and each other.”
Clark and Crispo spent a lot of time together, including at Saint Rose. Clark was the dean of the Thelma P. Lally School of Education, and Crispo was the director of educational media.
“She learned everything she could about (technology),” Clark said. “No matter what she was doing, she was driven.”
Crispo worked at Saint Rose for nearly 20 years, starting in 1967. Mary Ann McLoughlin, professor of mathematics at the College, said Crispo was a small woman with a big personality who got things done. Comparable to Saint Rose’s IT department today, Crispo was in charge of the technological needs of faculty and students.
Mike D’Attilio, executive director of government and community relations at Saint Rose, remembers Crispo as full of energy and ready to accommodate any professor, student, or community member.
D’Attilio recalled walking with Crispo near Saint Joseph Hall when she stopped to pick roses off a nearby rosebush. When he asked who they were for, Crispo replied for a student who was having a difficult week.
“She wanted to brighten their day,” he said.
In addition to her work at Saint Rose, Crispo taught at elementary schools in the Capital Region and Syracuse. In 2017, she received the Centennial Medallion from Catholic Charities of The Albany Diocese in recognition of her service to the Vietnamese Catholic Community.
“Even though she was a small person, she was driven to give her life to God and bring people closer to God,” Clark said.
SISTER CHARLEEN BLOOM: An Educator, Speaker, Author, Clinician, and Dear Friend
Sister Charleen Bloom, CSJ, ’57, Ph.D., passed away on July 16, 2019, at age 83, but not without leaving a lasting impression on her clients, the Saint Rose community, and the field of speech-language pathology.
Throughout her 40-year career at Saint Rose, Bloom spearheaded one of the College’s most reputable programs — the undergraduate communication sciences and disorders program — and was instrumental in leading the graduate program to national accreditation with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She pioneered an intensive stuttering workshop that serves as a national model and helped establish the Pauline K. Winkler Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.
Also known as “Sister Char,” Bloom held the title of communication sciences and disorders department chair for 20 years. In 2017, she received the College’s highest honor, the Carondelet Medal.
Dave DeBonis, professor of communication sciences and disorders at Saint Rose, first met Bloom when he was 18 years old. After hearing her speak, DeBonis was inspired to enroll in the College’s speech-language pathology program. Almost 15 years later, she persuaded him to join the department as a faculty member.
At first, as a young professor, DeBonis felt out of place among an established group of faculty. Bloom didn’t let him feel that way for long.
“I was in my 30s, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “She treated me like everyone else. She was just a good person.”
Bloom believed in the power of education. At age 50, she pursued a master’s degree in social work, despite holding two advanced degrees in her field — a master’s degree from Catholic University and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Rose.
Bloom recognized the need to incorporate a counseling component to better understand the environmental and emotional stressors affecting a client’s ability to communicate.
Due to her advanced understanding of social work and innovative thinking, Saint Rose’s CSD program was one of the first in the country to require a counseling course. Today, other CSD programs are adopting the idea.
“That’s just another example of her concern for the client to make sure their needs are being met,” DeBonis said.
Bloom took on many roles, but she preferred clinician. She took a particular interest in fluency and was a fierce advocate for her clients, always putting them first.
DeBonis said that at a memorial service for Bloom, a client told a story about the time he called to make an appointment at the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the College, but was told it was overbooked.
“Two minutes later, Sister Char called him and said, ‘We are going to make room for you,’” DeBonis said. “She worked with him one on one.”
Another time, someone from ASHA questioned Bloom’s decision to work in the College’s voice modification program for transgendered people, noting her religious background.
“She said, ‘As a religious person, this is what I should be doing. I should be reaching out to whoever needs me,’” DeBonis said.
Bloom’s dedication to clients culminated in the creation of the Council for Effective Communication, a multifaceted treatment program for children, teens, and adults who stutter. The program also serves as a hands-on learning opportunity for graduate students interested in fluency. And she orchestrated The Weekend Workshop for Effective Communication, an intensive treatment experience for individuals who stutter, which draws clients from all over the country.
“When the ASHA site visitors were here the last time, they would say, ‘I have never seen this before. That is groundbreaking,’ and it was something that Char did 20 years ago,” DeBonis said. “We would laugh.”
Sister Joan T. Harrington, CSJ, ’66, said even after Bloom retired from Saint Rose in 2012, she did not stop working to improve people’s lives. Harrington, a close friend of Bloom’s, said she started a brain aerobics program for more than 80 sisters at the St. Joseph’s Provincial House, the center and headquarters of the Albany Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The program helped improve the Sisters’ cognitive abilities, such as attention and memory.
Harrington said she hopes Saint Rose students and faculty will carry on Bloom’s spirit.
“She never stopped loving Saint Rose,” she added.
SISTER MONICA MURPHY: An Innovative Thinker and Gentle Soul
As a longtime educator for the Diocese of Albany Catholic Schools and director of a spiritual center in the Adirondacks, Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ, ’66, G’92 graced the lives of thousands of students, families, outdoor enthusiasts, and parish members.
When she unexpectedly passed away in a car crash on August 5, 2019, it devastated entire communities that weren’t prepared to say goodbye.
“She was somebody who wanted to help people be the best they can be,” said Dennis McDonald, former vice president of student affairs and Title IX coordinator at Saint Rose.
Murphy worked as a mathematics teacher, guidance counselor, and camp minister for 53 years, spending several decades at Catholic Central High School in Troy, New York. And she dedicated the past 33 summers at the Pyramid Life Center in Paradox, New York, as the center’s director.
Through her various roles, Murphy brought people together, provided them with purpose, and elevated their ideas — including McDonald’s.
McDonald worked with Murphy at the Diocese of Albany. When he graduated from Saint Rose in 1977, he was appointed the director of youth ministry for 210 parishes. As he found his footing, Murphy was there to ground him and guide him through the process — even if she sometimes overwhelmed him.
“She said, ‘You don’t have to do any of the ideas I give you. You can take them or leave them,’” McDonald said. “Some I did and some I didn’t, because I could not do them all, but when she had an idea and a vision, she could bring it to fruition.”
Take, for example, her vision for the Pyramid Life Center.
When Murphy took over as director of the Pyramid Life Center, she helped transform it from an all-girls camp to a vacation spot that offers a variety of outdoor activities and programs. Located in the “forever wild” Adirondack Park, Murphy saw the center as a place where families could get away from the pressures of the world.
Over the years, Murphy helped improve the site. She created a holistic outdoor experience where people could hike, camp, canoe, and take part in a poetry writing workshop or storytelling weekend.
Thanks to Murphy’s leadership, the center sees close to a thousand people each summer.
Off-season, Murphy channeled her energy toward helping students. McDonald said it was obvious she loved what she did, guiding young adults throughout their academic careers.
Her impact as an experienced educator extended beyond the classroom. An alum of Saint Rose, Murphy was invited as a guest speaker for education courses.
She also worked with McDonald to develop a program for students and parents through the Diocese, counseling family members on how to better communicate with each other.
“We did that for a few years, and it was very rewarding,” he said. “It was one of her ideas we brought to fruition.”
She even found a way to incorporate her students at the Pyramid Life Center, providing jobs to those who were struggling.
Throughout their formative years working together at the Diocese, Murphy became a mentor to McDonald, and later, a close friend.
“Her whole point with everyone she worked with was, ‘‘What can you do to be better than who you are?” McDonald said. “What can you do to make a difference in the world?”
SISTER ROSE REGINA SMITH: A Vibrant Personality with the Clothing to Match
Sister Rose Regina Smith, CSJ, ’50, G’90, was destined to leave her mark on Saint Rose. Her aunt, Sister Rita Agnes Casey, CSJ, was one of the founding Sisters of the College. Her mother, Ursula R. Casey Smith ’24, was a member of the first graduating class.
She received a degree from Saint Rose in 1950 and went on to work at the College until 2010, when she retired at age 82. Smith also earned an M.S. in Reading from Saint Rose — 40 years after completing her undergraduate studies — in addition to an M.A. from The Catholic University of America.
“For her, it was more than just the community. Saint Rose was a part of her life from the very beginning,” said Sister Mary Anne Heenan, CSJ, ‘68, and chair of the board of trustees for the College.
Smith passed away on July 20, 2019, and members of the Saint Rose community will remember her for how she stood out.
Smith was a vibrant personality with the clothing to match. She had family who worked in fashion and gifted her with beautiful suits, dresses, jewelry, and shoes. Recognizing her good taste, members of the Saint Rose community, including mathematics professor Mary Ann McLoughlin, would supply her with trendy apparel.
“She was known as Ms. America because she was so fashionable,” McLoughlin said.
Lisa McKenzie, the College’s interim vice president for institutional advancement,
met Smith at her interview for a position in institutional advancement at Saint Rose. Smith was quiet throughout the process but left an impression on McKenzie when it was her turn to speak.
“I will always remember the two things that she said: ‘That was an excellent cover letter — one of the best I ever read,’ and ‘Where did you get those shoes?’” said McKenzie, who worked closely with Smith for about eight years.
If looking put together was important to Smith, then proper grammar was essential. Her appreciation for writing was embodied in her correspondences, never forgetting a birthday, anniversary, or meaningful moment in someone’s life.
Smith would recycle used birthday cards and Christmas cards to create memorable and personalized notecards, using ribbon to tie them together.
And her family was of the utmost importance. Sister Katherine McPeak, CSJ, ’61, who worked at Saint Rose with Smith, said she came from a large and tight-knit family.
Her nephew at the end said, ‘Life will not be the same without Ro-Ro,’” McPeak said.
Smith’s dedication to the College was reflected in her work – first as an administrative assistant to the College president, and then in her role in donor relations.
One of her many talents was making appointments with people to ask for gifts, and then knowing how to follow through all the way to a contribution to Saint Rose.
“She made you feel like you were the most important thing at that moment,” Heenan said. “I think that comfort level she established was valuable in the president’s office and elsewhere.”
Her hard work did not go unnoticed. In 2008, she received the College’s highest honor, the Carondelet Medal.
McLoughlin and McKenzie noted that it was Smith’s wish to live to see the College’s centennial. Although her wish went unfulfilled, her legacy lives on in the College’s past and her contribution to its future.
By Caroline Murray
Sister Ida DeCastro, CSJ, ’66 a former assistant business manager, director of financial aid and instructor, and assistant professor and associate professor of business at Saint Rose passed away in October, after the press time for the magazine. Sister Ida worked at Saint Rose from 1966 until 1998. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from The College of Saint Rose in 1966, and later a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Following her more than 30 years at Saint Rose, Sister Ida began another career with Sisters Care, a respite-care program sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province. A full story on her will appear in the Spring 2020 edition of the magazine.