Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

For Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (the town), see Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Motto Virtus cum Scientia (Virtue and Knowledge United)
Type private liberal arts
Established 1840
Affiliation Catholic Church (Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods)
Endowment $9.5 million (2013)[1]
President Dottie L. King, Ph.D.
Students 1,703
Undergraduates 1,577
Postgraduates 126
Location Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN, USA
39°30′31″N 87°27′59″W / 39.508726°N 87.466493°W / 39.508726; -87.466493Coordinates: 39°30′31″N 87°27′59″W / 39.508726°N 87.466493°W / 39.508726; -87.466493
Campus suburban: 67 acres (0.27 km2)
Athletics four USCAA and IHSA teams,
called Pomeroys

Pomeroy Blue and White

Mascot in honor of Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy, SP (SMWC, B.A. 1921)

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), is a Roman Catholic, four-year liberal arts college located in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, in the U.S. state of Indiana, northwest of Terre Haute, between the Wabash River and the Illinois state line. It is the oldest Catholic college in Indiana.

The College is known for the Mari Hulman George School of Equine Studies, which houses 50 horses on campus, as well as its pre-professional programs such as pre-veterinarian, pre-law, pre-medicine, pre-dentistry and several niche programs in leadership development, art therapy, music therapy and their acclaimed school of Nursing.


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was founded as an academy for young women by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who located at the site in October 1840. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was canonized on October 15, 2006, by Pope Benedict XVI, and became Indiana's first saint.[2]

In 1840, six Sisters of Providence left their convent in Ruillé-sur-Loir, France, on a journey to the wilderness of Indiana. Mother Theodore Guerin led the sisters on their journey.[3]

Mother Theodore was not the first to step forward when the Bishop of Vincennes asked the Sisters of Providence to establish an academy for young women in Indiana. Although she had been decorated by the French Board of Education for being a highly gifted and efficient teacher, Mother Theodore felt unworthy of the task of founding an institution of learning, but her superiors convinced Mother Theodore to accept the assignment.[4] Mother Theodore and five other nuns arrived on October 22, 1840, more than three months after leaving France.[5]

In 1846, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was granted the first charter for the higher education of women in the state of Indiana. SMWC conferred its first bachelor of arts degree in 1899. It was the first women's college to offer journalism courses and the first to offer degree work in secondary education, home economic, and secretarial science. As the careers open to women expanded, the College moved ahead in areas such as business, computer information systems, equine studies, psychology and nursing. SMWC now offers associate and bachelor's degrees in over 30 majors on campus and online. In 2015, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College announced that the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to become fully coeducational at its May 1, 2015 meeting.[6]

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is also recognized as a pioneer in the area of distance education. In 1973, the College introduced one of the first independent study programs in the nation, the Women's External Degree (WED) program. This program served adult women who needed flexible schedules to earn a degree while balancing important family and job responsibilities. In 2005, the College expanded access to its undergraduate distance and adult programs to men while maintaining its longstanding mission to the advancement of women's education. Today, through the renamed Woods Online program, women and men can earn a college degree in a wide variety of majors. In August 2012, the Indianapolis Business Journal recognized SMWC as having one of the largest online degree programs in the state. More than 800 are currently enrolled in the program from 33 states and all across the globe, including England, Greece, Hong Kong and Jamaica. In 2015, all programs, including the campus-based resident undergraduate degree program, were opened to both men and women.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College also offers three master's degree programs, open to both women and men, in the hybrid format. In 2000, the College created the Master of Arts in Art Therapy (MAAT) program, designed for persons who utilize or plan to utilize art in therapy or art as therapy, and the Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) program, which welcomes qualified music therapists seeking an advanced understanding of the therapeutic uses of music. In 2007, the College introduced the Master of Leadership Development (MLD) program. This program explores culture and creativity, leadership identity, ethical decision-making and critical analysis of research. All three master's degree programs utilize distance learning and intensive campus-based residencies.


"Virtus cum Scientia," translated as "Virtue with Knowledge United," appears on the SMWC seal and/or coat of arms.

Coat of arms

The College's coat of arms is a shield divided vertically in halves. The left field is blue, showing in the center a poplar tree on a hill or terrace in natural colors, with the first letter of the name of Mary; these latter devices are in gold. The right field is gold and shows three eaglets with open wings in blue, and beak and talons in red. The right half of the shield shows the arms of Madame du Roscoat, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence at Ruille-sur-Loir, France. The three eaglets are emblematic of the Holy Trinity, the motto of the du Roscoat family being "Trino Soli sit honor et gloria" ("To the Triune God alone honor and glory").

The left field is charged with devices symbolic or significant of some fact connected with the history of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The rayed star, charged with the letter "M" in blue, is an emblem of Mary Mother of God, the Stella Matutina, under whose protection Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, represented by a tree, places all its hopes for growth and life. The Latin crosses are emblems of Redemption and Catholicity. The crest is the count's coronet of the du Roscoat family and the motto "Virtus cum Scientia," is the one chosen by Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence in America.

Aspire Higher initiative

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College launched a brand initiative focused on advancing the image and reputation of the College on October 18, 2013. The initiative, Aspire Higher, is a clear and distinctive message that’s congruent with the College’s mission and values but is also reflective of its advances and vision. The initiative speaks to every aspect of the College – academics, campus life, athletics, community and faith.


For seven consecutive years, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has been ranked as one of the Best Regional Colleges in the Midwest according to the U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges guidebook.[7] Ranked 16 among the 71 top Midwest colleges, SMWC was recognized for having one of the highest percentages of classes under 20 students at 92 percent, an average graduation rate of 49 percent, and 41 percent of the freshmen were in the top 25 percent of their high school class.

The curriculum of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is based on a traditional liberal arts education; therefore, all campus students are required to complete an extensive curriculum of general studies in addition to their major(s) and/or minor(s). The required courses include but are not limited to: Theology, Philosophy, French or Spanish, History, Math, Biology or Chemistry, Psychology, Sociology, English, Physical Fitness, Statistics, Art and Music.

Majors include 3+1 Business, Leadership Development, Accounting, Art and Design, Biology, Business Administration, Computer Information Systems (CIS), Education majors (7), English, Equine Studies, Equine Business Management, Equine Training and Instruction, Equine Assisted Therapy, History/Political Science/Pre-Law, Human Resource Management, Human Services, Humanities, Journalism and Media Studies, Marketing, Mathematics, Medical Technology, Music, Music Therapy, Art Therapy, Pre-Professional Studies, and Psychology.

SMWC is a member of the College Consortium of Western Indiana. This membership allows students who are full-time at their home institution to take one class at the other member institutions of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Indiana State University without additional tuition.


Saint Mary-of-the- Woods College is a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) and the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).[8] SMWC athletes make up nearly 30 percent of all campus students. The College currently offers seven sports: basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, hunt seat and western equestrian teams. With the hiring of a new coach in January 2014, SMWC will reinstate its volleyball program beginning Fall 2015. Recruiting is actively underway.

Pomeroy Pride

The athletic teams of SMWC bear the title of "Pomeroys." The name was chosen in memory of Mary Joseph Pomeroy, SP, an alumna and faculty member at SMWC who advocated athletics and physical fitness.

In addition to the reference to general school spirit, Pomeroy Pride is the name of the College's capital campaign, launched in 2012, to build a new sports and recreation center on campus. On Dec. 3, 2014, the decade-long vision of the College came to fruition at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center. The building is located at the west edge of campus, behind the Mary and Andy Rooney Library. The estimated 45,000 square foot facility includes a NCAA regulation-sized gym seating approximately 1,000 spectators, a practice gym for auxiliary revenue and intramural sports, a 2,000 square foot lobby, locker rooms, a training room, a fitness room, offices and storage space.

Crosstown Classic

The Crosstown Classic is a hometown rivalry winter basketball game between SMWC and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. This annual competition has resulted in a 13-7 record favoring the Pomeroys. It was formerly called Clabber Girl Classic, named for the famed Clabber Girl trophy presented by the Clabber Girl of Hulman and Company. The College changed the name of the longstanding competition in 2016.

USCAA National Championships

The SMWC softball team won four consecutive USCAA National Softball Championships (2002–2005). The SMWC Equestrian Team competes throughout the year in both Western and English, traveling to about 20 shows per season. SMWC has been the site for regional horse shows, managed by the SMWC equestrian team members. In 2007, the SMWC Western Team was named IHSA Reserve National Champions.

In 2009, the Pomeroy soccer team experienced a "Cinderella" season, in which they entered the USCAA National Championship Tournament as the 8th seed (the lowest seed) and advanced all the way to the national championship before being defeated by Marygrove College. Just days before the soccer team brought home the silver cup from Burlington, Vermont, the first-year cross-country squad won the USCAA National Championship in New Hampshire. Also in fall 2010, the cross-country team won a second USCAA National Championship.

National Champions

Softball (9) - 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2015, 2016[9]

Cross Country (2) - 2009, 2010

National Runners-Up

Softball (4) - 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014

Soccer (1) - 2009

Cross Country (1) - 2012

Basketball (1) - 2000


The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Ring

The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Ring is the single, most recognizable image of the College. It is an enduring symbol that honors academic success and sacrifice while demonstrating the pride and loyalty all Woods alums share. This distinctive ring is a captivating reminder of personal growth and unforgettable friendships. It represents a tangible bond linking generations of alumnae and students to The Woods.

The top of the ring displays a deep black onyx and gold. On the rectangular onyx stone is carved an SMW emblem. Along its side of the gold is an oak leaf base, six acorns representing the College's founders, and the class year. The oak represents strength, knowledge and durability of character. When one receives the ring as an undergraduate, it is worn with the logo facing the heart to inspire and motivate continued academic achievement. Upon graduation, rings are turned so that the SMW faces outward. The ring then becomes visible for the world to see the SMW and that the wearer of the ring is forever connected to The Woods.

Students Margaret Williams Mead '22 and Dorothy Helm Geisel '23 designed the ring in 1922. They worked with Herff Jones Jewelers to create the ring. It was first given to the seniors in 1922. Since the ring was intertwined with academic achievement, students wore caps and gowns to receive their rings during a special ceremony. They continue to do so during this day. Through 1928, only seniors were eligible to receive the ring. However, in 1929, juniors were granted the opportunity to receive the ring as long as they met the academic requirement. Ever since, it has evolved into a cherished tradition for the junior class.

Ring Day

Today students receive their Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Ring through a special ceremony held each year in March. Students earn their participation in the ceremony through academic success in their junior year at SMWC, or for graduate students, when they are three-quarters of the way toward completion of their degrees.

While most students purchase their rings new, all students have the opportunity to apply for a Legacy Ring, a ring donated back to The Woods by its previous owner. Recipients are chosen, based on academic standing and financial need, by a selection committee.

Wearing caps and gowns, each student receives a ring from the president of the College during the Ring Day ceremony. To students at SMWC, Ring Day is the most highly anticipated day of their college career, even above graduation for most, because of the significance and symbolism of the ring.

A popular tradition associated with Ring Day is called "pounding" in which the current junior class counts down to their own Ring Day ceremony. In this tradition, a group of students will pound on a table in the dining hall while chanting a count down. This typically occurs several times throughout the year leading up to Ring Day.

The Ring Song

Whose Woods these are, I think I know.
Her love will always be with us below.
Her ring we take, of us a part,
Encircling fingers young 'round her heart.
A pledge to her, a ring to keep,
Like Woods is lovely, dark and deep.
And I have promises and miles to go.
And I have promises and miles to go.

This song—best known from the 1945 film of the same name—is often sung in conjunction with the ring song but is not exclusive to St. Mary-of-the-Woods College The Bells of St. Mary's

The bells of Saint Mary's I hear they are calling,
The young loves, the true loves that come from the sea.
And so my beloved, when red leaves are falling,
the love bells shall ring out, ring out for you and me.

Oakleaf Ceremony

The Oakleaf ceremony is a tradition between faculty and campus seniors. During this commemoration, seniors are inducted into the alumnae association, by turning their rings around. This is an eloquent symbol of growing from an acorn into an oak tree.

Big Sis/Little Sis

Freshmen are taken under the wing of a member of the junior class. They are taught the values and traditions of the College and are guided through their first two years. This mentorship gives new students a sense of empowerment, community and pride. Big Sisters are traditionally revealed to their Little Sisters either on the marble steps of Le Fer Hall, or in a creative way, such as a scavenger hunt or at a secret meeting place.

Campus folklore

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has its share of ghostly and urban legends. The most famous is the Faceless Nun.[10] It is said that one of the Sisters had a talent for painting portraits. Her method of painting was to always paint every detail of the portrait, taking her time for days and weeks, and saving the face for last. She always insisted that the face was the most important part and required the most attention. She would spend countless hours working on every detail of the face of her subject. Once she started on the portrait's face, she would devote her entire time to it until perfection was reached.

The time came when she chose to do a self-portrait. Again, she took her time working on every detail but the face. Just before the time arrived for her to begin working on the face of her self-portrait, she fell ill. She was rushed to the infirmary, but they could find nothing wrong with her. She mysteriously died with her portrait unfinished. Not long after her death, the sightings began. Another Sister heard sobbing coming from the room that held the unfinished painting. Curious, the Sister entered the room and saw the back of a nun crying in front of the portrait. When the Sister went to comfort the sobbing nun, she turned and saw there was nothing but darkness where the woman's face should have been. Sightings persisted time and again from a number of different sources.

Lesser known stories include The Black Bird, The Dark Angel of Guerin Hall and the ghosts of Le Fer.

Historic architecture

In addition to other structures, the campus includes six historic buildings owned by the college that date from 1913 to 1969: Guerin Hall (1913), Conservatory of Music (1913), Le Fer Hall (1924), Owens Hall (1960), Rooney Library (1964), and Hulman Hall (1969). The campus's 67 acres (27 hectares) are also home to the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the Woods, whose buildings date from the 19th and 20th Centuries.[11]

The Indianapolis architectural firm of D. A. Bohlen, Architect, and its successors, D. A. Bohlen and Son; Bohlen and Burns; and Bohlen, Meyer, Gibson and Associates, completed "more than sixty projects" for the Sisters of Providence, including all six of the historic buildings.[12] More than twenty of the firm's projects, including Foley Hall (1860, 1897) at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Foley Hall was demolished in 1989.[13][14]

Campus architects retained its pastoral setting, while a "French influence reminiscent of Georges-Eugène Haussmann" is visible in the "straight walkways and open views".[11] The historic buildings on campus were representative of popular architectural styles at the time of their construction. From 1894 until the 1970s, three generations of the Joseph Bisch family supervised maintenance of the campus.[11]

Guerin Hall (1913)

Anne Therese Guérin Hall, designed by Oscar D. Bohlen in a Renaissance Revival style, is named in honor of the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Construction for the four-story brick building began in 1911; it was dedicated on October 12, 1913. Guerin Hall was the college's first residence for students. Its lower floor contained offices, classrooms, and a chapel, while its upper floors offered semi-private rooms, a new trend in student housing at that time.[15] The ornate front entrance features heavily-carved Corinthian capitals on pilasters, made of Indiana limestone. Guerin Hall surrounds an open courtyard and a veranda extends across the front of the building.[16]

Conservatory of Music (1913)

Saint Cecilia Conservatory of Music was designed by Oscar D. Bohlen and constructed between 1911 and 1913, the same time as Guerin Hall. The Conservatory is located "on the site of the second Saint Mary-of-the-Woods village church and cemetery."[17] The three-story, Italian Renaissance Revival-style Conservatory was constructed of light brick and Bedford limestone. It has Ionic details and Beaux-Arts influences.[17] The Conservatory was dedicated along with Guerin Hall on October 12, 1913, and contained music studios, practice rooms, classrooms, and offices.[18] Cecilian Auditorium, which "seats up to 720 people on the main floor and balcony", provides a theatrical space that includes a proscenium stage and theatrical lighting.[19]

Le Fer Hall (1924)

Le Fer Hall, named in honor of Sisters Saint Francis Xavier and Mary Joseph Le Fer, two of Saint Mother Théodore Guérin's companions, serves as a residence hall for students. The Indianapolis architectural firm of D. A. Bohlen and Son designed the four-story, French Renaissance Revival-style building. Construction began in 1921. The yellow brick residence hall contains classical balustrades on its stone and decorative metal balconies; its twin towers and tile roof reflects the Spanish Revivial architectural style.[20] Le Fer Hall's main floor initially included classrooms, offices, and a social hall/ballroom; rooms for students were on the upper floors.[21] Residence hall rooms contain large windows and hardwood floors; more than 75 percent of them are suites with a connecting bathrooms.

Owens Hall (1960)

Robert Bohlen, the last of D. A. Bohlen's descendants, designed Owens Hall in 1960 as a novitiate building for the Sisters of Providence.[22] Its modern design includes "spandrel panels of brushed aluminum" between the windows of its "vertical central bay".[23]

Rooney Library (1964)

The Mary and Andy Rooney Library, a contemporary structure built at a cost of $1.28 million, was designed in 1961 by Indianapolis architects August C. Bohlen and Melvin B. G. Meyer of Bohlen and Burns. This modern interpretation of a Classical-style building includes an offset entrance with a vertical bay.[24][25]

Hulman Hall (1969)

Mary Fendrich Hulman Hall, was designed by Melvin B. G. Meyers, president of Bohlen, Meyer, Gibson and Associates, in a Mid-century modern style. Its design is similar to Owens Hall and Rooney Library. The building's vertical design includes "spandrel panels and use of aluminum." The exterior's rough-cut stone in spandrel panels is classically inspired.[26]


From 2010 to 2013, SMWC has been named a Military Friendly School by Victory Media, a media entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life. The 2013 Military Friendly Schools list [27] honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are embracing America's military service members, veterans and spouses, ensuring their success in higher education. The 1,739 institutions on the list exhibit leading practices in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience.

SMWC provides scholarships for up to 50 percent of the cost of tuition and fees that exceed the standard education benefit. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs will match the amount of the scholarship - completely covering tuition for qualified veterans.


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and approved for teacher training by the Indiana Department of Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Additionally, many individual programs of various departments are certified by their professional associations.

Programs of various departments are certified by their professional associations, including American Art Therapy Association, American Bar Association, American Music Therapy Association, Institute for the Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP), National Association of Schools of Music, and Society for Human Resource Management.

Notable alumni


  1. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2013 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2012 to FY 2013" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers. January 23, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  2. Patron Saints Index: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin
  3. History of the Sisters of Providence
  4. Sisters of Providence - Leaving France
  5. Sisters of Providence - Landing on U.S. soil
  7. US News & World Report Best Colleges Guidebook
  8. IHSA
  10. Faceless Nun Ghost Account
  11. 1 2 3 "Historic Architecture of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  12. Four successive generations of Bohlen architects worked at the Indianapolis firm (Diedrich A. Bohlen, its founder; Oscar D. Bohlen, D. A.'s son; August C. Bohlen, Oscar's son; and Robert L. Bohlen, August's son). See Lloyd B. Walton (1978-06-11). "Past Masters of Mortar". Indianapolis Star Magazine. Indianapolis, IN: 42, 44–45.
  13. Sister Ann Kathleen Brawley (1981-01-05). "National Registration of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form: Foley Hall" (PDF). U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  14. Mary Roger Madden, ed. (1989). A Journey of Love, Mercy, and Justice: A Pictorial History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Celebrating 150 Years of Service Among the People of God. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN: The Sisters of Providence. p. 15.
  15. Mary Roger Madden (1991). The Path Marked Out. Sisters of Providence History Series. III. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN: Sisters of Providence. pp. 383–84. OCLC 27393597.
  16. "Guerin Hall". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  17. 1 2 "Conservatory of Music". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  18. Madden, The Path Marked Out, pp. 384–85.
  19. "Cecelian Auditorium". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  20. "Le Fer Hall". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  21. Madden, The Path Marked Out, p. 519.
  22. Madden, The Path Marked Out, pp. 573 and 583.
  23. "Owens Hall". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  24. "Rooney Library". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  25. "Architect Melvin B. G. Meyer, 75, Designed Numerous Local Buildings". Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis, IN. 1995-12-20. p. E10.
  26. "Hulman Hall". Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  27. Military Friendly Schools List


Further reading

  1. New President "Saint Mary of the Woods names Behrs as 15th President". Saint Mary of the Woods College News and Events. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  2. endowment "2005 NACUBO endowment study" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved 2006-02-25. 
  3. History of the Sisters of Providence Logan, Sister Eugenia, S.P. (1949). History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. II. New York: Benziger Brothers. OCLC 5523512. 
  4. IHSA "Intercollegiate Horse Show Association". Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
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