Final Mission Talk of the year focuses on a past Sacred Heart College president

Apr 05, 2017

On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, Charlotte Rohrbach, ASC gave the final 2016-17 academic year’s Mission Talk to an audience of more than 60 individuals.

The presentation was titled, “The Gorges Decade,” and included a virtual tour of the Gorges Atrium, named for Sister Sylvia Gorges.

The name of the presentation refers to the 10 years that Gorges was president of Sacred Heart College from June 2, 1961 to June 1, 1971. Many changes that make Newman University what it is today were brought about during Gorges’ presidency.

Charlotte Rohrbach, ASC delivers the final Mission Talk of the year.

Rohrbach gave some background on Gorges’ prior to becoming president of the college, particularly that Gorges originally came to Wichita in 1960 to be a teacher and principal at All Saints School.

She was then called on by Marciana Heimerman, ASC, the American General Superior of the Congregation of Adorers at the time, to ask her to become president of Sacred Heart College. Rohrbach noted that Gorges was quoted as responding, “If I am given that assignment, God will have to do 99.9 percent of the work.”

“Gorges worked diligently to learn what was involved in being a college president,” Rohrbach said. “Sylvia trusted in the providence of God.”

Rohrbach told the audience that during her 10 years at Sacred Heart, Gorges accomplished many major achievements including securing the college’s first accreditation, making the college coeducational, seeing the college enter intercollegiate athletics, and increasing enrollment from 245 women to 652 total male and female students. Under her presidency, the buildings Merlini Hall and the Heimerman Science Center were also added to the campus.

The Gorges Atrium was dedicated in the year 2000 and is the connection point between the O’Shaughnessy Sports Complex and the De Mattias Fine Arts Center. Rohrbach said, “How symbolic it is that the atrium joins two major aspects of Sister Sylvia’s life; her love of God, belief in the divine providence, spirituality, and the mission of the Adorers with the supportive, wise, and generous men who helped Sister Sylvia during her 10 years as president.”

Mentor Wall plaque
A plaque on the Mentor Wall of Ablah Award recipients explains where the word “mentor” came from.

Also housed in the Gorges Atrium are the Mentor Wall of Ablah Award recipients and the Athletics Hall of Fame. These two displays hold significance with the life and accomplishments of Gorges.

Gorges once again took the president’s role, but only temporarily, from January to June, 1991 as interim. Rohrbach noted that Gorges was often heard saying, “I’m just keeping the seat warm.”

The next president would be Tarcisia Roths, ASC, who recognized Gorges as her mentor. Their friendship is commemorated as the first mentor relationship on the Mentor Wall displayed on the second floor of the Gorges Atrium.

Hall of Fame
Sylvia Gorges, ASC is recognized for initiating intercollegiate athletics at Sacred Heart College.

The Hall of Fame wall begins with a dedication to Gorges for her help in initiating the Intercollegiate Athletic Program in 1967. “She (Sr. Sylvia) attended the dedication of the building,” noted Rohrbach. “But she had passed to her eternal reward by the time the Hall of Fame was initiated.”

Rohrbach implied that Gorges would have loved to attend that ceremony by adding, “She probably brushed a few clouds away to get a better view.”

A video of the full presentation is available on the Newman University YouTube Channel.