Sacred Heart Junior College alumnae reconnect 70 years after graduating

Oct 27, 2022
SHJC alumnae

Memories were shared among old friends as five alumnae gathered for a luncheon Oct. 22 on the Newman campus more than 70 years after they graduated from the college.

Helenruth (Marshall) Welsby ‘45, Sylverina (Enslinger) Depperschmidt ‘47, Elaine (Doll) Aaron ‘51, Regina (Schicke) Hille ‘51 and Carol (Habiger) Torline ‘51, reminisced about their days at college and shared stories of their time on campus.

In those days, Newman University was known as Sacred Heart Junior College (SHJC), which opened its doors in 1933 and was home to approximately 76 students in the ’40s.

The two-year college was owned and administered by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and under the general supervision of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. Students could choose from approximately 13 associate degree programs during the college’s earlier decades.

Today, Newman University is a four-year college offering more than 45 undergraduate programs, 24 graduate programs, two doctoral programs and five licensure programs.

More than 1,300 students are enrolled in addition to more than 1,500 high school students who are taking advantage of the Newman University Advanced Standing program in which they receive Newman college credit while taking high school classes.

Included in the undergraduate class are 35 seminarian students seeking philosophy degrees in partnership with the Diocese of Wichita’s St. Joseph House of Formation.

(l to r) Carol, Elaine and Helenruth share stories from the time at Sacred Heart Junior College.
(l to r) Carol Torline, Elaine Aaron and Helenruth Welsby share stories from the time at Sacred Heart Junior College.

All five ladies attending the luncheon said they were impressed by the modern-day numbers. They agreed that their small class size resulted in all the students knowing each other during their time on campus and gave them the ability to be involved in a wide variety of school activities, which was a favorite part of their experience at SHJC.

“If the school had been large, I wouldn’t have had the chance to get into the things I was able to do,” explained Elaine. “And that was what made it so much fun. Because you knew if you had a lot of competition you probably wouldn’t be there.”

Sylverina, who studied business at SHJC, said her Catholic faith played a role in attending.

Sylverina browses a Sacred Heart Junior College (SHJC) yearbook.
Sylverina Depperschmidt browses a SHJC yearbook.

“I grew up in a Catholic family, went to Catholic grade school and I know that’s how I ended up here,” she said. “I got a tuition scholarship to attend and worked for my room and board. I made 35 cents an hour cleaning and working at the residence.”

The ladies talked, laughed and shared memories of daily life at SHJC, from living at the residence as roommates and always using the grand staircase for formal pictures to the food served in the cafeteria every day — especially the peanut butter.

“The sisters grew their own peanuts and they had an abundance of peanut butter,” said Carol. “I did not eat peanut butter for years after that.”

Their time as Praxettes, a song and dance group, carried fond memories as well. They took dance lessons and worked on routines to perform around town.

Carol said, “I remember one time we went to Fort Riley and entertained at the hospital there and stayed for a dance after. Being a Praxette was so much fun.”

Regina holds a yearbook opened to a page with her photo.
Regina Hille holds a yearbook opened to a page with her photo.

Regina, who was also a Sacred Heart Academy high school graduate, remembers taking classes in Sacred Heart Hall as a high school student and said it played a role in becoming a college student at SHJC.

She said the transition was smooth, she loved being on campus and enjoyed the professors.

“I came to the college mainly because it seemed like the natural thing to do. If it had been a four-year college, I would have stayed for four years.”

All of the women returned to campus for various reasons after graduating.

Sylverina came back to act as chairman of the magazine for several years. “I enjoyed doing that. People could order throughout the year. I loved to type and that was a really fun thing to be involved in. I used to come out here for family picnics and other events, too.”

Helenruth studied science at SHJC and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree at Marymount College. She said she enjoyed coming back to campus throughout the years to participate in events or committees. “But I leave that to the young folk now,” she said with a giggle.

The residence where Sacred Heart Junior College students lived.
The residence where Sacred Heart Junior College students lived.

Carol and Elaine have remained friends for more than 80 years and now live down the street from one another.

“Those were two of the happiest years of my life. I always look back at them with so much fondness,” said Elaine.

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