An Education for Workers
In the 1960s, colleges began exploring ways to provide educational services to different types of students, including older men and women working full time jobs. Institutions of higher education developed experimental programs that provided courses on nights and weekends and offered credit for life and career experience. Mundelein College, a Catholic women’s college on Chicago’s north side, instituted the Degree Completion Program and the Weekend College in Residence for mature and working men and women who wanted to move up in their careers, start a new one, or pursue personal growth.
An Education for Mollie
Although she greatly valued education, Mollie did not have the opportunity to attend college during her youth. As she prepared for retirement, Mollie decided to pursue a degree so she could use her interests and experience in educating others on labor issues. Weekend College at Mundelein College offered her the opportunity to get her degree while still working full time at the Daily Racing Form. Mollie began pursuing a degree in Labor Education in 1976 at the age of 60. She attended classes on weekends and earned credit for her life and work experiences, as well as for knowing the Yiddish language. Mollie earned her degree in Labor Education in two years.
When helping plan the 1978 graduation ceremony, Mollie noticed that the commencement speakers in the past had always been men. She encouraged the school to find a woman speaker, suggesting Chicago labor leader Addie Wyatt. At the ceremony, Mollie was given the honor of introducing Addie Wyatt.
Mollie loved learning and continued to take courses on labor history and education whenever she found the opportunity. In 1979, She completed a certificate program on Labor Education at Roosevelt University.
Learn More: Mundelein College and the Weekend College
In 1964, Mundelein College on the north side of Chicago reached out to mature women who wanted to return to school by starting a Degree Completion Program. Mundelein College was a women’s Catholic liberal arts college founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) in 1929. Offering classes on nights and weekends, Mundelein College’s Degree Completion program was successful in attracting students who wanted to move up in their careers, begin a new one, or pursue personal growth. Ten years later, a group of Mundelein faculty inspired by the efforts of other institutions came up with a creative new program for men and women with full time jobs.
The Weekend College opened in the summer of 1974. Classes were held Friday night through Sunday, and majors were re-designed to meet the career and personal goals of mature students. These students were also given the option to live on campus during their weekend sessions, where they could take advantage of the college’s facilities and immerse themselves in the college community. Mundelein was the first to offer this “Weekend College in Residence” program, allowing these busy students to spend a few days focused on their studies and gaining support from their classmates. The innovative program received 1000 inquiries before the first term, an unexpected response that showed the need for this educational opportunity.
The records of Mundelein College, which affiliated with Loyola University Chicago in 1991, are held at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA). Learn more about the rich history of this women’s college on the WLA website.
Header image: Mollie West’s class schedule from Mundelein College