1936-45 • “Maybe he won’t be home for the Senior Prom”
The onset of America’s involvement in World War II stirred the glum realization for many of its students that their dates would not arrive home in time for the annual dance, according to a passage in the College’s 1942 yearbook, Footprints. Still, the absence of their soldier suitors helped inspire the students to mobilize in support of the war effort. They organized war bond sales and relief efforts, and entertained war production workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
While much of the city’s attention was focused on the events overseas, St. Joseph’s continued to make its mark on Brooklyn. The Diocese of Brooklyn purchased two former Pratt mansions adjacent to the College; one of these buildings, located at 232 Clinton Ave., became a convent, with the remaining grounds and gardens converted into an outdoor sports field and theater. Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s formally launched the child study major, which is still one of the school’s most well-regarded programs.
Rosemary O’Halloran ’42
SJC 1942 graduate and groundbreaking chemist Rosemary O’Halloran helped pave the way for females in the field of chemistry. She went on to receive a master’s in physical chemistry from Fordham University and excel as a research associate for ExxonMobil, holding up to 155 U.S. patents. Ms. O’Halloran has supported the renovation of SJC Brooklyn science laboratories and the College has established a scholarship in her name for science majors on both campuses.
Marie Birmingham Ponsot ’40
SJC’s Poet Laureate
Her poems were first published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Celebrated poet Marie Ponsot was just a child then, growing up as Marie Estelle Birmingham in 1930s Jamaica, Queens.
“They all had to do with the approbation of nature: Moon good. Green good. Bird excellent,” Ms. Ponsot said, regarding her first published poems during a 2003 interview with BOMB Magazine. “I didn’t think of it as terribly thrilling. I thought of it as, well now, this makes it official.”
By the time she was 15, Ms. Ponsot ’40 was enrolled at St. Joseph’s College for Women, thrilling her classmates with scintillating prose in the school magazine Loria and on the pages of Footprints, the College’s yearbook.
At 95, her name and influence continue to illuminate the legacy of St. Joseph’s, as the inspiration for the school’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing program — The Writer’s Foundry. An award-winning author of several collections of poetry, including The Bird Catcher (1998), Ms. Ponsot also worked extensively as a translator and teacher. She crafted much of her work as
a single mom of seven children.
Ponsot’s poems are renowned for their syntactical complexity and verbal precision.
“The forms create an almost bodily pleasure in the poet,” she told The New York Times in 1999. “What you’re doing is trying to discover. They are not restrictive. They pull things out of you. They help you remember.”
With The Bird Catcher, Ms. Ponsot was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has also earned the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, the Robert Frost Poetry Award, the 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation and the 2015 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.
– DAVID HENNE