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80 Years of Barry

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

By Liz Calvo and Melissa Tumbeiro

In honor of celebrating 80 years of Barry University’s existence, The Buccaneer has chosen to highlight the most notable events that have occurred at the college throughout the years. It was our esteemed honor to interview our two most recent presidents, Sister Linda Bevilacqua and President Allen, as we admire our campus then and now as well as discuss plans for the near future.

The 1940s and 1950s

Reverend Patrick Barry, Bishop of St. Augustine, and his sister, Reverend Mother M. Gerald Barry wanted to open a leading education center for young women in Miami. So, they recruited their brother Monsignor William Barry, John Graves Thompson, and the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan.

Barry women students reading the college newspaper at Adrian

According to Dominique St. Victor, the Barry archivist, “the Cor Jesu Chapel was the first group of original buildings to be built for Barry College of Women, along with Adrian Hall, Lavoie Hall, Farrell Hall, and Kelley House.”

Barry College had several ideologies that still define the school today. Firstly, Barry encouraged the education of young women of diverse backgrounds. So, the campus welcomed women of different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.

Left-Right: BU Students Liz Calvo, Brianna Lopez, Jimmy Muniz Jr, and Suzannah Young. Photo Credit to Melissa Tumbeiro.

Secondly, Barry made sure to help their students foster the core commitments we still follow today. These core commitments include knowledge and truth, inclusive community, social justice, and collaborative service. These core commitments are meant to resonate with students after graduating to create social leaders who can improve society.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, former president of Barry University and now President Emerita and Founding Director of the Adrian Dominican Institute for Mission and Leadership, said that “the purpose of our undergraduate degree programs and co-curricular experiences was to create women leaders.”


Barry nursing students studying.

Barry became a member of the College Entrance Examination Board and in 1960 was accepted as one of the original nine members of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida.

Following the passing of Mother Gerald, Mother Genevieve Weber automatically became the second president of Barry.

Sister Linda, who graduated in the class of 1962, mentioned that she “loved being a Barry College undergraduate resident student.”

As the college was growing, Mother Genevieve decided it was time for the president to reside on the campus. She nominated Sister Dorothy Browne, who was an executive vice president, as the first resident president in 1963.

Senior Barry nursing student, Kayla Colon, studying. Photo Credit to Melissa Tumbeiro.

The School of Social Work was later created and accredited. They were admitted to their first class in 1966. The Monsignor William Barry Library opened in 1968.


During the 1970s, the school underwent restructuring and transition. The Wiegand Center, housing science laboratories, classrooms, and language center were completed.

Sister Dorothy retired after being president for 11 years and Sister Trinita Flood became the fourth president of Barry University. She was previously a faculty member and academic dean of the college.

At this time, enrollment was almost 1,370 and the Schools of Art and Sciences, Business, Education and Nursing were established.

Class of male and female Barry students. Photo Credit to Al Kaplan.

The biggest change since the school’s inception happened on October 7, 1975. The Board of Trustees voted to allow males to enroll. Prior to this, males were only allowed to enroll as graduate students.

If it weren’t for this change in school policy, then international students like Dajour Dixon - a freshman from Jamaica majoring in biology - would have missed out.

“Having to find a school that helps students from foreign countries as well as Barry does can be difficult,” he said. “Also, if it weren’t for the diverse culture of Barry, he wouldn’t have made the great friends he has now.”


Barry College officially became Barry University on November 13, 1981, and Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin was inaugurated. Although she was the fifth president of Barry College, she became the first president of Barry University.

Sister Jeanne was ambitious and wished to expand student and campus life. Between 1984 and 1985, the D. Inez Andreas School of Business and a 96-bed residence hall were added. The School of Podiatric Medicine came the following year.

Barry students hanging out.

Barry University became a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II and a new athletics facility was built, hiring new staff and coaches. The School of Adult and Career Education (PACE) was created for working adults. The School of Social Work also offered Barry’s first PhD program.

While student enrollment rose from 1,750 students in 1981 to 5,900 and undergraduate majors doubled from 25 to 50, there was still a need for expansion. The number of buildings on campus grew from 16 to 40.

Jaden Beckles, a freshman psychology major mentioned that although he hasn’t been at Barry for a long time, without the expansion we wouldn’t be able to have the resources or courses we have now “because of the lack of space.”

"I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like cramping all art classes, psychology classes, and science classes together in one building as the school of arts and sciences,” he said.

Also led by Sister Jeanne, Barry University raised its profile throughout the United States. She became the first woman appointed in the all-male Orange Bowl Committee and brough nationwide publicity for the university.


Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin retired in 2004 after being president for 23 years. She continued serving as a chancellor for five years, becoming Barry’s first president emerita.

Photo of Sister Lina Bevilacqua by Barry University.

That year, Sister Linda Bevilacqua was inaugurated as the first Barry alumna president. Sister Linda’s held several administrative positions before then. She had been associate vice president for academic affairs and founding dean of the School of Adult and Continuing Education (ACE), and now PACE.

When asked about her experience, Sister Linda stated that “as president for fifteen years, serving the Barry University community was a distinguished honor and one of the most growth-filled and enjoyable experiences of my life in ministry.”

She even oversaw the purchase of a law school in Orlando in 1999.

“Any pride I feel for the many accomplishments from my fifteen-year tenure as president is due to the energetic, committed and innovative faculty, staff and administrators who helped create and implement the goals we set in the strategic agenda,” she said.

Barry also revitalized and strengthened ties to community partners with the establishment of The Barry Institute for Community and Economic Development (BICED), and The Center for Community Service Initiatives (CCSI).

The Future

Photo of President Mike Allen by Barry University

Now, a new president, Mike Allen, is entrusted with the growth and development of Barry University in the future. Even through his first obstacle was the COVID- 19 pandemic, he remains optimistic about the future of Barry.

“Barry University has a rich 80-year history of providing truly transformation education rooted in our Core Commitments,” said President Allen. “As the first male president of Barry, I am committed to preserving our institutional history and honoring and building upon the work of the six dedicated and talented Adrian Dominican Sisters who came before me.

He said he looks forward to “building a strong future together.”

Graphic Credit to Melissa Manohar

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