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Barry’s Origin Story: Our Adrian Dominican History

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

By Alyssa Diaz

To appreciate our campus and its teachings, students, staff, and faculty should all be familiar with our institution's foundation and history of over 80 years. Today, students are aware that the Adrian Dominican Sisters founded the university but mostly unfamiliar with the specifics.

1954-Adrian Dominican Sisters. Photo credit to Barry University Archives and Special Collections.

Students are guided by Catholic academic and religious traditions to carryout Barry's core commitments inspired by the Adrian Dominican Sisters' values. Barry’s core commitments are knowledge and truth, inclusive community, social justice, and collaborative service.

The Dominican Order was created in 1216 by St. Dominic, known as the Order of Preachers (O.P.).

According to an article written by Sister Eileen F. Rice, O.P., PhD, a former history professor, Mother Mary Gerald Barry, O.P., and former superior general of the Adrian Dominicans, “long dreamed of building a Catholic college for women somewhere in Florida.”

Mother Gerald told her sibling, Bishop Patrick Barry of St. Augustine, her dream. When they sought the help with another sibling, Monsignor William Barry, and his colleague John Graves Thompson, a partner in a Miami firm, the vision came to life. The goal became a reality because of their determination and faith, and the Barry College for Women launched in September 1940 with 44 students enrolled.

In Miami Shores, Barry has maintained a Catholic Dominican school from its foundation of inviting teachers, students, employees, and supporters of all religious traditions among more than 200 Catholic schools in the U.S.

1940-Barry College groundbreaking ceremony. Photo credit to Barry University Archives and Special Collections.

On campus today, we have Sister Linda Bevilacqua, O.P., PhD, who serves as President Emerita and founding director of the Adrian Dominican Institute for Mission and Leadership. Sister Linda entered the Dominican Sisters in Adrian, Michigan on June 26, 1962, after graduating from Barry College.

“This year, 2022, I am very happy to be celebrating my 60th anniversary as an Adrian Dominican,” she said.

The Adrian Dominicans are members of the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary of Adrian, Michigan. Adrian is the geographic location of their headquarters, the Motherhouse.

“A little over 100 acres are home to offices, an Archives facility, housing for the well elderly sisters, a retreat, and more,” said Sister Linda. “The Motherhouse is a second home for me – always warm, welcoming, and nurturing. I love being among my sisters!”

Many current faculty members got the chance to visit the Motherhouse.

1940-Students wearing their formal academic attire walk in procession in front of Adrian Hall. Photo credit to Barry University Archives and Special Collections.

“I left the motherhouse with a deeper understanding of Barry's mission and an appreciation for the sacrifices made by the women in Adrian in their pursuit of peace and justice,” said Yvette Brown Koottungal, chief information officer and vice president for Strategic Initiatives.

Kathryn Ludwig, associate dean of Clinical and Prevention Sciences said, “they inspired me and everyone in our group to want to make positive changes in the world.”

1965-Adrian Dominican Sisters arranging a 25th Barry College anniversary ice sculpture. Photo credit to Barry University Archives and Special Collections.

As of April, there are 452 Adrian Dominican Sisters and 211 Dominican associates, men and women, who support the Order of the Preachers’ mission, ministry, and spirituality.

Dominican priests and friars include the Barry Chaplain Friar Cristobal Torres, Father Jorge Presmanes, and Father Jose David Padilla.

“Barry is open to everyone, even back then in the 60s,” Fr. Torres said. “You can still adopt our values and come to mass even if you aren’t Catholic. We also try to incorporate Catholic Social Teaching.”

Dominican priests have served as Chaplains and professors of theology and philosophy, and vice versa.

“I am proud of the fact that priests and sisters have been teaching theology at Barry consistently since its founding in 1940,” said Fr. Jorge L. Presmanes, O.P., theology professor and director of the Institute for Hispanic/Latino Theology and Ministry.

1958-Adrian Dominican Sisters greet students at the Freshman Day Student Get Acquainted Party. Photo credit to Barry University Archives and Special Collections.

Students of every major are required to take a theology and philosophy course with the presence of these faculty members, and they frequently discover they enjoyed and benefited from these courses more than they anticipated.

“When I took PHI-191H, it helped me see things from a different perspective,” said Rebeca Miranda, a junior majoring in music education. “We need to broaden our views of others in the world. I enjoyed it.”

Next time you go past Bevilacqua, Thompson, or O’Laughlin, remember those buildings are named after someone who left a lasting influence on Barry.

1961-Adrian Dominican Sisters on the way to Cor Jesu Chapel. Photo credit to Barry University Archives and Special Collections.

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