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Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Motto Virtus cum Scientia (Virtue and Knowledge United)
Established 1840
Type private liberal arts women's college
Endowment $11.1 million[1]
President David G. Behrs, Phd.
Students 1,703
Undergraduates 1,577
Postgraduates 126
Location Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN, USA
Campus suburban: 67 acres (0.27 km2)
Athletics four USCAA and IHSA teams,
called Pomeroys
Colors Light Blue and White
Mascot in honor of Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy, SP (SMWC, B.A. 1921)
Affiliations Roman Catholic Church
Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is a Catholic, four-year liberal arts women's college located northwest of Terre Haute, Indiana, between the Wabash River and the Illinois state line. There is also a small village of the same name located nearby. Most students and employees refer to the college as "The Woods." The athletic teams are nicknamed the "Pomeroys." Some students refer to themselves as "Woodsies."

The college is associated with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and was founded as an academy for young women in 1841 by a French nun, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who located at the site in October 1840. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was canonized on October 15, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, and became Indiana's first saint.[1] Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is the nation's oldest Catholic liberal arts college for women and one of the oldest institutions of higher education for women in the United States.



In 1840, six Sisters of Providence left their convent in Ruillé-sur-Loir, France, on a journey to the wilderness of Indiana. Mother Theodore Guerin led the sisters on their journey.[2]

Mother Theodore was not the first to step forward when the Bishop of Vincennes asked the Sisters of Providence to establish an academy for young women in Indiana. Although she had been decorated by the French Board of Education for being a highly gifted and efficient teacher, Mother Theodore felt unworthy of the task of founding an institution of learning, but her superiors convinced Mother Theodore to accept the assignment.[3] Mother Theodore and five other nuns arrived on October 22, 1840, more than three months after leaving France.[4] In 1846, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was granted the first charter for the higher education of women in the state of Indiana. SMWC conferred its first bachelor of arts degree in 1899.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was the first women's college to offer journalism courses and the first to offer degree work in secondary education, home economic, and secretarial science. SMWC now offers associate and bachelor degrees in over 50 majors on campus and through the Woods External Degree Program as well as Masters in Art Therapy, Earth Literacy, Education, Leadership Development, Music Therapy, and Pastoral Theology.

The college's faculty consists of both women and men; lay and clergy. Both men and women can attend the graduate programs which began in 1984. Men were admitted into the Woods External Degree (WED) Program in 2006. Men are allowed to attend regular classes for undergraduate studies, but may not receive a "campus" degree. In theory, however, it is possible for men to take 121 hours of residence classes and the remaining required hours in WED to graduate.

On August 14, 2006, Dr. Joan Lescinski, CSJ, announced that she would be completing her term as President of SMWC on June 30, 2007. On January 22, 2007, Dr. David G. Behrs was named as the College's 15th President. He is notable for being the first male president of the college and a member of the laity.


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission. In 2004-05, the Woods received the highest possible review from the HLC, and will undergo the accreditation process in ten years, the maximum allowable period between reviews.

The curriculum of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is based on a traditional liberal arts education; therefore, all campus students are required to complete an extensive curriculum of 56 "General Studies" credit hours in addition to their major(s) and/or minor(s). WED students (Wood's External Degree) complete 53 hours. The required courses for General Studies include but are not limited to: Theology, Philosophy, French or Spanish, History, Math, Biology or Chemistry, Psychology, Sociology, English, Physical Fitness, Statistics, Art, Music, and various other courses that are unique to the college. The full undergraduate catalog[5] as well as the graduate catalog and previous catalogs can be found at the SMWC website.

The General Studies curriculum is divided into five categories:

  • Skills for Advanced Learning
  • Foundations and Diversity
  • Academic Perspectives
  • Linking
  • Interdisciplinary


Saint Mary-of-the- Woods College is a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) and the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).[6] The basketball, softball, equestrian, and soccer teams of SMWC bear the title of "Pomeroys." The name was chosen in memory of Mary Joseph Pomeroy, SP, an alumna and faculty member at SMWC who advocated athletics and physical fitness. In his inuagurual speech in October, 2007, Dr. David Behrs mentioned the possible addition of golf, volleyball, and cross-country teams to SMWC as well as the construction of a new sports facility. In 2008, Golf was added to the SMWC athletic program and in 2009, the new Cross Country team will kick off their first season.

The SMWC softball team won four consecutive USCAA National Softball Championships (2002-2005). The team completed the 2006 season with a 30-21 record and a second place finish in the USCAA National Invitational Tournament.[7] The SMWC Equestrian Team competes throughout the year in both Western and English, traveling to about 20 shows per season. SMWC has been the site for regional horse shows, managed by the SMWC equestrian team members. In 2007, the SMWC Western Team was named IHSA Reserve National Champions.

Social concerns

The Sisters of Providence are devoutly pacifist, and this is shown through a strong emphasis on peace and social concerns. The execution of Timothy McVeigh on June 11, 2001, at the nearby Federal Prison in Terre Haute was protested by a number of the Sisters of Providence and SMWC students.

Some faculty, students, and sisters also annually protest at The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC or WHINSEC), formerly the School of the Americas (SOA; Spanish: Escuela de las Américas), a United States Army facility at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.


Virtus Cum Scientia and the Coat of Arms

These words, translated to mean “Virtue with Knowledge United,” appear on the SMWC seal and is the College motto.

College Coat of Arms

The College's coat of arms is a shield divided vertically in halves. The left field is blue, showing in the center a poplar tree on a hill or terrace in natural colors, with the first letter of the name of Mary; these latter devices are in gold. The right field is gold, and shows three eaglets with open wings in blue and beak and talons in red. The right half of the shield shows the arms of Madame du Roscoat, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence at Ruille-sur-Loire, France. The three eaglets are emblematic of the Holy Trinity, the motto of the du Roscoat family being, “Trino Soli sit honor et gloria”—“To the Triune God alone honor and glory.” The left field is charged with devices symbolic or significant of some fact connected with the history of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The rayed star, charged with the letter “M” in blue, is an emblem of Mary, Mother of God, the Stella Matutina, under whose protection Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, represented by a tree, places all its hopes for growth and life. The Latin crosses are emblems of Redemption and Catholicity. The crest is the count’s coronet of the du Roscoat family and the motto, “Virtus cum Scientia,” is the one chosen by Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence in America.

The Ring Worn by SMWC graduates, the Ring was designed in 1922 by students Margaret Williams Mead ’22 and Dorothy Helm Geisel ’23 and was first given in 1922 to seniors. The oak leaves are symbolic of knowledge gained at SMWC, and the insignia is carved in black onyx.

Notable alumnae


External links

Further reading

  1.  New President  "Saint Mary of the Woods names Behrs as 15th President". Saint Mary of the Woods College News and Events. Retrieved 2007-01-23.  
  2.  endowment  "2005 NACUBO endowment study" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved 2006-02-25.  
  3.  History of the Sisters of Providence  History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods by Sister Eugenia Logan, S.P.. Moore-Langan Printing Company.  
  4.  IHSA  "Intercollegiate Horse Show Association". Retrieved 2007-11-09.  



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