When I left Washington, D.C., to come to Poughkeepsie to organize Marist College, I was fully aware of some tremendous blessings that were associated with the running of our college. I would like to speak of some of these extraordinary blessings, and an unexpected blessing.
Our relationship with the good Sisters of St. Francis and their nearby hospital has been priceless. We arrived on the Marist campus in 1905, whereas the Sisters of St. Francis came here to start the hospital around the early ’20s, and in the early days they used to come for Mass at our chapel at the St. Ann’s Hermitage building. They did this until they built their own chapel at the hospital. In those days, we used to go to Hyde Park to get our chaplain at the Jesuits’ St. Andrews Novitiate; we would pick up two of the Fathers, and one of them was brought to say Mass at the Sisters’ chapel. We had this shared service for years until the Sisters were able to get a resident chaplain.
The relationship was priceless, for the Sisters were able to guide us to find the doctors needed at our own St. Ann’s Hermitage infirmary, where we had the elderly and retired Brothers along with our sick. So a few of the doctors working at St. Francis Hospital also used to come to our Marist infirmary, where they would take care of minor operations and service. Besides this, whenever we had a sick Brother at the hospital I had the privilege of being able to visit him at any time. Some of the hospital doctors also became our regular doctors, and I still recall Dr. Charles Cambridge who helped us so much that we wanted to affiliate him to the Marist Brothers. He accepted on condition that we affiliate his brother, James, also a doctor who worked at St. Francis. It was also at this time that we enjoyed the privilege of free service for our old Marist Brothers when Dr. Eimee, an excellent chiropractor, used to come to treat our elderly Brothers, especially on Saturdays or on his free time.
We enjoyed tremendous service at St. Francis Hospital and were of help to the Sisters and the hospital. Each year, one of the doctors of St. Francis used to come to take the blood type of each one of the Brothers. At that time we had more than 100, and our donations were a great help to St. Francis. We also were sure to invite the Sisters to our community entertainment.
I had arrived in Washington during the time of World War II. At that time Brothers were exempt from military service but we were obliged to take first aid courses. We also did night service to make sure that unnecessary lights at night were turned off so as not to warn the enemy. Because of this mandatory training, I was qualified to train first aid teachers. As that service requirement was still in effect when I came to St. Francis, I was able to teach first aid to the nurses and brought some of our qualified Marist Brothers. I recall that I did remind the Brothers that when it came to artificial respiration, we were to teach–not to touch!
I also recall that since all of our Brothers were checked for their blood type each year, we were a standby blood bank for the hospital. We were on call and when a special type of blood was needed and the Sisters were shorthanded, we used to send Brothers. I recall an emergency call from the Sisters when a woman was hemorrhaging. We sent up twelve Brothers to give her particular type. And each year we would have a session for the newcomers to type their blood. For awhile also the Sisters were offered the use of any of our teachers to help them out if needed, or they could have some of their student nurses come to the college for some courses. This was years ago, of course, but it had been a great help to us, and we were pleased to work closely with the Sisters. The Sister who was then the head of the nursing school was Sr. Ann Elizabeth, who later became the head of the hospital staff and has always remained a very close friend of mine and of all the Brothers. St Francis Hospital proved to be a priceless, unexpected blessing indeed.
I wish to recall here another blessing that came as a result of an incident at St. Francis Hospital. I was invited to attend some of the meetings that the Sisters had with their board and was happy to be able to help. It was there that I first met Mr. John J. Gartland, Jr., a local lawyer who was helping the Sisters when he could, and who became very friendly with me.
At one of the meetings where we were the only two males among a large group of women, Jack told me that with all the good Sisters talking, the meeting had run into his regular social hour and he was thinking of leaving. The meeting was about to end anyway, so I invited him over to my office at the college so that we could have a drink and make up for his lost social hour. We became close friends, and I later got to know his wife, who was also a very dedicated woman. Both of them over the years have been invited to become "Affiliate Marists," an honor offered to particularly dedicated persons who help the Marist Brothers. At the time, Jack was a valuable lawyer and the McCann Foundation did not yet exist.
Catherine, John’s wife, was especially kind to me when I went off to serve the Lord in Liberia. At the send-off party she had pledged to be helpful, and she did just that by her packages of goodies, which she would collect and mail to us at the mission. Often her packages would be delayed and not come on time for the Christmas or Easter holidays, but they were always much appreciated. She had a knack of thinking of various items that just might be useful but could not be found in a mission.
Meanwhile, Jack had found a way to send our mission a van in good condition, which made it possible for us to drive to the next country to get the food and help we needed regularly. Once a month I used to make a special trip to get needed things as I worked at the Bishop's house as bursar of the mission. We would select a day each month to celebrate all the birthdays of the Fathers, Sisters, and Brothers for that month. This simple practice brought a lot of joy to many hearts. It was after my fourth bout with malaria that the doctor told me that I had to leave and come home, and one of my first functions after I came back was to attend the dedication of Gartland Commons, a gift of the Gartland family to Marist College. The Gartlands have long been dear friends, a very definite unexpected blessing of the Lord. The family is still active in its work for the college and for the entire Poughkeepsie area.
When my studies at Catholic University were completed, I had little time to worry about anything. I went directly to Poughkeepsie and was very busy providing what was needed to change the Normal Training School into a full-fledged four-year college, able to grant degrees in various fields. This is what kept me very busy from the very beginning, trying to do all I could to make a difference and to get the college solidly founded.
My whole first year here had required me to run back and forth from Washington, D.C., to Poughkeepsie as well as communicate with the State Education Department in Albany. I searched for the best teachers, supervised the campus construction, negotiated with the city of Poughkeepsie, and tried to keep myself open and not miss any opportunity that presented itself. I had just been officially named to become the first president of this new college and to assure it got off to a good start. To this effect, I attended as many meetings as possible in the area in the hope of getting better known and had been here a full year already when an opportunity presented itself quite unexpectedly. It was in late 1944 and early 1945.
A new company came to Poughkeepsie that was beginning to make an impression nationwide and eventually would become a global enterprise. It was the International Business Machine Corporation. The company decided to settle mostly in the Poughkeepsie area just outside the city. Little did anyone realize the impact it would have, not only in Poughkeepsie, but also in all the towns and cities of greater Dutchess County, to say the least. Off Route 9 IBM set up its majestic building and grounds and began hiring people from the entire area. It trained employees carefully and was opening branches everywhere.
The local chairman of the company got in touch with me as the president of Marist College and asked me if I would be willing to address IBM trainees in a kind of graduation class ceremony before they would be sent off to their various branches. It was to be just a short talk to encourage them to make a mark for themselves. They wanted a college president to make their graduates feel proud and give a bit of class to the ceremony as well. I was delighted to accept.
It was not a large class compared to graduating classes today, but it was enough to provide a golden opportunity. I asked if there was anything special that they would want stressed and was told not particularly, except maybe to stress that this was not just a Poughkeepsie project, but also something that was intended to make a much wider mark here and abroad. It gave me a clue. I stressed not what they had achieved up to now but what they were about to face. I warned them to be careful how they dressed for interviews. I also told them about the language that they used, the importance of a follow-up to any important meeting, and the courtesy that was expected of them and advised them to cultivate the ability to listen and learn. I also stressed, as requested, the importance of having a global perspective in working for a company such as IBM. I closed by telling them that they may well be aware that IBM means International Business Machines, and “that is correct as far as your product is concerned. But as far as you are concerned, you must always remember that IBM also in your estimation means: In Business for Mankind!” Evidently this thought went over big with the employers, even if it was meant for the employees.
In my conversation with administrators of the company, I suggested that they could send some of the trainees to us for courses we were offering, that we could work together, and we could also have some of our teachers come to help out at the company. The lectures or classes could be in either place, and we could have a helpful exchange with them. That is what really struck a point, and even if it started slowly, our contact and work with IBM has been a tremendous help to us. By working together with them, we have been able to make a difference in this area and have developed what is often considered the best-equipped small college of the area. The exchange of teachers grew and continued, and we have greatly profited by the experiment. In addition we have had, from the start, a priority with IBM in all its latest equipment. Its relationship with Marist has given IBM a model for working with various colleges around the world. We both learned something very precious, and both have profited. I do not mean in any way that I should take credit for the progress that has been made here at the college by both Linus Foy and Dennis Murray, but I believe that I did at least open the first door. And that, for me and for Marist, was indeed an unexpected blessing.
Bro. Jerome Stephen Malatak–June 17, 1958
last updated on June 10, 2004