Biography of Sr. Helen Madeline, SND

Sr. Helen Madeline (Helen Madline Ingraham), SND
Emmanuel College Dean (1919-1950)

Sister Helen Madeleine Ingraham was born Helen Elizabeth Ingraham on November 29, 1887, the youngest of nine children to Henry and Kate (Kirby) Ingraham. The family lived in Saxonville, a small mill village in Framingham, Massachusetts. Sadly, when Helen was five, her father died and her mother, Kate, became a housekeeper to support the family. Helen attended the Framingham Public Schools until 1901 when she was accepted into the Notre Dame Sr. Helen Madeline Ingraham, SND, Foundress and Academic Dean September 16, 1979 Academy (NDA) in Roxbury, Massachusetts where she graduated in 1905. It was at that time that she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The order sent Sr. Helen Madeline to Trinity College to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree.

Sister Helen Madeleine taught at the Notre Dame Academy in Lowell from 1908 to 1913, NDA in Roxbury from 1913 to 1918, and for the year of 1918 at the NDA in Boston. During that summer of 1918, she completed her Bachelor’s Degree at Trinity College. It was at this time that a committee of sisters formed to prepare for the opening of a college which would be located on the Fenway in Boston, Massachusetts and would aim to educate Catholic women. At first the committee thought to name the new school Notre Dame College, but Sr. Helen Madeleine believed that since Notre Dame Academy would share the same building, people would find the similarity in the names too confusing and think that the college would simply be an extension of the Academy. Sister Mary Borgia, the Eastern Provincial, asked her to think of a different name for the college. Sister Helen Madeline Ingraham, SND bestowed upon the institution the name Emmanuel College.

Emmanuel opened in the fall of 1919 and Sr. Helen Madeleine was named the College Dean. Those early years were a struggle. Because the NDA also occupied the same building, the college had little space in which to hold classes. For instance, Sr. Helen Madeleine’s office often had to be used as a classroom. This continued until 1931, when the Academy moved to Granby Street, almost a mile away. During the first two years, she worked to insure that the College would be a recognized institution by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This required preparing an appropriate curriculum and hiring professors. The first two years, the courses included Sacred Scripture, Apologetics, Biology, English, Mathematics, Spanish, French, German, Logic, Chemistry, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Economics, Sociology, Oral Expression and Latin, which Sr. Helen Madeleine taught herself. There was also training in Physical Education for the students.

To aid in the quest for recognition, Sr. Helen Madeline sought the counsel of Arthur Dolan (1876-1949). He helped the College obtain a hearing at the Massachusetts State House in January 1921. At the meeting the College produced its curriculum and answered questions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts granted Emmanuel College a charter on April 12, 1921. During her time as the Emmanuel College Dean (position later renamed Academic Dean), Sr. Helen Madeleine was also working on her Master’s Degree at Emmanuel. She completed it in 1927, receiving her M.A. in English, with a minor in the History of Art. In 1932, she went to Oxford University in England to pursue graduate classes and in 1940, she received an honorary LL.D. from Boston College and in 1950 received the same honor from Regis College. In 1969 she received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Emmanuel.

In 1950, after serving as the Emmanuel College Dean for thirty-one (31) years, she asked to resign from her position at the College. Mother Monica of the Passion accepted her resignation, but asked her to travel to Japan to help found the Notre Dame Seishin College in Okayama. This request came just as the Korean War started and so she was unable to travel to Japan that year. Instead, sisters at the Notre Dame College in Belmont, CA called, asking if she would help them expand their college from a two year school to a four year college. Once this task was accomplished, Sr. Helen Madeline went to Japan to found Seishin College. After spending time overseeing educational programs in Hawaii, Sr. Helen Madeline was able to return home to Massachusetts. In her later years she prepared a lecture tour on the culture and traditions of Japan and helped guide the program of studies for novices and for sisters working toward their degrees.

Among her numerous accomplishments include her three (3) books, With Heart and Mind (1937), Strength Through Prayer (1938) and Peace Through Prayer (1940).

Sister Helen Madeleine Ingraham died in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 24, 1989 at the age of 101.

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