October 2004

Sister Alice Huber -
"Invented" Medaille College


by Joseph H. RADDER

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The winds of change were blowing in the mid-1960s, and the Catholic Church was no exception. Vatican II decreed major changes in the church. Masses formerly said in Latin were now celebrated in the vernacular (English, of course, in the United States). Nuns were encouraged to use their real names and were no longer required to wear the habit, lay people were given a much larger role in assisting priests, and the olive branch was extended to all people of other faiths. As mistrust was replaced with love, a new ecumenical spirit emerged, and is present to this day from Rome to the tiniest rural parish.

Not all clergy, religious, and lay people embraced these changes with the kind of enthusiasm demonstrated by Sister Mary Lawrence, SSJ, now Sister Alice Huber. That was fortunate because she was a Catholic educator, and education was changing too. More and more lay people were replacing nuns as parochial school teachers. That meant fewer nuns were entering colleges to earn education degrees.

Before 1968 Mt. St. Joseph Teacher's College was dedicated to training nuns to teach. However, it became apparent in the late sixties that it would be necessary to broaden the college's base. Sister Alice Huber was asked to assume the responsibility for taking the college in a new direction. She was elected president. Early on it was her idea to change the name to Medaille College, after John Peter Medaille, a French Jesuit who was the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"One of my first thoughts was, we've got to get some (lay) men and women in here as students," Sister Alice told a recent visitor. And, of course, it followed naturally that lay men and women should be hired as instructors and professors. The curriculum was expanded as well, to include a number of other liberal arts subjects.

Indeed, Medaille College as it exists today was literally "invented" by Sister Alice Huber, who recently celebrated her 91st birthday on President's Day at the college.. That week also marked her 75th year as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"I was born on Good Friday in 1913." she said smiling. The date was March 21, and it was Good Friday because Easter was unusually early that year.

Alice Huber grew up in a happy South Buffalo family. Her father, Charles Huber, was a railroad engineer, and her mother, Margaret Haslow Huber, was a buyer for the L.L. Berger Company. "That Tells me where you got your good taste in clothes," a second visitor observed. Sister Alice had one sister and one brother. Her sister, Evelyn, is married and living in Florida. Her brother, Charles Huber Jr., died at a very young age a number of years ago.

Alice Huber was inspired to become a Sister of St. Joseph at a very young age. "When we were in 7th and 8th grade, my friend, Marie Pollard, and I would make pilgrimages to Father Baker's Our Lady of Victory complex in Lackawanna. We kept silence and prayed all the way out there." One day these two young girls observed how much loving care the nuns were giving the little babies in the Infant Home there. "That's when I decided," Sister Alice said. "If that's what a Sister of St. Joseph is, that's what I want to be."

And so, after attending South Park High School for two years she entered the convent at age fifteen. She then spent eight years at the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent on Main street. Later on, she would go across the street to Canisius College, where she earned a master's degree in education. Later, she would earn two doctorates, one at U.B. and one at the University of California in San Diego, where she had been awarded a scholarship.

Sister Alice Huber's teaching career began at St. Mark's in North Buffalo, where she taught 7th and 8th grade. One of her visitors on a recent summer afternoon was a student at St. Mark's at that time and remembers her as being tall, graceful, and willowy…strict, but kind, fair, and adored by her pupils. She also taught in Salamanca, Medina, East Aurora, and at St. Joseph University parish school."

While at Medaille, Sister Alice Huber became a nationally-known authority on modern math, having written two text books on the subject She tried to explain it to her visitors by saying "It's simply logic. If one plus one equals two, then a plus b equals c." Easy for Sister, but we still don't get it.

Glancing at the wall of her cozy room at the Sisters of St. Joseph Retirement Residence in Clarence, we noticed two very well-done pieces of artwork. Sister Alice humbly admitted to being the artist. And we also realized, as soft music played in the background, that she's a classical music lover as well. She also loves to read and is up-to-date on all the new books.

Reading and artwork are not the only things that keep her busy during her retirement years. She also corresponds with disadvantaged people. Displaying a picture of one of the people she writes to. Sister told us that this woman is in prison for life without parole. Her crime involved driving her car into a group of people waiting for a bus, killing several and injuring others. "She said she did it to get attention," Sister Alice explained. The fact that she would befriend such a person says a lot about the kind of person Sister Alice Huber is.

This writer has known Sister Alice Huber for about thirty-five years. She has been one of the great influences for good in a life that would have been quite empty without having known her.



Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit www.istbooks.com

 

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