Alumna hits centennial milestone

When Sr. Veronica Gorman graduated from Mount Mercy Junior College in 1931, the price of a gallon of gas was 10 cents. Thomas Edison had just submitted his last patent application, Al Capone had just been sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion, and the Star Spangled Banner was officially adopted as the National Anthem.

Fast forward nearly 80 years, and much has changed in American culture, politics and economics. But for Gorman, Mount Mercy’s oldest living alumna, the time she spent on the Hill as a student, and later, as a staff member, remains engrained in her memory.

“I do think often of my days down there,” says Gorman, who celebrated her 100th birthday on May 30, exactly one week after Mount Mercy celebrated Commencement. Both events marked a milestone — a centennial for Gorman, and a new era for Mount Mercy, as the last graduates of Mount Mercy College walked across the stage. The journey continues next spring when the first graduates of Mount Mercy University don the cap and gown.

But even as time continues to usher in changes and new milestones, so too does it offer opportunity for reflection and introspection. For Gorman, those opportunities lie in sharing the unique stories of her time at Mount Mercy — the hijinks, mentors, and friends that helped shape her time on the Hill.

Her road to becoming a Sister of Mercy started somewhat unconventionally, but could nevertheless be deemed a calling. As a young girl, she went through a period of time when she needed to wear an eye patch. As her teacher called her up to the front of the class to explain Gorman’s condition to her classmates, she remembers that the feeling of being in front of students remained with her. “I liked being up there in the front of class,” she says. “And I kept that feeling with me in the back of my mind.”

That ambition turned into reality when she joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1930. She trained in elementary education at the fledgling college, a decision that led to a successful career teaching at Regis Middle School from 1931 to 1963. Gorman also served in several positions at Mount Mercy, including assistant dean of students, a role she jokingly refers to as a “glorified house-keeper,” and bookstore manager.

But it’s the small moments that Gorman recalls the most. She remembers her mischievous deeds, such as tying the bell chimes together to prevent their supervisors from ringing them and silencing the girls. Or her antics with a friend, who always floundered while attempting her lines during the One Act play.

Even at 100, Gorman exhibits a characteristic one would come to expect from a Sister of Mercy — a progressive outlook on the future. When it comes to Mount Mercy’s transition to University status, Gorman understands the increased community outreach and continued growth. “It is such a practical thing for people in this area — it is so convenient. I would think students would be excited,” she says.

Even changes that are transformative in nature — construction updates and building projects — don’t faze her. “It may take some people a little while to get used to it, but the new ones coming in [incoming students] will really appreciate it,” she says.

Fittingly, Gorman sees many similarities between Mount Mercy President Christopher Blake and Sr. Mary Lawrence Hallagan, who served on Mount Mercy’s board of trustees from 1953 to 1979, helping shape the direction of education in Cedar Rapids. “He’s great, he’s done a wonderful job,” says Gorman of Blake’s progressive leadership and innovative advancements. “He’s fearless, like Sr. Lawrence.”

Read more about Sr. Lawrence’s incredible vision.