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At Rosemont College, generations spend a weekend remembering

Article written by Rita Giordano for Philly.com

When Sheila O'Callaghan was growing up in the 1950s and '60s in North Jersey, the somewhat older members of the Crowther side of the family seized her imagination. 

They included admirable women, more than a couple of whom pursued higher education near Philadelphia, at Rosemont College on the well-to-do Main Line.

One of them was O'Callaghan's aunt, Catherine "Nan" Holland, a 1951 Rosemont graduate who went on to marry the dashing Hugh Crowther.

When it was time for O'Callaghan to go to college, she selected Rosemont.

"To me, Rosemont distilled all things into goodness and having fun, pleasure of ideas, appreciation of a fine painting, joy of friendship," she said.

A member of the Rosemont graduating class of 1966, O'Callaghan wrote those words on a paper she shared with others Saturday at a weekend reunion at the college. .

It was the first attended by O'Callaghan, 71, who lives in California. Nan Crowther, 86, of Connecticut, has been to others. Her memory of the Catholic liberal arts college whose motto is "The Power of Small"?

"It was heaven," she recalled Saturday.

Similar remembrances were expressed by many of the more than 150 former Rosemont students who attended the reunion at the once all-girls school.

John Michael Szczepaniak, marketing services coordinator for the college, and Ryan McElroy, events coordinator and an assistant coach at Rosemont, both 25, are among the first men to graduate from the school, along with McElroy's twin, Patrick, a financial consultant.

"It was like a family, the first year of guys," said Ryan McElroy, who said he had an aunt who also was a Rosemont alum. "We were close right away."

The women, too, he added. "Everyone was real supportive."

As time went on, they got closer.

"At graduation, there were people clapping for you, and those claps meant something," Szczepaniak said.

Naturally, recollections of the Rosemont culture varied with each generation of alumni.

For Crowther, it meant outings during which she and classmates wore gloves and hats, some smoked and played bridge. She found the former "revolting" and wasn't much good at the latter, Crowther said. Instead, she traveled into Philadelphia to visit museums and the theater. She recalled candlelit restaurants where classical music was played during dinner.

"It sounds like ancient times," she said with a laugh, "but it was just yesterday."

It was at Rosemont where she met her husband-to-be. "Gorgeous," she said of Hugh. He came around to visit a friend at nearby Villanova University, and to look in on his sister and "check out the roommate." That was Nan Holland.

O'Callaghan called her mother and an aunt, both of whom attended Rosemont, "our heroes, our ideal of what we wanted when we were grown."

But growing up isn't always what a child envisions.

Crowther lost her husband in a deadly military flight maneuver. At the time, she had a little boy and was pregnant with a daughter.

She heard about the accident on the radio in a shopping center. Over time, though, she persevered.

"I'm a 360-degree person," she said. "I'm interested in everything." Rosemont, she added, made her strong.

O'Callaghan said she raised a daughter, went to film school, and pursued work in journalism. Now, she enjoys being a grandmother, and has a film she wants to produce. In California, a college friend raises horses. One, she said, is due to give birth.

The plan is to name the foal Rosemont and raise it to win the Kentucky Derby.

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