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Male Saint Mary’s College worker pursues degree

Lou Morales poses as King Arthur during a Round Table dinner with his classmates from Rosalind Clark's Arthurian Literature class in 2008.

By Liz Harter

Article Published May 11, 2009, South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — A year ago, Lou Morales was looking to see which colleges he could transfer his Saint Mary’s College credits to. This year, he’s looking at the Saint Mary’s freshmen as his potential classmates.

Morales, a 53-year-old building attendant at the college, has been taking advantage of one of the college’s employee benefits.

As an employee, he is allowed to enroll in one class each semester for free. So far, Morales has taken six courses for a total of 19 credit hours at the college.

He has been working toward a degree in English literature, but because of the women’s college’s policy of not allowing men to graduate, Morales expected to have to transfer his credits to a different college to receive a diploma.

He doesn’t have to anymore, though. Last December, after Morales sat down with college President Carol Ann Mooney and Vice President and Dean of Faculty Patricia Fleming to plead his case, they gave him good news.

“I thought that I would give my argument and she would say, ‘well that’s a great argument and everything, but … ‘ but that’s not how it went,” Morales says.

Instead, Mooney told him he could become a degree-seeking student.

“He’s a serious student and he loves being a student here,” Mooney says. “I just can’t see any downside to it.”

Easy Decision

She says the decision to grant Morales degree-seeking status was fairly easy, even though there were a few administrators who were hesitant.

“They were thinking, if we admit one man then we lose our status as a women’s college,” she says, which she doesn’t think is the case.

Mooney adds that Morales will not be the first male to receive a degree from Saint Mary’s. A few men graduated from the Graduate School of Sacred Theology with master’s and doctoral degrees when the program was in place in the 1940s through the 1960s, she says.

She says she knows there may be some people who don’t think the college should allow Morales to receive a degree, but “I think it’s just fine.”

Morales says he expects to graduate in 2012 or 2013, after adding the credits he has already taken at Saint Mary’s to the credits he received attending Indiana University South Bend in the 1970s. The news was a relief to Morales.

“It really does work out best for me and everybody else,” he said. “If I were to try to graduate from Holy Cross (College), I’d have to find courses over there at a time convenient for me.”

He says he’s been lucky to find classes this year that start after he gets off work at 3 p.m., but he might not be that lucky at another college.

“If I don’t find classes after when I work, I have to come in an hour and a half early,” he says.

Lots of juggling

Finding classes that fit his schedule isn’t his only problem, though. He also has to find time to do his homework while working eight hours every day.

This semester, he took “RLST 236: Faith in Action” on Tuesday and Thursday, which Morales says is ideal, even though it’s still hard to do the work.

“It’s not hard on the weekends, when I have a lot of time between Thursday’s class and Tuesday’s, but between Tuesday and Thursday it’s hard,” he says.

He reads ahead as much as he can on the weekend, which helps, but he also has to work around special events on campus that he has to clean for, setting aside time for himself and trying to find time to spend with his girlfriend. Somehow, though, he manages to get everything done, and he says he gets good grades while doing so — a 3.78 or 3.79 grade point average.

Alert, attentive

He’s impressed his professors and classmates with his dedication.

“Lou goes one step beyond being a good student,” says English professor Ted Billy. “He’s always alert and attentive to the needs of his classmates.”

Kurt Buhring, assistant professor of religious studies and Morales’ current professor, agrees. “Academically, Lou is an enthusiastic, generous and intelligent class participant who adds a unique and enlightening perspective for us in regard to (the issues we talk about in class),” he says.

His classmates, freshman Alexis Hiner from Indianapolis, echoed Buhring’s thoughts.

“He offers perspectives we wouldn’t think of as women in our late teens and early 20s,” she says. “He can provide examples from years past and has real-life experiences to supplement the material.”

While the atmosphere of the classroom at the beginning of the semester was a little strained adding a man into the mix, Hiner says, Morales has become just another classmate.

“At first it was hard to get used to him there and we didn’t talk to him much and he didn’t talk to us much,” she says. “Now it’s just normal for him to be there.”

Morales says he thinks he fits in well. He keeps in touch with a few of his former classmates on the popular social-networking Web site Facebook.

“Every year, I meet more people and make a few friends in each class,” he says.

He’s just glad he’ll be able to call those friends his fellow alumnae.

“I have friends here and I think it would be nice to graduate from the same school. I just never expected it,” he says.

Post By Liz Harter (70 Posts)

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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About the Author

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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