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Veritas Award 1994

Excellence in Art
Mary Constantini Mathieu ‘74

A sculptured wall entitled “Creation: Man’s Many Identities launched Mary Constantini Mathieu on a career in the visual merchandising business.  The wall, created for the Campus Ministry Center at Caldwell College, was on display in Bonwit Teller’s New York City store window before installation on campus.

Today, as visual merchandising director for the Daffy’s store in New York City and New Jersey, Mary invents, designs and executes all the window props for the stores.  Displays such as golfers standing in front of a map of a golf course, women balancing on bird cages and Christmas windows with snow floating around have earned Mary praise in prestigious industry publications, including Visual Merchandising and Store Design and Views and Reviews, putting her work in the same class as Saks and Barney’s.  This coveted recognition is no small feat in the merchandising business, especially since Daffy’s is an off-price retail chain.

Mary brings a rich background to her current career.  While a fine arts candidate at Caldwell College, she received a scholarship to spend her junior year studying at the Dominican Institute of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.  She was inspired by the Renaissance feel of the city and further influenced by a teacher who guided her toward sculpting. Following her Caldwell graduation, Mary returned to Italy where she apprenticed in marble carving at the studio of Sem Ghilandaio in Pietrasanta.  A year later, she returned again to Italy and earned her M.A. in Sculpture at the Villa Schifanoia, Rosary College, on a full scholarship. Upon her return, she joined the art department at Caldwell College for six years, first as an instructors and then as chair of the department.

It was during the time Mary established a reputation as a sculptor of religious art.  She was commissioned to design and sculpt walls and altars for fourteen churches in New Jersey, Delaware and Florence, Italy.  She was also commissioned to create two walls for the River Club, a disco in New York. Although her walls are diverse enough to be installed in both churches and discos, they are similar in their classical lines and emotional impact.  The trade name on her work, “Bottega 565” also indicates her classical interests and training. In Italian, the word “Bottega” means “artist’s workshop;” 565 is the year after Michelangelo’s death.

While Mary fashions her liturgical artwork from such substances as plaster, marble and brass, a medium she favors for her wall sculptures is a urethane foam, chosen both for its insulating value when it is in place and because she can work in a studio and easily transport and install it.

Mary is interested in “creating art that is intellectually and spiritually provoking” rather than merely representational.  In her window displays, her challenge is to create something that “will bring a smile to the faces of the customers.”

Excellence in Leadership and Education
Sister Vivien Jennings O.P. ‘60

“New Horizon,” a theme for freshmen orientation at Caldwell College one year, is true to the spirit Sister Vivien Jennings, O.P. brings to every position she has held.

As Major Superior of the Sisters of Saint Dominic at Caldwell from 1969 to 1979, Sister Vivien helped guide her religious community during a time some of the most startling changes in religious life – from the change to contemporary garb, to nuns living outside of convents and pursuing careers in what once were considered non-traditional ministries.

In 1969, Sister Vivien founded Project Link, an academically-focused inner city school for seventh and eighth graders. Thirty-five years later, the Newark school is thriving.  Nine out of every ten Link students graduate from high school and attend college.

Under her gentle guidance as president, Caldwell College flourished – enrollment doubled, a library/theater addition was completed (now named Jennings Library in her honor) and new degree programs in telecommunications (undergraduate) and education (graduate) were introduced.  Characteristic of Sister Vivien’s leadership, the decision for Caldwell College to become coeducational was linked to the recognition that coeducation in the 1980s and 1990s was consistent with the mission of the college to provide a quality liberal arts education to young people of moderate means.  To make the transition effective, the college supported the needs of the new male population in non-academic areas as well, with space in the dormitory and the athletic program. Not surprisingly, male enrollment reached 40 percent in just six years.

Sister Vivien established telecommunication departments at both Caldwell College and Barry University in Miami.  She also was instrumental in the development of Caldwell College’s external degree program, an alternate degree program for adults.

A scholar as well as a leader, Sister Vivien earned her B.A. degree from Caldwell College and M.A. from Catholic University of America from the Newhouse School, Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. from Fordham University.  At the conclusion of her presidency in 1994, Sister Vivien enjoyed a research sabbatical at Oxford University. Upon her return from England, she resumed teaching in the Caldwell College English Department.

From her distinguished service in education, Sister Vivien received honorary doctorates from Providence College and Caldwell College.  She was awarded the (New Jersey) Governor’s Albert Einstein Education Award in 1989. She is listed in World Who’s Who Among American Women.  As a member of the Board of Trustees in Las Casas Fund for Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, Sister produced videos of the Native Americans’ lives and culture.

The Veritas Award honored Sister Vivien as our “Valiant Woman,” using a title of a book she authored.  In 1999, Sister Vivien was named Principal at Saint Dominic Academy in her native Jersey City, a position she still holds

Excellence as a Multi-Dimensional Catholic Woman
Elizabeth Murphy Durkin ‘80

“May the wind be always at your back and may God hold you in the palm of His Hand.” As Irish as this blessing is the heart and soul of Elizabeth Murphy Durkin.  Raised with a deep feeling for her roots and eager to share the true spirit of Ireland, Betty Durkin opened the doors of her Irish boutique, The Thatched Cottage, in Verona, which she ran until 1996.

Betty’s love of Irish culture is evident in the many hand-woven sweaters, shawls, other fabric work, brass and pewter jewelry, cutlery, dolls and Irish imports she sold.  She is quick to point out that, “we are really trying to highlight the cultural aspects and the history of Ireland and getting away from the image of green beer and leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day.”

She promoted her love of Ireland first to her seven children – five sons and two daughters – who, along with her husband, have been the true focus of her adult life.  She abandoned her college career to marry Thomas E. Durkin, Jr. and to put him through law school. As her daughter, Tish proclaims, Betty “poured all the ability, energy and intellect that a similarly gifted women today might pour herself into the family – sacrificing herself but, amazingly, never losing herself.”

When her youngest child entered school, so too, did Betty return – as a student at Caldwell College – picking up where she left off.  Still with a husband and several children at home, she earned her degree in 1980, magna cum laude. Upon graduation, she spent a year as Director of Special Events at Caldwell College.  Arranging concerts, receptions and galas was no new challenge for Betty, who thinks nothing is unusual in throwing a reception for 150 in her home, as she does regularly to celebrate with family and friends and to raise funds for her favorite charities. Betty has worked tirelessly for the Archdiocese Blind.  She also has been active in Democratic politics and served as chairlady of the Essex Fells Democratic Party.

She has long been active in Irish civic and cultural activities as well as church activities.  A bronze member of the Irish-American Cultural Institute, she has strong feelings on the goals of the group.  She has hosted children from strife-torn Northern Ireland on summer vacations to the United States through Project Children, a charity which serves children of all faiths.  She is a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Ladies Auxiliary and was president of the Rosary Society of Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church, Roseland, New Jersey.

Her commitment to others has not gone unrecognized, Betty has been honored by the Friends of Brian Boru, a charitable group named after an ancient Irish king.  The honor was particularly meaningful to Betty, as she was only the third woman, and the first woman not a nun, to be recognized.

The 2003 Newark St. Patrick’s Day Parade was dedicated to Thomas E. Durkin, Jr. family for their commitment to Irish history and culture, Betty received the Medal of St. Benedict in 1997.  Betty and Tom Durkin, who celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1999, have 15 grandchildren.