–By Colleen Brennan
On May 5th, 2018, members of the Caldwell University community mourned the loss of Sister Vivien Jennings, O.P., who served as President of Caldwell College from 1984 to 1994. She was born in Jersey City to parents Eugene and Mary Alice, and had five sisters: Alice White, Eugenia Smith, Marion Sheridan, Marjorie Menz, and Harriet Jennings, all of whom she was predeceased by. On September 8th, 1952, she entered the Sisters of St. Dominic, received the Dominican habit on June 27th, 1953, made her first profession on June 28th, 1954, and made her final profession on June 28th, 1960.
Majoring in English, Sister Vivien earned her bachelor’s degree from Caldwell College, and went on to earn her master’s in English from Catholic University, her master’s degree in communications from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. in English from Fordham. After receiving her Ph.D., Sister Vivien also attended Oxford University, the Harvard School of Education, as well as Colombia Teacher’s College and earned various degrees in education, English, and finance from these institutions. She faithfully served as a Dominican sister of Caldwell for sixty-six years.
Sister Vivien held various positions throughout her life, which include elementary school teacher at six schools across New Jersey, secondary school teacher at Lacordaire Academy in Upper Montclair, NJ, English professor at Caldwell College, and Sister Superior of the Caldwell Dominican Order from 1969 to 1979. She was the founder of the Link Educational Center in Newark, NJ and president of the Dominican Leadership Conference in 1978 and 1979. In addition to these titles, Sister Vivien served as the education director at Caldwell College from 1980 to 1982, telecommunications director at Barry University from 1982 to 1983, and public affairs director at Catholic Telecommunications Network in New York City from 1983 to 1984. She was an incredibly industrious woman, inspiring countless students and members of various communities to live with compassion, ever in the pursuit of education.
During her time as president of Caldwell College, several changes were made to the university that continue to positively impact our community. She was president when, in 1985, Caldwell College transformed from a strictly female institution to a co-educational college. She also aided in expanding intercollegiate athletics and introduced the Fanjeaux study-abroad program to the campus, which is still offered today and enables students to explore the Catholic-Dominican tradition on which the school is grounded.
In the last two years of her life, she worked with Caldwell University’s undergraduate English students, Abigail Wortman and Colleen Brennan on a book-length study of the sociological problems currently impacting the globe. The completion and publishing of this final work with the title From Worry, to Mercy, to Hope has been undertaken by one of Sister Vivien’s nieces, who was also a Caldwell University graduate.
Sister Vivien will always be remembered fondly by the Caldwell University community as her works and accomplishments, and memories of her compassionate, driven spirit enable her memory to live on.