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Meet Helene Sachs Downey '49, Mother Xavier Award Recipient

Morristown, N.J. (December 9, 2014) – Helene Sachs Downey '49 is the recipient of the 2014 Mother Xavier Award for her steadfast leadership in the alumni association and her creative methods for raising funds for student scholarships.


Founders Day honors the vision of Mother Mary Xavier Mehegan who founded the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth in 1859. A college education was not the norm for women and very few had the opportunity to attend. Mother Xavier, along with Sister Pauline Kelligar decided that higher education needed to be the norm. Thus was born the College of Saint Elizabeth with Sister Pauline as the first president.

The Sisters of Charity were remarkable women in that they were strong leaders with the courage to educate women to become full partners in a society that, at that time, did not allow them to vote. The Sisters had a deep faith in God that helped them overcome the obstacles of going against a culture that did not support women's education outside of the home. The first graduating class of the College of Saint Elizabeth received their degrees in 1903.

The Mother Xavier award is the highest honor given to an alumna who has demonstrated similar leadership qualities as the founders.

Helene graduated with a degree in home economics which led to her career as a high school teacher for many years. She also became involved with the alumni association, keeping her fellow alumnae connected to the college and to each other.

She became president of the CSE Alumni Association, the Essex County and the Monmouth/Ocean Chapter of the Alumni Association. Under her leadership, the Monmouth Ocean chapter has raised more than $115,000 for student scholarships.

College President Helen Streubert fondly spoke of the day she was invited to the Monmouth/Ocean chapter and was told to "take your walking shoes." She continued to say her visit was indeed an all-day event and she was impressed by the wonderful camaraderie of that chapter. Dr. Streubert commended Helene as having the same tenacity of Mother Xavier; that of faith, confidence, and commitment.

Sister Rosemary Moynihan S.C. '67, general superior chair of the College of Saint Elizabeth Board of Trustees offered thanks for Helene's service to the college and said the blessing for lunch.

The luncheon was attended by several members of both the Essex County and the Monmouth/Ocean chapters, many family members, Helene's friends, and members of the college alumni association. At the end of the luncheon, all were invited to enjoy the Cathedral Sounds Concert at the Holy Family Chapel.

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Founded in 1899 by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, the College of Saint Elizabeth has a strong tradition of concern for the poor, for developing leadership in a spirit of service and social responsibility, and a commitment to the promotion of women as full partners in society.

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