In 1868 the Sisters of Saint Mary of the Springs, a Dominican Order of Catholic Sisters, moved from Sommerset to Columbus, Ohio. A benefactor had donated land to the sisters in the hope that they would build a Catholic School in Columbus and educate his five daughters. Work was immediately begun on the new school, which opened in 1871. While donations and other funds had been sufficient to pay for the building, the sisters had to borrow $10,000 at 8% interest to furnish the new academy.
Almost immediately upon opening, the new academy faced an income shortfall and was unable to make loan payments. As the bank prepared to foreclose, the sisters prayed to St. Dominic, for help in the form of “hard money.”
The winter of 1871 was brutal and central Ohio lay under a blanket of snow. One evening a terrible blizzard pushed into the area making travel difficult. It was on the worst night of the blizzard that a dark, horse-drawn sleigh made its way up the gravel road leading into Saint Mary of the Springs Academy and stopped at the front door. A well-dressed man and woman stepped out of the coach, walked up the snow-covered steps, and pounded on the two large wooden doors demarking the entrance to the Academy. Two sisters responded and invited the strangers inside. The visitors explained that they had come to inquire about enrolling their two daughters in the Academy. Since they expected to travel abroad, they offered to make cash payment for a year’s board, tuition, and other expenses. The sisters accepted the daughters on the spot, knowing that these funds would be sufficient to cover past due bank payments and prevent foreclosure on the Academy. Documents were completed and the sisters were paid. This was happy ending to a dire situation. The academy became current with the bank, enrollment increased shortly thereafter, and the Academy was safely on its way.
However, as you might have guessed, there is more to the story. The two daughters who were to arrive at the school in January never materialized. Furthermore, all attempts to contact the parents proved futile. It seems that their address did not exist and no one in their hometown knew them. Even more interesting; on that fateful snowy night; the one that saved the Academy from financial ruin, none of the local livery stables recall providing services to the coach or its occupants. It was as if they had come from nowhere and departed to the same.
Saint Mary’s Academy has evolved over time and is now known as Ohio Dominican University. The institution has endured a number of financial crises during its life, but has always found a way to thrive. It seems ODU enjoys its own set of…. Guardian Angels.
About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them. College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .