Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Beam, Sister Alexine Oral History


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· TOH 31 - 1 Sr. Alexine Beam
This interview is being conducted as part of the Oral History Program of the Sisters of Charity
at Seton Hill. The interviewee is Sister M. Alexine Beam. The interview is being conducted by
Sister Marie Corona Miller at Greensburg Faculty House. The date is January twenty-ninth,
nineteen eighty-seven.
SMCM: Good morning Sr. Alexine! I'm happy to be with you today to talk about your personal
history and your history as a Sister of Charity. Would you like to tell us some things?
SAB: I was born in Allegheny General Hospital on February twentieth, nineteen seven, the oldest
of three children. I have a sister, Hilda, who is thirteen months younger, and a brother, William,
who is three years younger. My father was not a Catholic, so I was raised in a semi-Catholic,
Lutheran environment. My mother ruled our religion. My father's people were definitely
Lutheran. I remember my father coming home one time with papers to become a Mason. At that
time, Masons were very hostile toward the Catholic religion. I was only about four years old, but
I remember them talking in the living room. We had a big coal fire in the living room. They
were talking so seriously. Being curious, I needed warmed up in there. He had a paper in his
hand, and he said: "Kitty, (that's what he called my mother), my brothers are all Masons, and I'd
like to join." She took the paper and she said: "George Beam, select now between me or the
Masons. You know they have no love for my religion." He walked over to the coal fire and
threw the paper in.
SAB: There was no Catholic School in Crafton at the time when we moved there. My sister,
brother, and I had to go to the public school for the frrst couple of years. St. Philip's was built in
nineteen sixteen, but my Dad died that year. I was only nine years old. My mother had three of
us to raise. My grandfather really raised us.
SMCM: Was that your father's father?
SAB No, it was my mother's father. My father's people were not very close. I wouldn't say that
they didn't love us. In those days, where there were two religions, they were diametrically
opposed to one another. His father was wonderful. He loved us, and we loved him. His mother
did not like my mother at all. There was no love lost between them. Even when my Dad died,
they didn't come down to our home. In those days, the body was brought to the home, not the
funeral home. His parents did not come the night before the funeral. I want to tell something
very interesting. I was only nine years old. My Aunt Annie came and kept house for us while
my mother was at the hospital. A call came late (couldn't determine when as there was a loud
crashing sound) that my Dad was dying, so my mother and my Aunt Annie went to the hospital,
but when they got there, he was already dead. They were going to bring his body home that
evening about four o'clock. Father Kelty came up to the house. He went up and sat beside my
mother, who was in bed, as she had been up all night. They brought Dad's body home. Father
Kelty took me by one hand and put his arm around my mother. I never forgot that man. He
stayed with her until she cried out completely.
SMCM: Was Father Kelty pastor at St. Philip's at that time?

SAB: Yes, he was.
Then we went to St. Philip's School. My mother had us transferred from the public school to St.
Philip's. I had some marvelous teachers. I had Sister Hyacinthe Ryan, who was an absolute
perfect teacher. Then there was Sister M. Adele McCullough, Sister Francis de Sales Connelly
II, Sister M. Dorothy Hess, Sister Generosa, and Sister Sara Fidelis Boyle was the eighth grade
I went to St. James High School. I switched from the Academic to Commercial. I didn't like
the Commercial Course. I went to the first day ofthe "commercial", but it was not for me. In
going home, I just stayed on the streetcar, and went all the way home to Father K elty. I told him I
didn't know what I was going to do because I didn't want Commercial work. He said to me:
"Well, are you sure you want to become a Sister?" I was surprised he even thought I was
thinking about it. So, he sent me over to Sister M. Aquinas O'Brien, who was the Sister Servant.
She took me over and talked to me. She took me to Seton Hill and I entered November first,
nineteen twenty-three. I had not finished High School, but did complete it at the Academy.
Sister Theodosia Murtha and Sister Anne Elizabeth Regan were also at the Academy. There
were others, but I've forgotten their names.
SMCM: Who entered with you?
SAB: Sister Alberta Sweeney entered with me. We got the habit on the second ofFebruary. The
following September, both ofus were sent to St. Benedict's to teach. I was very frightened, as I
was just seventeen at the time. Sister Charlotte Judge taught the sixth or eighth grade. She came
down to my classroom once or twice everyday to show me how to teach. We had on the job
training. She showed me how to teach Reading and Arithmetic.
SMCM: What grade was that?
SAB: It was First Grade. We were Novices. Sister M. Clarissa Cunningham was there too. In
those days, we walked to school.
SMCM: From Seton Hill?
SAB: Yes, from Seton Hill. We walked every day. The only time we didn't walk was ifit was
raining too hard.
SMCM: How long did it take you to walk to school?
SAB: It took about fifteen minutes, except when there was snow. Being young people, we took
our time in the snow, and ofcourse, we were wet when we got there. We did get a ride home
from school everyday.
SAB: Then I was sent to Sharpsburg.
SMCM: What was the name ofthe parish?
SAB: It was St. Joseph's Parish. I was there for a couple ofyears and was then transferred to the
old Sacred Heart down on Center Avenue. I had first grade there. Sister Mary Felix Clarey was
there. She helped in guiding me what to do in my teaching. I had some very good teachers when
I first started out. They really showed you how to do it correctly the first time.
SMCM: So, you stayed in primary?
SAB: I was in the primary department for fourteen years.
SMCM: What grade did Sr. Mary Felix have?
SAB: Sr. Mary Felix had third grade, and I had frrst. We had two frrst grades, because we had

about one hundred children. Sister Mary Hugh Bridge had one, and I had the other. I think we
had two sessions, because we had forty or fifty children at a time in each session.
SMCM: Did you have that many seats in your classroom?
SAB: No, we had to divide the class in session from nine AM until Noon, and a
second session from one PM until four PM.
Sister M. Victorine Ellsworth was Principal when I fust went to Sacred Heart. Sister Rose
Vincent McNulty replaced her. She was an excellent school woman.
Someone usually went out visiting in the evening. This particular evening, Sr. Mary Felix asked
me if I would go with her to visit a very sick child in the Highland Avenue Apartments. The
Highland Avenue Apartments face Fifth Avenue and Highland at the comer. We went in there
and were taken to what would seem like the basement, but it was really the first floor and was
very nicely arranged. The child was the daughter of the maintenance man of the apartment
complex. When we entered the apartment and saw the little girl, we realized that she was quite
ill. Sister Mary Felix said to the mother: "Do you mind ifl call Father Kennedy?" The mother
said: "No, but she isn't that sick." So, Sr. Mary Felix called Father and he came right away. The
mother told her husband that we felt Father Kennedy should come and bless her. We had their
other children, two sons in school. We asked if they had candles, which they did, but didn't have
any holy water. We sent one of the boys up to the church to get holy water. The mother took her
crucifix off her rosary and put it on the table. Father brought the Blessed Sacrament. He heard
the little girl's confession and anointed her. I heard him say to her: "Mary, when you see God,
tell him that Father Kennedy loves Him very much." Just as soon as we got in the door at the
convent, the call came that the little girl had died.
Next, I went to St. John the Baptist. Sister Aquinas O 'Brien was the Sister Servant. She was
also Principal of the High School. I don't know who was the Principal of the Grade School.
While I was there we had the nineteen thirty-six flood.
SMCM: What do you remember about the flood?
SAB: All I know is that I had an eye doctor appointment and Sister M. Alacoque McHale was
supposed to be my companion. It was in downtown Pittsburgh, but we couldn't get there because
there was too much water. By the time we got back to St. John's the electricity had been turned
off, so we didn't have any heat. Then Father Wrigley opened up what they had that were like
Quansett Huts for the High School. We brought in the children from around Butler Street
because they were :flooded. They were all Negro. We brought them in and put blankets around
them as they were without clothing. They kept them in what we called the "Ark." Sister M.
Hildebert Mudler, Sister M. Honora Steiner, and a couple of other Sisters went over and cleaned
the place. I think the Army brought in some cots. Some of the adults were there also. I believe
she said they were there for a week. There was a fire built in the place, so it was nice and warm.
Every morning a great, big sailor came to the door with a bucket of prunes. I'll never forget it.
Sr. Hildebert and Sr. Honora did the cooking. I'm going to tell you, I've never found more
courteous men than those Negro men. They would not let us pick up a broom. We had them
there for several days.
SMCM: How long did this last?
SAB: I guess it was about two or three days, maybe a week. All of the schools were closed.
There wasn't any heat. It was quite a while before the waters went down. They couldn't get into
their homes while the water was going down, because their homes were full of dirt, etc. I

remember Father brought a white man in who was very ill. Father put a screen around him
because he had pneumonia. Father Wrigley anointed him there and then had him sent up to St.
Francis H ospital. He died. After the flood was over, the people went back to their own homes
and we lost track of them.
SMCM Did the flood water destroy anything in the school?
SAB: No, the water didn't come up that high. The water came up to about the old Iron City
Brewery. Some of the parents couldn't find their children. The Sisters helped to find them.
SAB: At the end of the year, I went to Seton H ill. When the mission list was read out, I wasn't
missioned. I spent a few unholy hours as they were looking for an "Angel" for the Academy,
and I didn't want to be it. Finally, Sister Marie Cecily Chartener was chosen to be the Angel.
So, l was relieved. I met Mother Rose Genevieve in the hall and she said: "Can't you find
anywhere to go?" Go over to see Sister M. Eucharia O'Hagan and get a college schedule. I was
very fortunate in that I got my full college in at Seton Hill without interruption.
SMCM: How many years did it take you to do that?
SAB: Well, I did have some college work. I lost almost two years of work. I had to start all
over again. I was put in to science. The educational courses you had to have, I had. I graduated
in nineteen forty.
SMCM: Sister, where did you get the previous college work?
SAB: I got it at Seton Hill and by going to Saturday classes. We had to go all the way to St.
Peter's on North Side and to St. John's, Liberty Avenue.
SMCM: Sister, St. Peter's North Side, Saturday School. Was that taught by our Sisters?
SAB: No, the lay teachers from Seton Hill helped out.
SMCM: That's the frrst time I ever heard that.
SMCM: So, were your credits all from Seton Hill College?
SAB: No, after I finished my High School in the Academy, and my College work at Seton Hill, I
was sent to the University of Pittsburgh.· I received a Master's Degree in Science in nineteen
forty-three. In nineteen fifty-three, I was sent to St. Mary's Notre Dame, where I received a
Master's Degree in Theology in nineteen fifty-five. I had a National Science Fellowship to the
University of Notre Dame. I was there for three summers. Then in nineteen forty, I went to St.
James West End for eight years. I was in science from that time on.
SMCM: What kind of science?
SAB: When you started out in the parish schools, you taught all three sciences. When you.
taught Chemistry and Physics, you taught the whole works. If you didn't have enough, you also
taught Math. You had a full schedule.
At West End, Sister Irma Sullivan was there. I remember that we taught in the day time and
went out visiting in the evening after School up through Elliott and those places. Those older
Sisters really went out.. ..visiting the sick, going to the poor, etc. Very rarely were they not out
after school.
SMCM: What did you do on these visits?
SAB: Most often, she did most of the work. I was just tagging along. Sister Mary Eunice Clark
used to collect things for the people we visited. Mother Maria Benedict Monahan was Principal
at St. James High School. She was an excellent school woman and was very fair.

SAB: After my stay in the West End, I was sent to St. Luke's in Carnegie.
SMCM: Was this in the High School?
SAB: Yes, my teaching now was all in the High School. While at St. Luke's, Sister Rosalie
O'Hara, Sister Mary Reginald Farrell, and I went to Oakdale every Saturday to teach Sunday
School. We caught the eight o'clock bus on Main Street and taught until two o'clock. Every
Sunday, Sister M. Joanna Gleason and Sister Mary Helen Meyer went to Morganza.
SMCM: Where did you teach when you went to Oakdale?
SAB: It was in the church. I believe the name of it was St. Patrick's. Sister Reginald Farrell
took care of the First Communion Class. I had children from third, fourth, and fifth grade. Then
Sr. Rosalie O'Hara taught the older children. There were a couple of young women who came to
our Community from the class Sr. Rosalie taught.
SMCM: Do you remember who they are?
SAB: [Unintelligible]
After St. Luke's, I was transferred to Sacred Heart in East Liberty.
SMCM: Was this your second time back at Sacred Heart?
SAB: Yes, this time it was to be in the High School. Sister Mary Helen Meyer and I had
Biology. Sister Francina Skergan taught the Physics. Sister Mary Helen and Sister Mary
Edmund Speer taught the Chemistry.
SMCM: What year was it when you went back to Sacred Heart?
SAB: I think it was nineteen fifty-four.
SMCM: Were the Sisters living on top of the school at that time?
SAB: Yes, we were living there. It was called a Penthouse. There were fifty Sisters there.
SMCM: Who was the Sister Servant?
SAB: Sr. Rose Vincent McNulty was the Sister Servant. Sister Marion McKelvy (formerly Sr.
Marie Magdalene) was Principal of the High School, and Sister Mary Donald Cusick was
Principal of the Grade School. Both of the schools were quite large. Of course, there were just
girls in the High School.
SAB: That brings us up to when I was transferred from Sacred Heart to Greensburg Central.
That was in nineteen seventy. I have been here ever since.
SMCM: Sister, is your specialty in science, mostly biology?
SAB: Well, yes, but I have taught all three sciences. I taught them until I came to Greensburg
Central. I also taught Religion until I came here.
Sr. Alexine OH 31-1 Tape I Side 2
Sister, would you tell us something about your first year in the Community?
SAB: I entered on November first. Sr. Alberta Sweeney entered with me. We received the habit
on February second. Then the following September, we were given the black cap.We taught at
St. Benedict's as novices. In the evening, we had classes.

Sister Marita Murphy was teaching us singing. It was a hot day. There were no screens on the
windows. The next classroom was across from the novitiate, which is now the present day
Community Room at Seton Hill. The June bugs were getting in. The Sister on the end caught
the June bugs and passed them along, and we threw them out in the hall. Then we started
giggling. Sister Marita reported us to Mother Mary Francis who was the Mistress then. The next
morning, Mother Mary Francis called everybody, even we who were going to St. Benedict's. She
asked every person down the line what they were doing. We were perfectly alright until the
German Sisters began to talk in their broken English. The giggling began. Mother Mary Francis
put the whole novitiate in silence for a full day. She asked Mother Rose Genevieve to give the
other Sisters recreation during the noon and evening meals. The rest ofus had to sit in silence.
So we called it "The June Bug Retreat!"
SMCM: Sister, What did the German Sisters do?
SAB: They had classes for them. Sister Teresa Clare taught them English, Sr. Mary Felix taught
them how to read. Otherwise, they worked like we the kitchen, the scullery. They didn't
do the hallways. We had to do all ofthem. We also worked in the Infirmary. The Infirmary
was the fourth floor ofSt. Joseph's Hall. Sister Margretta Bernlohr, one ofthe German Sisters,
worked in the Infirmary.
SMCM: What was your charge as a Novice?
SAB: Mostly, I worked down in the Mens' Dining Room.
SMCM: Where was their Dining Room?
SAB: It was part ofthe kitchen, which was located on the first floor ofthe Administration
Building. I also had the Priests' Dining Room for a while. Sister Mary Leonard Bums was in
SMCM: Who were the priests at that time?
SAB: Father Sullivan was there when I first went there. After he died, Father Reeves came. Dr.
Reeves (Father) was President ofthe College while I was there.
SMCM: Sister, can you tell me who the Mother Superior and Council were when you entered?
SAB: When I first entered, Mother Mary Raymond Creed was the Mother Superior, but I entered
in November and she died the following March. The Council members were: Sister M.
Victorine Ellsworth, Sister Jane Elizabeth Smith, and Sister Rose Vincent McNulty, who was the
Assistant Mother.

SMCM: Do you remember any ofthe senior Sisters who were at Seton Hill during your
SAB: I remember the old nurse, Sister M. Justina Stevens. You didn't have to read your mail,
because she always read your cards for you. Ifshe met you in the hall, and you had received a
card, she would say: "You received a card, and they want you to know this......!" Sisters M.
Liguori and Mary Agnes Gillespie were there. Sister Francis Joseph Malloy was there too. She
was also with me at St. James in the West End.

SMCM: Who was the Infirmarian at that time?
SAB: Sister Grace Barr was in charge ofthe Infirmary. She was the only one. Ofcourse, Sister
Alberta Sweeney had full charge ofSister Marion Stephen, who required constant care as she
was so crippled. Sister M. Estelle Hensler was the senior Novice.
SMCM: Sister, where did you live as a Novice?
SAB: We were on the Fourth Floor ofthe Administration Building. First, we were on the Sixth
Floor, but there was a problem with the water. It would freeze up.
SMCM: Did you serve in the Dining Room?
SAB: The Novices always served the entire year. The older Sisters were always interested in
you. They would ask you, who you were, where you were from, etc. You never meet the young
Sisters now. You never see them. In fact, I don't even know ifthey are Sisters or not when I do
meet them. At that time, you knew the Community was one! We had lots offun. We used to go
sled riding down the main road. We borrowed the sleds which were used by the girls in the
SMCM: Were there any other Sisters in the Novitiate who had to finish their High School in the
SAB: There was another Sister, but I forget who it was.
SMCM: What did you do for recreation besides sled riding?
SAB: We had plays, I guess you would call them dumb, little things. We enjoyed each
other....did lots oflaughing. In the summer, we were near the Grotto and we could use the whole
lot to play ball or whatever. We had apple peeling sessions which were enjoyable. We peeled
vegetables for the next day.
SMCM: What did they do with the apples?
SAB: Sister Francis Joseph Malloy made applesauce. Sister had a very large vat. We took our
turns stirring it. We also picked strawberries which were down over the hill where Havey Hall
now stands. When I first entered, there was a lake down by the road. It had boats on. The
Sisters used to go out to catch frogs for the biology lab. You only went at night, because you
used a flashlight to bring them out.
When we went home in the summers we taught Sunday School. Sister Alberta. Sister Rose
Marie Schneider, I and there was a fourth person left Seton Hill at six o'clock in the morning on
Sundays. We went out to Avonmore for Mass, taught Sunday School at Avonmore, had a little
lunch there, broke up, and two went to Tintown, two to Saltzburg, and someone went to Kiski.
When I was at the college, we went out every Saturday. Sisters M. Maurice and Mary Thaddeus
McManama, Sister Helen Cecilia Dwyer and I went over to West Newton. We broke up in the
afternoon and went to a tiny place called Reduction.
SMCM: How did you travel to these places?
SAB: The Sisters didn't drive then, so someone from the parish or sometimes the priests would
come for us and bring us home. One time a man from West Newton was transporting us. When
we were returning home, another car forced us off the road. The car rolled over. We had to
crawl out the top ofthe car.
SMCM: Was anyone hurt?
SAB: No, the driver was able then to get the car righted.


SMCM: Sister, were you ever involved in teaching any ofour Sisters in the Extension Courses
which we had?
SAB: Yes, I taught in the Summer Sessions for about twenty-two years at Seton Hill. It was an
eight week course for some ofour Sisters. The courses ran from eight o'clock in the morning
until one o'clock in the afternoon.
When I was at Sacred Heart, I believe it was Sister Brigid Marie Grantley and I went to the Hill
District to teach the Negro children at the House ofMary a couple ofevenings a week. Sister
Marcella Mary Burgunder came for us. We left the dinner table in order to begin tutoring the
children at six PM for about two hours. I taught them Chemistry, and Sr. Brigid Marie taught
them English.
SMCM: Who would you say was influential in your becoming a Sister ofCharity?
SAB: I think there were two things. Remember, I told you the story ofFather Kelty being with
me when my father died. For me, the sun rose and set on my father. I believe the association I
had with Father Kelty, and just being around the Sisters greatly influenced me to become a Sister
SMCM: Would you like to make any comments on the changes in the Community?
SAB: I think we needed to change. I'm not so sure that the drastic change we have gone through
was necessary. I can't go along with Sisters saying we have a lack ofvocations because ofthe
times. The Felicians, The Daughters of St. Paul are getting them by the hundreds. Something is
missing! I don't know what it is.
SMCM: How have you been able to adjust to our new prayers?
SAB: I'm glad we changed to the Office, because it is the prayer ofthe Church. Ifthe Church
tells me to do something, I will do it, but I cannot take everyone's innovations. Some people
decide we should do this or that. I can't swallow that. When the Church tells you to do
something, do it, but not overdo it. I'm just wondering ifwe are not getting vocations because
we are not religious enough. We have to be different, and I don't think we are too different from
the secular teachers we're working with!
SAB: I retired from the actual classroom teaching at Geensburg Catholic in nineteen eighty-six.
The student body gave me a marvelous send off. They were having Honors Day, the day the
students get their awards. We don't give them on Graduation Night because it takes too long.
SAB: I remember on Graduation Night, Sister M. Germaine Helwig was beside me and when the
Procession came in, behind Father Booklighter, the Ministers at the Altar, Sr. Donna Marie
Lyden, Principal, etc., there was Bishop Connare. I said to Sr. Germaine: "What is he doing
here?" She said: "I really don't know?" Then she said: "They're talking about you. Get up
there!" I walked up. I never heard such an ovation in all my life. Everyone stood up and
clapped. Every class gave me something. I ended up with eight hundred dollars. The lay
faculty gave me a check for sixty-five dollars and my own department had a dinner for me out at
Mountain View Inn, and they gave me about sixty dollars.
Bishop Connare gave a nice talk. I said to him: "Well, I started my teaching in the Greensburg

Diocese and am ending it in the Greensburg Diocese." He said: "Sister, you started in the
Greensburg Diocese, but you're not ending it now." Right now, I have a research group of about
fifteen youngsters. I wanted to get them out of the text book into doing the actual work.
I have to take them at their own time...on their study periods, etc. The first part of the course I
taught them how to use all the apparatus....machines, spectroscope, how to take proper
measurements, etc. Now this semester, they are doing their own research because they know
how to use everything. Sister Ann lnfanger supplies them with flies.
SMCM: Does that take your whole day?
SAB: Yes, it takes my entire day. They're doing their research now. I'm teaching them the
proper way to record and be sure that things are left in order for the next person. I'm having
them write a Research Paper as it should be written by a true Research S cientist. They must be
turned in to me the first week in May.
SMCM: Do you enjoy doing this kind of work?
SAB: Yes, I do and they get a half of a credit for it. That's my day.

Tape II Side I
SMCM: This is a continuation of an interview being conducted as part of the Oral History
Program of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. The interviewee is Sister Alexine Beam. The
interview is being conducted by Sister Marie Corona Miller at the Greensburg Faculty House.
The date isJanuary twenty-ninth, nineteen eighty-S even. Good afternoon, S ister. We're at it
again. I think we're going to add some footnotes about the works that you have done in the line
of science and the recognition that has been given to you as a Teacher of the S ciences. Would
you like to share some of those with us?
SAB: The first was a Teacher's Certification from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. That
was for the outstanding Science Teacher of the state. The second was from the Biology
Teacher's Association Award.Then I had the H.J. Heinz Company,Jones and Laughlin Steel,
The Master Brewers, The Medical Society, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, The United States Air
Force, and The Analytic Chemists S ociety. I also had some publications. They were large group
discussions, which were published in "TheJournal of Catholic Education," and "The
Pennsylvania Catholic EducationalJournal." There were publications on the teaching of
Biology in "The Catholic Educator." I have made or published over eight hundred transparencies
in Biology.
SMCM: Sister, what is on these transparencies?
SAB: They cover the entire biology course. There are drawings, graphs, diagrams, various
things, etc. The public schools in Pittsburgh use these transparencies.
SMCM: Sister, in order to get these awards, what did you have to do?
SAB: The biology teachers in the state had to submit their entire academic background, their
years of teaching, what you taught, and people came and observed your teaching. They looked at
all of your work.... .like the transparencies. They went all through them.

SMCM: What about the award from the United States Air Force? How.did that come about?
SAB: Pretty much the same way. The Veterans of Foreign Wars first had a meeting. I think
Sister Mary Eudes Clougherty came to the meeting also. They gave the award to the outstanding
teacher. They sent you a list of questions to answer. You had to have people vouch for I had the Superintendent of Schools. Sister Marion McKelvy wrote on my behalf.
SMCM: Was science your choice, or were you selected for it?
SAB: I was selected for it. In those days, you didn't choose what you were going to teach.
SMCM: Do you intend to continue your work at Greensburg Central teaching research as long as
you can?
SAB: Yes, I would like to do that. I think it's better to keep going and perhaps be of some use to
SMCM: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
SAB: No, I don't think so. This group I have now are all Research Scientists. One is up in
Buffalo, New York doing cancer research. She's a graduate of Seton Hill, by the way. I have
others doing research in other places.
SMCM: Sister, thank you for giving me your time and so much wonderful, valuable information.
The Community is grateful.

Dublin Core


Beam, Sister Alexine Oral History


Sr. Alexine Beam


An oral history of Sister M. Alexine Beam, a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill from 1923 until 1999. The interview was conducted by Sister Marie Corona Miller on January 29, 1987.
Sister M. Alexine Beam - born Margaret Beam on February 20, 1907 - entered the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in November of 1923. She received a bachelor's degree in science from Seton Hill College in 1940, a master's degree in science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1943, and a master's degree in theology from Saint Mary's College in 1955. She taught science in Pittsburgh and Greensburg, serving at - among other locations - Saint James High School, Sacred Heart High School, and Greensburg Central Catholic. Some of her educational transparencies were bought and published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. She died on November 6, 1999.
S.C. (1907-1999).


Sr. Alexine Beam


Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill


Archives of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill




All rights belong to the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania.


Audio cassette tape




Oral history



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Sister Marie Corona Miller


Sister Alexine Beam


Greensburg F


Sr. Alexine Beam, “Beam, Sister Alexine Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed May 24, 2024,


Juliana (Julie) Boerio-Goates

I've just spent a delightful 20 minutes reading through this oral history of Sr. Mary Alexine (SMA).  I was one of those students she nurtured into careers as research scientists and professors. In the summer and fall of 1974 , SMA & Sr. Mary Helen Meyer (SMH), supervised me in a project about "clathrates".  Thanks to the brainchild of Sr. Donna Marie Leiden, we were on the mod schedule and I had free periods in which I could do my research. I presented at the PA Jr. Academy of Science, entered the Westinghous Science Talent Search, and the Science Fair at the Buhl Planetarium where I received several awards. I went on to get a BA in chemistry from Seton Hill (Sr. M. Leon Bettwy, Sr. Mary Ann Winters & Sr. Miriam Grace Solomon were Chem professors) then a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Michigan, with post-docs at Argonne National Lab & UofM.

In 1982, I was hired, one of a few Catholic faculty, at Brigham Young University where I served for 33 years, with sabbaticals at MIT & Oxford. In 2005, I was named the Outstanding Faculy Member recognized for my love of teaching, research and academic service. In my address to the University, I rememberd these Sisters of Charity as major influencers in my life.

SMA nominated me for the Outstanding Alumni award at Gbg Central Catholic HS & I was honored to receive it. I retired from BYU early to work at my Catholic parish, where my technical skills enabled me to help the parish build a new church.  I'm now fully retired, a wife of 46 years, mother of two and grandmother of three, revelling in the luxury of having free time to free roam the internet, which is how I came to explore this site. 

I was happy to see that some of SMA's quiet humor came through in the interview.  She had a mischevious smile that would flash across her face before she delivered some wry observation.  While mention is made of her transparenies, I believe that she held a patent for developing the technology to produce them.  It's amazing to realize that she came to teach and excel at science as a result of faithful obedience to her superiors and not from an original preference.  I loved her dearly. 

I continued to visit with SMH in the years after SMA's passing. They had been close friends. When SMH died, I flew out from Utah to be there for her funeral. I see Sr. Mary Ann Winters whenever I return to western PA. Attending Mass with her in the Chapel at Caritas is like coming home for me.

The Community of Sisters from Seton Hill (which also included 3 great-aunts of mine) were instrumental in shaping my faith in a post-VII church. The encouragements from them in high school and college gave me the confidence to go farther than that scared high school student from Mechesneytown, PA could have ever dreamed of.  I am grateful to them for their vision, courage and wisdom. I am especially grateful for their unwaivering dedication to their students. 


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