U.S. Representative Larry Bucshon recognized the 40–year milestone of the Woods Online program of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Washington, D.C. Bucshon read the congratulatory message on the floor of Congress on Thursday, June 13, 2013.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) was the second college in the nation to offer a distance bachelor’s program. In 1973, then president Jeanne Knoerle, SP, ’49, founded the distance program, Women’s External Degree (WED), as a higher education option for women who were putting in solid hours of work, while also raising children and caring for their families. She said at a recent celebration on campus, “I believed in my heart that women’s colleges offered an education to women that was uniquely valuable. I’d been thinking for some time about alternate ways that SMWC could offer a college degree to anyone – man or woman – without the college itself becoming coed.”
In 2005, WED became coed and today it is known as Woods Online. Today, the College has more than 800 distance students from 33 states and all across the globe, including England, Greece, Hong Kong and Jamaica. The Indianapolis Business Journal recognized SMWC in August 2012 as having one of the largest online degree programs in the state of Indiana.
Ironically, Knoerle died four days (June 10, 2013) before Bucshon shared with Congress about the 40th Anniversary of Woods Online.
President of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Dottie L. King, Ph.D. said, “As Providence would have it, I received a video today of Congressman Larry Bucshon reading a congratulatory announcement of 40-years of distance education to the Congress in Washington D.C. In it, he mentions Sister Jeanne for bringing her bold vision to create a program, which was both cutting edge and forward thinking at a pivotal time in the history of The Woods. How fitting it is to be hearing her name read on the floor of Congress this week as we celebrate her life and legacy.”
Bucshon’s message has become a part of a yearlong celebration by the College of Woods Online. SMWC held an official reception on campus in May where Mayor Duke Bennett of Terre Haute read a proclamation from the city at the event. President Dottie King, Co-Chancellor Jeanne Knoerle, SP, Director of Woods Online Gwen Hagemeyer, and Tuesday Strong, a graduate of the program all spoke on the uniqueness of Woods Online in higher education.
Strong summed up the essence of the program. “Little did I know when I began the program that being able to continue my education while working full-time and being supported by the faculty and staff, that this would be life-changing for me. It inspired me to believe in myself and empowered me to continue my education.”