Sixty Years and Counting

sixty11History Comes Alive

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the San Diego College for Women, now the University of San Diego. The school was envisioned by Bishop Charles Francis Buddy, the first bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, and Reverend Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Their dream was to bring higher education with a Catholic perspective to San Diego.

To capture a more intimate portrait of these two founding members and the beginnings of the university, we glimpse history through oral interviews. The following stories were collected from individuals who were present during the founding of the University 60 years ago.

An Endearing Bishop

Bishop Buddy started the groundwork on creating a college shortly after arriving in San Diego in February of 1937. It was to be the type of institution described and promoted by Pope Pius XI: a school of liberal arts with Catholic theology and philosophy as its foundation. The Bishop’s grace and gentle demeanor seems to have assisted him in his success; praise for Bishop Buddy abounds. A reporter for the San Diego Union once wrote, “The gift of oratory, the ready wit and perpetual smile of Bishop Buddy endears him to all.”

Mother Agnes Murphy, RSCJ, who worked for the school from its inception until her retirement in 1977, recognized and noted the generosity and humbleness of the Bishop, “Bishop Buddy was a great friend to us all. (He) was an outstanding man, a man of God, a man of terrific compassion for the poor. I was dealing with a young woman who was very, very poor. Suddenly, I found out he was giving her $20 a month, which back then wasn’t a small sum, just to take care of herself and her kids — she was divorced.”

One Great Man

Irving Parker, who came to the College for Men in the early 1950s to work as secretary and administrator for the newly approved G.I. Bill program, acknowledged the Bishop’s eminence when he said, “I have known three great men in my lifetime … Bishop Buddy is certainly one of those three. And he may, in many ways, be the greatest of the three … His foresight and drive, his personality, he was indeed in the fullest sense of the word a founding bishop … I suppose his personality is marked by one of his famous phrases that he reiterated so often: there are two words this diocese doesn’t know: can’t and won’t.’”

A Warm, Genial Person

Sister Margaret Guest, noting what she believed were his modest and unassuming traits, said “Oh he was a nice man. (He was) very fatherly, very warm, friendly, tremendously interested in everything. Everyone would think the Bishop was the one who lays down the law; which of course was never true, ever. He never interfered with anything except as he could assist. But he was a very, very warm genial person. We used to have him over for formals, semi-demi-quasi affairs at Christmas time. In the very beginning we had the students pay their respects to the Bishop on certain occasions. We’d have him stay in the theater or one of the large rooms and have the students greet him and address best wishes for peace on his day.”

Energy and Drive

In Burt J. Boudoin’s Fortress on the Hill, the author notes that “(Bishop) Buddy manifested a deep respect toward nuns and a natural ease in his dealing with women in general.”

In his wisdom, Bishop Buddy sought out Reverend Mother Hill of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to assist him carry his vision of a school to fruition. In her Order, education represented the primary apostolate of the society. In Mother Hill, the Bishop found an agent with energy, drive and fortitude; yet with a gentle demeanor that matched his own. “This was a dream, this university,” recalled Guest. “[Mother Hill] was a very sweet gentle person with a hand of fire. Her determination always came through but with her sweet manner. She commanded people very well, but not with any ulterior design, except she got a great deal through her sweet manner. So she thought of this place for a long time and Bishop Buddy came and asked her if she could spare some nuns to open a college in his diocese … He was up visiting in San Francisco, she was up on the mountain at the college there, at the San Francisco College for Women … So it was a number of years before they found this (Linda Vista property). And Bishop Buddy bought the whole thing, the whole mesa here and asked Mother Hill to select what she wanted.”

— Commentary and oral history research by Matthew Nye. Special thanks to USD archivist Diane Maher.

Tell us your story …

We welcome stories from all of those who’ve been involved with the University of San Diego over the past 60 years. Send your own story or photo to: Editor, USD Magazine, 5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, CA 92110. E-mail:

60th Anniversary Calendar
Myriad campus celebrations will take place throughout this 60th anniversary year.