An Owl-standing family tradition

Three generations of Temple Owls have made the North Broad campus their home over the years. And the legacy continues today.

Throughout Temple’s 125-year span of academic excellence and achievements, there have been 260,000 alumni. Though professors have come and gone, and students have graduated, certain legacies continue to thrive.
The family tradition at Temple runs deep, especially for the Hennessys.

Since 1942, there are 15 Hennessy descendants who have graduated or are currently attending the university. The matriarch of this genealogic cluster is Mary-Jane Carson Hennessy, who attended Temple in 1942.

William Dougherty, a music composition major, chats with cousins Colleen Sullivan, a biology major and Peter Strahs, a mechanical engineering major. The three juniors are part of the Hennessy family legacy at Temple (Julia Wilkinson/TTN).

Her seven daughters, Kathleen, Rosemary, Christine, Claire, Patricia, Anne and Barbara, graduated from various schools and colleges within the university.

Kathleen, Claire and Anne married men who graduated from Temple. Claire’s daughter graduated in 2005. Kathleen, Anne and Patricia have children who are currently enrolled — Colleen, William and Peter, respectively, planning to graduate in 2010.

“They’re a trio, those three,” Hennessy said about her grandchildren. “I went to Temple back in the dark ages, ‘42 to‘44. It was very different from what it is today. We wore moccasins, saddle shoes and trench coats. There were no boys on the campus because they were all in the service. It was wartime.”

Hennessy was given a full scholarship of $800 and worked hard during her time at Temple.

“[Tuition] was only $200 a year. I used to carry a brown bag to the cafeteria. I couldn’t afford lunch. My mother gave me $2 for a weekly bus pass,” she said. “Scholarship kids were required to work for work-study. I worked in the president’s office and marking papers in a psychology office.”

When it came time for her daughters to attend, Hennessy was more than willing to push them toward Temple.

“I really loved Conwell’s education for kids that couldn’t really afford it, so I advised them to do it,” she said. “They all got good degrees and good educations.”

Kathleen Hennessy Sullivan fondly remembers her days at Temple. Like many Temple students, she was a commuter.
“I had quite a travel to go to school and then go to work,” she said.

Sullivan said the university has undergone many changes since she’s attended.

“Curtis [Hall] is gone now, security is better. I’m delighted to see all the beautiful things that have happened to Temple since I left. It’s such a different place now.”

When it was time for her daughter, Colleen Sullivan, to choose a school, she did not pressure her.

“I wanted the choice to be hers,” Sullivan said. “I told my daughter, ‘This is a place where there are acres of diamonds, you just have to go digging.’”

Colleen felt no pressure from Mom.

“I ended up choosing Temple just because it was close to home, and coming here during visits and stuff, I thought that I could really see myself here,” the junior biology major said.

Colleen’s experience at Temple has been filled with activities. She is a member of Delta Zeta sorority, a resident assistant and part of the Honors Program.

The seven Hennessy sisters — Kathleen, Rosemary, Christine, Claire, Patricia, Anne and Barbara — gather for a family portrait (Courtesy Hennessy family).

“I really do enjoy going to a school with over 25,000 students,” she said. “I like the diversity, and I’ve really met people here that I’m great friends with who are extremely different than I am. If you have a personality where you’re a go-getter and you go after what you want and make the most of your experience, it’s a plus. I know I’ll graduate extremely happy that I came to Temple.”

Colleen’s cousin, William Dougherty, is a junior music major. Like Colleen, he too is a resident assistant who helps new students learn the ropes.

“I’m kind of like their door to the university,” Dougherty said. “If they have any questions about anything, I’m their liaison. I’m very connected to campus events.”

Colleen’s and Dougherty’s third cousin, Peter Strahs, is a junior mechanical engineering major and president of the Ultimate Frisbee Club.

“Right now, I’m going for a five-year master’s, and when I get out, I’ll want to work in green energy technology. [I’m] currently doing research on fuel cells, so when I get out, I’ll have a job, hopefully,” Strahs said.

The Temple experience has been full for this third generation bloodline, and they are all making the most of their time on campus.

Marilyn S. D’Angelo can be reached at

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