Women’s History at LMU: Spotlight on Dr. Renée Harrangue

By Amanda Herring, assistant professor of art and art history, and Alejandra Alarcon, research communications coordinator at the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles

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Donald Merrifield, S.J., and Renee Harrangue, Hannon Library Dept. of Archives and Special Collections

When Loyola University and Marymount College merged in 1973, there was only one woman on the merger committee, Renée Harrangue, Ph.D, who was then academic vice president of Marymount College. Her contributions to the university, especially during the merger, have shaped the institution that LMU is today. For our column this week, we want to spotlight Harrangue as one of the many women who have contributed to LMU during its history.

Most of Harrangue’s academic career has been formed by and dedicated to Marymount College and later, Loyola Marymount University. There are few roles at LMU that she has not filled. She first came to Marymount as an undergraduate, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1958. After joining the Relgious of the Sacred Heart of Mary and earning an M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from the Catholic University of America, she returned to Marymount to teach psychology and serve as chair of the department. She was appointed vice president of Marymount during the period of integration between of Loyola and Marymount, 1968-73, overseeing the academic aspects of the alliance. After the merger was finalized, she served as the first provost of LMU. She then served as a regent between 1982 and 1991 and then as a member of the Campaign Steering Committee from 2002 to 2008.

When the LMU merger was finalized in 1973, Loyola and Marymount had occupied the same campus for five years since 1968, but maintained their status as two individual institutions. The alliance between the two institutions was engineered by their presidents, Sister Raymunde McKay and Father Charles Casassa, and Marymount moved from its campus in Palos Verdes to the Loyola campus in Westchester. Yet, due to opposition from the cardinal to coeducation, the alliance was designated as co-institutional rather than coeducational. Students lived on the same campus and many enrolled in classes offered by the other institution, but Loyola and Marymount maintained separate administrations. Gradually, however, the two institutions grew together, and a merger became the best course of action.

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John Clark, Renee Harrangue, and Donald Merrifield at Alpha Sigma Nu event, Hannon Library Dept. of Archives and Special Collections

Such a merger was unprecedented; the union of Loyola University and Marymount College was the first merger of two academic colleges in the United States. The presidents of the colleges were excluded from the merger committee and neither Father Donald Merrifield, who had become president of Loyola in 1969, nor Sister McKay participated in the final negotiations. Instead, the six-person committee was filled by three representatives of Loyola and three of Marymount. Harrangue, as the only sister on the committee, was the ultimate advocate for preserving the Marymount tradition in the university. Despite the uncharted ground they walked, the negotiations were concluded, for the most part, peacefully, and the committee was able to create the merger without the loss of jobs. The most contentious part of the discussions, however, focused on the name for the new university. Despite pressure to remove Marymount from the name, Sister McKay and the Marymount sisters felt strongly that the contribution of the sisters and the female Marymount students to the university should be recognized in the name. It was Harrangue’s duty to act as their representative and fight for this recognition. Sister McKay encouraged her to stay strong, asking her to go in and let the committee know that, “No Marymount, no merger!” Harrangue and the proponents of Marymount prevailed, and the new name, Loyola Marymount University, was unveiled in February 1973.

Sister McKay stepped down as president once the merger was completed, leaving the job of safekeeping the Marymount tradition and fighting for female students to the leadership of Harrangue. As the first provost of LMU under Father Merrifield, who stayed on as president, Harrangue held the position for ten years. During her tenure, she was responsible for ensuring equal access to resources and equal opportunities for women and men on the LMU campus. She also continually advocated for a visible presence of the Marymount tradition, and was instrumental in the foundation of the Marymount Center.

Harrangue’s commitment to supporting women, not only during their time at LMU but beyond, can be seen in a 1980 article that she published in Education Horizons titled “Coping: An Overview.” It addresses the challenges facing women as they enter the workforce and battle against entrenched resistance to women gaining positions of influence and power. She offers advice for professional women as they balance the demands of work and home life. Her closing remarks from the article seem a fitting end for a profile on her contribution to LMU.

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Renee Harrangue and student at commencement, Hannon Library Dept of Archives and Special Collections

“With time, with the respect and openness that men and women will have for one another and for all the interchangeable roles and tasks that make up human experience, women will be able to function not as cold sculptured beings who merely survive, but as full warm human beings with arms able to embrace, if desired, all jobs, all roles, all positions, all responsibilities and challenges as good and appropriate” (133)


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