Student Exhibits Honor Marymount History During its 65th Anniversary Year

Apasrin Suvanasai didn’t know much about the early days of Marymount University until she took a course in public history. That’s when she and three other students created an exhibit about their school’s founding sisters, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, as part of a class project to celebrate Marymount’s 65th anniversary.

“They were amazing women,” said Suvanasai, a senior from Arlington. “By coincidence we were a group of women, and it was such an inspiration for us to learn how they dedicated their lives to the community and school.”

Suvanasai marveled at how Marymount, founded in 1950 with 13 students, has grown from a two-year college for women into a coeducational university serving approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students.

The public can learn about the school’s origins from “The Founding Sisters,” an exhibit designed and curated by Suvanasai, Emma Enkhsaikhan, Dalia Faris and Amy Lawton. It’s on display through the end of March at the Arlington Historical Museum, 1805 South Arlington Ridge Road. The museum is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. One of three planned exhibits that shows how integral Marymount has been to the Arlington community, it features information on the founders, photos and artifacts.

The displays were created by students of Dr. Mark Benbow, who teaches Introduction to Public History at Marymount and is the museum’s director.

“It was very rewarding to see how much they got into the work and how much research they did,” Benbow said, noting that the students went through archives and also interviewed retired sisters for the project.

“What’s most interesting to me is tying the things you’re learning about the past into what’s happening today,” said Suvanasai, a history major who plans to attend graduate school to become a teacher.

“I really appreciate the fact that Dr. Benbow made this assignment,” she added. “It’s a lot of work for the students, but to make an exhibit and then have it in a museum is an experience I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

The other displays are scheduled for the spring and summer.

• “The Admiral’s Main House” highlights Admiral Presley Marion Rixey, surgeon general to the Navy and personal physician to presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. His property became what is now Marymount University, and his home is the university’s Main House. Designed by Sarah Campbell, Kelsey Christian, Colleen Haggerty and Tyler Roth, it opens in April and will run into June.

• “Farewell to Big Blue U” explains the history of the Ballston Building, also known as Big Blue U or The Blue Goose, which will be replaced with new Marymount Ballston Campus buildings. The display explains how elements of the landmark’s unique features will be incorporated in the new buildings’ design. The exhibit was developed by Basil Al-Qaneh, Vernell Tanner, Derek Anzalone, William Baroz and Jason Moskel. It opens in July and will run through August.

From left, Marymount University student Apasrin Suvanasai, Dr. Mark Benbow and studen Emma Enkhsaikhan stand in front of the exhibit, “The Founding Sisters.” The display is open to the public through the end of March at the Arlington Historical Society’s museum, 1805 South Arlington Ridge Road.