Trailblazing Gaels: Celebrating the Class of 1973 and the Legacy of Iona's First Graduating Women

In commemoration of their 50th reunion and Homecoming 2023, the Class of 1973 returned to campus to celebrate their milestone anniversary

“Once a Gael, always a Gael.” In celebration of Homecoming 2023: Alumni and Reunion Weekend, Iona University welcomed the Class of 1973 back to campus to celebrate their 50th anniversary as Iona graduates and mark their official status as members of the Golden Gaels Society (alumni who graduated 50 years ago or more).

Rooted in the mantra “Fight the Good Fight,” ’73 classmates continued to mark their Iona legacy through philanthropic support in a collective effort of raising over $440,000 toward future student experiences.

The Class of 1973 consisted of the first graduating class of women from Iona, setting the precedent for future generations of Gaels. Making up only 10 percent of the student population at the time, they entered a commuter-heavy campus in 1969. The women of the class recognize themselves as “proud, strong, and dedicated” individuals.

“To this day my Iona experiences as a member of the first class of women has shaped my life,” said Jill Matthews Stump ’73, ’88MS. “And I owe all that I am today to Iona, the Irish Christian Brothers and professors who taught me 50 years ago. From my first day on the campus as a first-generation college student, I felt accepted and even warmly embraced by both the faculty and the upperclassmen.”

In honor of the 50th anniversary, student leaders expressed their gratitude to the class in setting the framework for future generations of Iona women. Click here to watch the students' video. 

Reflecting on the Iona experience for the first female students during the earlier years, Reunion Committee member Kathleen Savolt ‘73 said: “We were the pioneers, and we answered the call. We were a strong, smart, diversely talented group of women who forged ahead. Our impact on the future women at Iona? We built the table, set it, pulled up a few chairs, and left it for those who followed.”

Women of the Class of 1973
2023 Golden Gaels Class of 1973 in front of Spellman Hall.
The parade for the class of 1973.

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of more than 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona students enjoy small class sizes, engaged professors and a wide array of academic programs across the School of Arts & Science; LaPenta School of Business; NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences; and Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Iona is widely recognized in prestigious rankings, including The Princeton Review’s 2024 national list of “The Best 389 Colleges” and The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s “2024 Best Colleges in America,” which ranked Iona at #66 in the nation overall and #8 in the nation among Catholic schools. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is also accredited by AACSB International, a recognition awarded to just six percent of business schools worldwide. In addition, The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona also offers a fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, which is now principally located on Iona’s Bronxville campus in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian. Connecting to its Irish heritage, the University also recently announced it is expanding abroad with a new campus in County Mayo, Ireland. A school on the rise, Iona officially changed its status from College to University on July 1, 2022, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.