December 01, 2021
’23 & Me: The Friar legacy of Isabella Corey ’23
By Vicki-Ann Downing ’21G
When Isabella Corey ’23 arrived at Providence College in 2019, she decorated her room in McVinney Hall with a gift from her grandmother. It was a PC pennant that had belonged to her great-great uncle, Rev. Matthew Leo Carolan, O.P. ’23, a member of PC’s first four-year graduating class in 1923.
Visitors who saw it often asked Corey, “Did you get that at the bookstore?”
“I would tell them, ‘No, it’s 100 years old!’” Corey remembered. “I didn’t think anything of it.”
It wasn’t until she moved her belongings home to Duxbury, Mass., after the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 academic year that Corey began to think about how special the gift was.
“It was in a box I was going to put in my basement and my mother said, ‘Maybe that isn’t the safest place for that,’” Corey said.
Corey decided it was time to learn more. She researched family history with help from her maternal grandmother, the daughter of Father Carolan’s sister. She learned more about her great-great uncle through the Providence College Archives and the Dominican Archives, both located in Phillips Memorial Library.
Father Carolan was born in Boston in 1901, the second youngest of seven children, and attended Boston Latin School and Aquinas High School in Columbus, Ohio, a preparatory school run by the Dominicans. After two years as an undergraduate at PC, he studied for the priesthood in Kentucky, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. He was ordained in Washington in 1929 and furthered his education in Rome and Oxford.
Father Carolan was assigned to teach Latin at PC in 1933. In 1937, he founded the Carolan Club for residential students on what was then a commuter campus. He died on June 6, 1938, following an operation for appendicitis. The bishop of the Diocese of Providence officiated at his funeral in St. Pius Church. Among those assisting were his former PC classmates who now were diocesan priests and deacons.
“The sudden and unexpected death of this young priest marked the first toll from the among the faculty in the history of Providence College,” according to his obituary.
Students dedicated an issue of their quarterly publication, The Alembic, to Father Carolan in October 1938.
“It can be said without fear of contradiction that Father Carolan was a true friend of every student,” the dedication reads. “He spoke to all, he laughed with all, and he worked tirelessly for all even to the detriment of his own well-being. He sought to instill and awaken in the student body a stronger school spirit and by so doing he imbued all with a love of Providence College that had no bounds.
“Those of us who worked closely with him now dolefully feel the loss of his encouragements, his words of commendation, and his kind suggestions that always helped in some way enhance the glory of the college he so fervently loved.”
Corey only learned about her great-great uncle’s Friar connection when she was applying to PC. After completing her research, she decided to donate the pennant to the PC Archives so it could become a protected part of college history.
A health policy and management major, she spent the fall semester in Geneva, Switzerland, taking courses and completing a public health internship.
“My family is very proud of my uncle,” Corey said. “I will be graduating 100 years after him and I can’t help being amazed by the changes.”