Oldest Living Alumna Remembers Life in 1929

Frances McLaughlin Stauffacher JC ’31 

Oldest Living Alumna Remembers Life in 1929
by Leah Grout Garris

Frances McLaughlin Stauffacher JC ’31 is 107 years old this year—and Mount Mercy’s oldest living alumna. Over the years, she’s shared her experiences about college life long ago. She joined Mount Mercy Junior College in 1929 and was part of the second graduating class. 

Even though Stauffacher graduated 87 years ago, Mount Mercy holds a special place in her heart. For this reason, she and her late husband, George, established the George and Frances Stauffacher Endowed Scholarship in 2000, providing permanent annual scholarships for Mount Mercy students.


  • Living at home, Stauffacher walked more than a mile from the corner of 28th Street Drive SE and Second Avenue to campus twice a day (she walked home every day for lunch). Because Mount Mercy was on the outskirts of town at that time, she didn’t pass much along the way—just cornfields!

  • Her Mount Mercy coursework was made up of a variety of classes, but she remembers chemistry and exercise classes the most. Stauffacher enjoyed swimming, took life-saving courses from the American Red Cross, and participated in a five-mile swim down the Cedar River that took “all afternoon,” as she describes it. (She still has the medal she earned for participating.)

  • Mount Mercy’s dress code was strict in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and Sister Mary Xavier Reilly scolded any student who wasn’t wearing the correct navy blue dress with a white collar.
  • Mount Mercy’s exercise classes helped her after graduation. After studying two years at Coe College, she joined the American Red Cross as a recreation worker in a military hospital, stationed at Scott Air Force Base near St. Louis.

Frances McLaughlin Stauffacher JC ’31



The dress code in the early ’30s required the neck of the dress to not be lower than the base of the throat and the sleeves to reach at least the elbows.

Chemistry coursework and exercise classes were some of Frances McLaughlin Stauffacher’s JC ’31 fondest memories, represented in these early 1930s photographs.

Chemistry Lab Exercise Outside