When Dr. Allen Carl Larson joined the music faculty of then Webster College in 1973, he discovered a treasure trove of historical correspondence concerning the funding of the Loretto-Hilton Center which opened in 1966. Letters exchanged between the famous hotelier Conrad Hilton, the college president Sr. Francetta Barberis, and the vice-president Sr. Jacqueline Grennan provide unique insight into their friendship and the growth of Webster College in the 1960s. Years later, Dr. Larson would publish a book on his discovery and donate the collection to the Webster University Archives.
Allen Carl Larson Collection of Conrad N. Hilton and Sisters of Loretto Correspondence
Webster University Archives, St. Louis, Missouri
Allen Carl Larson
Dr. Allen Larson joined the music faculty of Webster College as it was then called in 1973. As he was moving into a house on campus upon his arrival, he found some file folders in a pile of trash. The materials that he rescued turned out to include correspondence pertaining to the funding of the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts which opened in 1966. Most of the letters were by Sister Mary Francetta Barberis (1900–1984), president of Webster College from 1958–1965; Sister Jacqueline Grennan (1926–2012), vice-president and later president from 1965–1969; and Conrad Nicholson Hilton (1887–1979), the well-known hotelier.
Conrad Hilton was familiar with the religious order having been taught by the Sisters of Loretto as a boy in New Mexico. Later he became acquainted with Sister Francetta when she was in charge of the Loretto Academy in El Paso, Texas and helped her fund a building project on that campus. When Sister Francetta came to Webster in 1958 and began making plans for a fine arts complex, she and Sister Jacqueline convinced Hilton to donate most of the funding for the Loretto-Hilton Center.
Allen Carl Larson, Professor Emeritus of Webster University, led the Webster Symphony Orchestra for 36 years. Upon his retirement from the university in 2009, he began work on a book which would chronicle his discovery of the correspondence and include selections of the letters. In 2019, he published The Sisters Backstage: A Story of Faith, Perseverance, & the Loretto-Hilton Theatre.
Items in the Allen Carl Larson Collection were created between 1958 and 1963. The collection consists mostly of letters, the majority of which are between Sister Mary Francetta Barberis, Sister Jacqueline Grennan, and Conrad N. Hilton. The collection’s focus is on the funding of various projects at Webster College (now called Webster University) and the relationships and personal lives of the correspondents. There is also some discussion of events of the time, including the Waldorf Hotel Strike of 1962.
Correspondence is arranged in chronological order.
F1. Correspondence 1958–1961
F2. Correspondence 1962
F3. Correspondence 1963
F4. [Sr. Jacqueline Grennan’s narrative of a fundraising trip to New York City May 12–16, 1962.]
The collection is open for research use.
Copyright restrictions may apply.
Materials entirely in English.
Donated original news clippings were on unrelated topics and were either discarded or added to other record groups. The three photographs in the donation were not retained as they were duplicates of images already in the university’s general photograph collection.
The following sources provide additional information on the Loretto-Hilton Center and Sister Jacqueline Grennan (later known as Jacqueline Grennan Wexler).
Gift from Allen Larson, December 3, 2019