Elizabeth Vitell, Interview with Melissa Newman, 2022


Elizabeth Vitell (Photograph provided by interviewer)

Interview Transcript


Elizabeth Vitell, Interview with Melissa Newman, 2022


Elizabeth Vitell shares her unique background of growing up in Ithaca, New York then moving to Chile with her parents as a teenager and marrying someone her mom set her up with. She recounts all the moving she and her husband, Carlos, did before settling in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. From there, she made it to Mundelein after starting off at Harper Community College. After having lived in Chile for years, Liz wanted to formalize her Spanish knowledge by majoring in Spanish. She remembers taking classes with Denis Heyck and Sister Kateri O’Shea, who were wonderful and supportive. A particularly memorable class was Sister Kateri’s seminar on Don Quixote, which they read in the original old Spanish. In this class, Liz developed a bond with Sister Kateri and they used their class time to talk about more than just Don Quixote. Liz explains how important this support was to her when Carlos was diagnosed with and died of Leukemia. She remembers everyone at Mundelein being incredibly supportive during this difficult time. Liz also talks about her memories of her graduation ceremony in 1985.

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Date Created

February 10, 2022


Elizabeth Vitell was born in Ithaca, New York when her dad was in graduate school at Cornell University. When she was a teenager, her family moved to Chile and she finished high school via correspondence. She worked as a bilingual secretary and met her husband Carlos by being set up by her mother and his sister. There was a lot of national turmoil in Chile in the 1970s while Liz was there and her husband worked for the government that ended up being overthrown in a coup d'état, so they moved to California where her husband began attended graduate school. They ended up moving back to Chile for her husband’s job but came back to America in the Chicagoland area for another job of his.

Elizabeth Vitell majored in Spanish and graduated from Mundelein in 1985. She transferred from Harper Community College to Mundelein College after meeting a Mundelein representative at a fair Harper hosted for four-year institutions. Liz was married with two children and living in Hoffman Estates at the time, so she was commuting to Mundelein in her mid to late twenties. Balancing her family and school-work meant she only spent time on campus to attend class and do homework, so she did not have time to participate in extra curricular activities at Mundelein. Then, her husband died from leukemia in 1984, adding an extra burden of grief and responsibility. However, the Mundelein administration was very supportive and accommodating, making it possible to take a semester off and return after his death with no interruption in her scholarships and grants. A Mundelein staff member also helped Liz get a job at Rosary College (now Trinity College) in the admissions department, which allowed her to support her children after her husband passed. Despite the difficulties Liz experienced at that time in her life, she always saw Mundelein and the nuns that taught her as a wonderfully supportive, kind and impressive.

Interviewer Biography

Melissa Newman was a graduate student at Loyola University Chicago and a graduate assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives in 2020-2022.

Time Log

[0:00 - 5:00]: Introductions, family history, and how she ended up at Mundelein.

[5:00 - 10:00]: How she met her husband, moving around from California to Chicago, how she picked her major, and the Spanish department at Mundelein.

[10:00 - 15:00]: Being the only student in one class and building a relationship with the professor.

[15:00 - 20:00]: Mundelein working with her to keep her scholarships and place when she needed to be absent for her sick husband and getting a job at Rosary College.

[20:00 - 25:00]: Commuting as a mother and wife, doing homework between classes, and being aware of student activities and organizations.

[25:00 - 30:00]: Experience at an all-women’s college and graduation.

[30:00 - 35:00]: Graduation continued, how her parents acted after her husband passed, the importance of the church community, and going back to Mundelein after her husband passed.

[35:00 - 40:00]: A staff member of the Spanish department helping her get a job and her relationship with the department faculty in general.

[40:00 - 45:00]: Being surrounded by religion and the Challenger disaster in 1986.

[45:00 - 50:12]: Being a Mundel Bundle, donations pouring in to stop the Mundelein and Loyola merger, and interview wrap up.


Allende, President Salvador, EV 5-10

Barrington, EV 5-10

Beowulf, EV 10-15

BVM (Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary), EV 5-10

California, EV 0-5, EV 5-10

Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, EV 0-5

Challenger disaster, EV 40-45

Chicago, EV 0-5, EV 5-10, EV 30-35

Chile, EV 0-5, EV 5-10, EV 30-35

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program), EV 5-10

Communist, EV 5-10

Cornell University, EV 0-5

DePaul University, EV 35-40, EV 40-45

Don Quixote, EV 10-15, EV 20-25, EV 40-45

Florida, EV 30-35

Harper Community College, EV 0-5, EV 5-10, EV 20-25

Heyck, Denis, EV 5-10

Hoffman Estates, EV 5-10, EV 20-25

Ithaca, New York, EV 0-5

Latin America, EV 5-10

Latina Association, EV 20-25

Loyola University Chicago, EV 40-45, EV 45-50

Man of La Mancha, EV 10-15

Mundel Bundle, EV 40-45, EV 45-50

Mundelein College, EV 0-5, EV 5-10, EV 15-20, EV 20-25, EV 25-30, EV 30-35, EV 35-40, EV 40-45, EV 45-50

New Jersey, EV 30-35

New York, EV 30-35

Nyad, Diana, EV 25-30

O’Shea, Kateri, EV 5-10, EV 10-15, EV 40-45

Palatine, EV 0-5

Plato, EV 10-15

Rosary College, EV 15-20, EV 35-40

Schaumburg, EV 30-35

South America, EV 0-5

Spain, EV 5-10

Uniform Commercial Code, EV 35-40

United States of America, EV 0-5, EV 5-10, EV 30-35

University of California, Davis, EV 0-5, EV 5-10, EV 15-20

Vergara, Carlos, EV 15-20, EV 25-30, EV 30-35

Vergara, Francisca, EV 5-10


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