In 1894 Albert Ney was paid $1,884 for a contract to build the original barn. A second, larger barn was later connected to it. The barn housed various activities, until 1983 when a senior citizen center was established and named for Sister Mary Roberta Kuhn, BVM. At that time the community was approaching its sesquicentennial. The Senate, the governance body of the BVMs, discussing an appropriate outreach program as an expression of gratitude to the people of Dubuque for their support through the years, decided to remodel the then-vacant barns for use as a senior center. After a needs assessment of senior services in Dubuque, it was decided that a learning center would not duplicate senior services in the city.
Within a few years, the center expanded to include two rooms in the lower level of the Motherhouse for additional classroom space. Activities continued through the years and seniors kept coming. In 2004 plans began for a geothermal heating system at the Motherhouse. This decision led to renovation of the lower floor of the Motherhouse where classes were held; classes doubled up at this time in the barns and another room in the Caritas section of Mount Carmel. In the summer of 2009, all classes moved from the barn to the lower level of the south section of the Motherhouse to classrooms freshly painted with new carpet and lowered ceilings.
Founding Director, Teresita Poulin, BVM, 1983
Director, Rosemary Sage, BVM, 1984 - 1987
Director, Faith Lautz, BVM 1987 - 1999
Director, Kathryn Lawlor, BVM 1999 - 2007
Director, Carolyn Farrell, BVM 2007 - 2015
Director, Karen Kane-Herber, 2015 - present
Roberta Kuhn, BVM
Sister Roberta Kuhn, BVM, for whom the center is named, was president of the BVM congregation from 1967 to 1972. As a teacher, principal and congregational leader, she carried out her various services to others in a very gentle, warmly human way. She was a remarkable woman for a remarkable time.
Sister Roberta states in an April 29, 1982, note to founding Director Sister Teresita Poulin: "I believe that there is a very promising future for the program, and I'm proud and happy that the BVMs have chosen to express their regard for the people of Dubuque in this way."