From the archives: Star power

Sister Virginia Grumich talks with actor Robert Young while on set of the TV show “Marcus Welby, M.D.”

Why is Sister Virginia Grumlich hanging out with actor Robert Young? The story is simple.

In 1969, the Preparatory Institute of Notre Dame in Sunland, California closed. The following year, the SSND and the Eddie Cantor Charitable Foundation established what became known as Tierra del Sol, a program originally conceived to be an alternative to training in a sheltered workshop. The clients, ranging in age from 21-62 years of age, all had intellectual disabilities. The program provided educational training, fitness activities, artistic outlets and social skills acquisition for the people they served.

David Victor, a writer on the TV show “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” saw an article in the Los Angeles Times about the program. He had just written an episode about a scientist who needed a bone marrow transplant and the best candidate was his brother, who was intellectually disabled. David visited Tierra del Sol and decided to incorporate it into the show.

Here is what was written in the Tierra del Sol chronicle about the experience:

“April 20-21 [1972] Universal Studios spent two days with us filming part of a ‘Marcus Welby, M.D.’ television program at Tierra del Sol…It was exciting seeing and meeting Robert Young, Mike Farrell, Bruce Davison and Peggy McKay. They filmed on the parking lot, in the school building, in the side and backyard, and also at the front of the old house (tho [sic] in the story this was to be the family home in Pasadena). Sisters Catherine [DeWitt] and Virginia [Grumich] were in the program ‘Love is when they say they need you,’ as also were Mona Smith, Sheila Peslin [instructors] and most of the clients. It was an interesting and educational experience for all of us.”

The episode, titled “Love is when they say they need you,” aired on September 19, 1972.

Our archive series is from Michele Levandoski, archivist at the School Sisters of Notre Dame North American Archives. Located at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the archives include more than 2,000 linear feet of historical documents and artifacts that date back to the establishment of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in North America. Learn more at