2009 Saint Dominic Award Winner
Of all of this year’s Alumni Award winners, Sister Mary had the shortest distance to travel to get to Siena Heights. Born just a mile or so away from campus, the Adrian native was raised on a nearby farm and eventually entered the Adrian Dominican Sisters congregation at the end of her junior year of high school. She began studying home economics at Siena Heights just after her 16th birthday, and spent the next several summers taking classes to work toward a degree.
And work she did.
To help pay for her tuition, she and the other Sisters had jobs around campus.
“We worked and sometimes we forgot to go to class,” Sister Mary said. “We didn’t participate much in campus events. We went to class and that was it. We didn’t have all the other opportunities (of today’s students), but we learned the same values because we learned the Adrian Dominican values.”
When she finally graduated in 1955 – more than a decade after entering Siena, she had completed a whopping 200 credit hours.
“Evidently, I got a good education here,” Sister Mary said.
She eventually received her master’s degree and PhD and went to teach at three different universities over the next 30 years. Nineteen of those years were at Youngstown State University in Ohio, where has a scholarship was established in her name.
After retiring from teaching, Sister Mary has focused on serving women and families around the world. She spent four years in South Africa, first building an elementary school library and later developing an embroidery business that provides women of that country with economic independence. She is still involved with that effort today.
However, her “other” job is working as a volunteer archivist for Siena Heights.
“Most everything I know about Siena Heights I learned in the archives,” Sister Mary said. “Sister Helen Duggan recruited me in January 1977. We have some stuff that’s older than me, and that’s why I like it.”
Though she never had an opportunity to teach at Siena Heights, her current role gives her a chance to participate in the campus life she never had as a student.
“This university is a wonderful place to live and work, and lots of people have been here for 30 years or more,” she said. “I never got to teach here, so I’m grateful to be a volunteer now. I brag about Siena all the time.”