Join the fearless and faithful community of Notre Dame of Maryland University supporters. Become one of The Fearless 180—graduates making their first-ever gifts to Notre Dame, in honor of the 180th anniversary of the founding of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Read more.
Dr. Joan Develin Coley has made a huge impact in a short time at Notre Dame! Anyone who has met Dr. Coley—or Joan, as she prefers to be called—during her tenure as President can attest to how fearlessly she has led the University since joining our community last summer. The President Emerita of McDaniel College—the first woman in the role—Joan’s passion for education aligns perfectly with Notre Dame’s mission. She has been embraced by students, alums, faculty and staff because of her grace, strong leadership and signature sense of humor. The lifelong connection Joan has forged with the NDMU community is evident: the seniors made her an honorary member of the Class of 2014, and the School Sisters selected her to receive the prestigious Partners in Mission award, presented to her at Notre Dame Day on February 11. Dr. Joan Develin Coley is a Fearless Notre Dame Woman!
Armed with a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace and suitcases full of colorful yarn, Amber Brehon ’16, Andreina Mijares-Cisneros ’16 and Gabrielle Rehmeyer ’15 set off last May for Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa where Gabrielle had lived with her missionary parents before coming to Notre Dame. These three Women’s College students were on a mission to teach women and girls how to crochet scarves, bags and other items—a simple but effective way to boost their income, enable them to buy food and medicine, and grant them more independence. “We went there to try and teach a group of women a skill that might help them,” says Andreina. “And they ended up teaching us more than we ever imagined.
Notre Dame is busy this week meeting the finalists for Notre Dame’s presidency—one of the last steps in the rigorous presidential search that has been ably led by the Honorable Kathleen O’Ferrall Friedman ’62. Judge Friedman—known as Katy to the campus community—graduated from Notre Dame with a history degree and went on to earn advanced degrees in law and social work. A tireless advocate for women, children and families, Katy served as an attorney with the Legal Aid Bureau and was appointed as a judge to the Circuit Court of Baltimore City in 1985. She also applied her considerable leadership skills to cofounding House of Ruth, a Baltimore shelter and law clinic for victims of domestic violence. At Notre Dame, she is the first layperson to chair the Board of Trustees and was the recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth P. Hoisington ’40 Distinguished Alumna Award.
Before graduating magna cum laude from Notre Dame, Mary Corey ’85 worked as an intern at The Baltimore Sun. With her Communications/English degree in hand, she joined the staff as an editorial assistant, eventually becoming The Sun’s first female Senior Vice President and Director of Content—the top editor—in 2010. A dear friend and mentor to many, Mary passed away one year ago at the age of 49 from breast cancer. “Mary Corey was committed to the Baltimore region and was one of the few editors of a major metropolitan newspaper to have the unique opportunity to lead her hometown paper that she grew up reading,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Leonor Blum’s former students all share a common bond: their respect and affection for their former professor, and the passion for Latin American issues that she inculcated in them. As a beloved Notre Dame faculty member for thirty years, Leonor taught classes on Latin America—including the intensive Morrissy Honors course Model OAS (Organization of American States)—and led trips to Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Peru and Ghana that gave students first-hand experience with real poverty and civic participation. Now retired, Leonor continues her advocacy for women’s education through Adelante Latina, the college-preparatory program for low-income Latina girls that she founded.
The reviews are still coming in, but the latest book of poetry by NDMU English professor Shelley Puhak ’97 is already a hit. Guinevere in Baltimore is a fresh take on the Arthurian legend, set in contemporary Charm City. Its striking, economic language echoes the work of Sister Maura Eichner, SSND ’41—appropriate, considering that Shelley holds the Eichner Endowed Chair in English! Guinevere won the prestigious 2013 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize contest, which was judged by former U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic. In the book’s foreword, Simic wrote, “Guinevere in Baltimore is masterfully crafted, a veritable feast for any lover of words.”
Sister Lucia Disconsi C’05, CMS, of the Comboni Missionary order, moved to South Sudan to teach shortly after graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in biology and mathematics. Despite the violence that plagues the northeast African country, Sister Lucia remains there to this day, hoping to provide a sense of normalcy to her frightened students and praying for them and their families. “She went there because of her faith and stays there because of her faith. No material gain involved. Pretty fearless, in my opinion,” says her former professor Dr. Peter Hoffman.
Today’s Morrissy Honors students are the first—in a long line of distinguished scholars—to take classes in the beautiful Otenasek House of the Morrissy Honors Program, which pays tribute to Millie Otenasek ’36, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Morrissy, Ph.D., giants of Notre Dame history who were also friends and colleagues. Dr. Morrissy was a popular teacher of history, political science and economics from 1920 through 1963. Respected for her wisdom, judgment and character, she was an advisor to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman and contributed to the decision to desegregate schools in Baltimore City.
Mia Redrick ’92 was a trailblazing “mom strategist” before the term existed. As founder and CEO of Finding Definitions, Mia—a mother of three—is dedicated to sharing her message of the importance of self-care with moms across the country. The author of three books, including Time for Mom-Me: 365 Daily Strategies for a Mother’s Self-Care, Mia is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and Dr. Oz’s Sharecare.com and has been a guest on ABC News 2 and other media outlets. She is also the founder of the Iron Moms Triathlon Team!
Fearless Notre Dame graduates are always rising to new challenges—just like the dynamic Mary Beth Lennon ’89, who was tapped to lead Mercy High School as its next President beginning this summer. She leaves her post as director of communications and assistant to the president at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, which she helped launch in 2007. Mary Beth holds a master's degree in Latin American history; as an undergraduate, she volunteered in a Guatemalan orphanage operated by the SSNDs. “Decide to make a difference,” she advises. “At first, you might not know how to do that, so begin with a simple question: How can I help?”
Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger is the original Fearless Notre Dame woman! Just 14 years after founding the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Germany, Theresa Gerhardinger and five other trailblazing School Sisters sailed to America in 1847 on a mission to educate poor girls and women. They were ahead of their time, and what they accomplished was truly remarkable: The SSNDs prevailed over hardship and obstacles to establish several schools, including Notre Dame, and earned an international reputation for teaching excellence. Today, more than 3,000 SSNDs continue to live out Blessed Theresa’s philosophy: trust and dare.
In 2013, Sheri Booker ’04 published Nine Years Under, a memoir about her time working in a West Baltimore funeral home. Featured in such national outlets as The New York Times, NPR, and Essence magazine, she has been nominated for a 2014 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work from a Debut Author. In addition to being a writer, Sheri is a poet, spoken word artist and teacher. “I found my voice at Notre Dame,” she said.
Eileen O’Neill ’88 started out at Discovery Communications as an unpaid intern. Over more than two decades, she worked her way up: Now Group President at Discovery and TLC Networks, Eileen has been called one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. Hit shows developed under her leadership include Say Yes to the Dress, Jon & Kate Plus 8, and Cake Boss. “One of my favorite challenges is to find those great characters that people will love … or hate,” she said in a 2011 interview.
There’s no doubt that Joshua Parker M’10 has passion and talent for teaching. As an English/language arts teacher at Windsor Mill Middle School, he was named Baltimore County’s Teacher of the Year—and Maryland’s Teacher of the Year for 2011–2012. “The opportunity that my profession affords me is the greatest reward I can reap,” he said at the state awards ceremony. “I get a daily opportunity to advance society.”.
Jo Trueschler ’49 is an English department legend. During her 39-year career teaching at Notre Dame—spanning 1959 to 1998—Jo inspired students with her impassioned perspectives on literature and writing. Several significant Notre Dame awards, including the 1985 Mullan Distinguished Teaching Award, have honored her excellence. Now retired, Jo continues to lead a book club that meets on campus. “I fly toward words and sentences, among paragraphs and pages, like a moth to flame,” she wrote in The Baltimore Sun.
Julie Kline Rybczinski ’99 was beloved for her joyfulness and gentle spirit. She received Notre Dame’s Recent Graduate Award for leadership in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and devotion to her alma mater. Julie passed away in 2010, leaving behind her husband and daughters, but her spirit lives on through the St. John’s Bible exhibit in the Loyola/Notre Dame Library. “Julie was a remarkable woman—smart, positive and a very committed individual,” said president emerita Dr. Mary Pat Seurkamp.
Maxine Johnson Wood ’63, Ph.D., launched her accomplished career in education as a history teacher in Baltimore in 1963. That summer, she’d witnessed history in the making at the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In a Time magazine article on the march’s 50th anniversary, Maxine said, “To hear him give that message made you believe you did have a dream, and it was very inspiring.”
Mildred Buzek Otenasek ’36, Ph.D., inspired countless women in Notre Dame’s history/political science department, where she taught for 23 years. “She made politics come alive in the classroom,” said a former student upon Millie’s death in 2012. A political trailblazer, she was the first woman member of the Democratic National Committee for Maryland. The Otenasek House of the Morrissy Honors Program was dedicated in her honor in 2013.
Lisa Matarazzo Ruth ’99, Ph.D., is a civilian aquatic biologist with the U.S. Army Public Health Command Water Resources Program. Every few months, she spends several weeks in the Marshall Islands between Hawaii and Australia, leading a project to study local fish—and trying not to miss her husband and children too much. “The most rewarding part of my job is knowing when I am away from my family that I am making a difference,” she said in a Catholic Review article.
Sr. Kathleen Feeley ’50, SSND, is a well-known and respected Notre Dame figure. As Notre Dame’s president from 1971 to 1992, she oversaw a period of significant innovation and growth. Her many other accomplishments include founding Caroline Center, the SSND project that educates unemployed and underemployed women in Baltimore; serving as interim president at the Institute of Notre Dame; and, most recently, teaching in Ghana. “You can never stop learning,” she said at a 2009 campus event.
For more information about Fearless 180, contact Rachael Mann, Annual Giving Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-532-3197.