Rejoicing in the life of Sister Jeanne Knoerle
Please join the Sisters of Providence in remembering Sister Jeanne Knoerle who died Monday, June 10, 2013 at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, by sharing your reflections and memories on her abundant and fruitful life in the comments space below.
Like everyone I was shocked to hear the news this morning. I was hired by Sister Mary Gregory , Sr Jeanne,In May of 1968 and started with her on July 1 when she became president. I worked for her for six years and have been one of her many friends ever since. In the spirit of St Mother Theodore she showed exceptional skill, leadership and wisdom in leading the College through one of its most challenging periods. And she made the difficult decision to start the WED program that saved the college. She was the right leader for a period of dramatic change in education and the congregation. Serendipitously I saw her Friday, talked with her, saw her smile and hugged her for the last time. I will carry her memory with me and hope to represent some of the many good things she stood for.
Sr. Jeanne exemplified the life of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin in her every thought, action and word. She lived to proclaim Providence to others! I am so proud to have known this amazing woman! My heart is very heavy today as she was a very familiar face to me on campus during my four years (91-95) there. Godspeed Sr. Jeanne!!
Among the hundreds of tributes, the common thread seems to be appreciation and honor at knowing S. Jeanne. Without differentiating personal from professional, in whatever status or for however much time or in what capacity as teacher, as SMWC President and brilliant in her innovative leadership positions in education, and then in her work internationally in institutional development for the Lily Foundation. As a woman and Sister of Providence, if you met her, you were proud to know her. Wasn’t it amazing that not only did anyone who met her usually remembered her–but that she had an even more incredible ability to remember and know each of us–as individuals, as students, educational colleagues, as friends and collaborators in whatever she so successfully would engage us? In a facebook comment expressing our shared surprise and loss, a SMWC alumna said that just yesterday afternoon at Family Day, “S. Jeanne stopped to teach Will to play the kazoo!” What a charismatic gift and grace: her ability to connect, to recognize and value every encounter as Providential; to celebrate and see everyone’s potential for positive possibilities; to make a memorable difference and to have fun wherever she found it!
Before Sister Jeanne took on the challenge of leading the college through difficult years, she was a teacher. During her years of leading the journalism department and being the “nun on the hall” at Guerin, she nurtured so many of us. I was a music major who also loved to write. When I showed her something I had written, she said it was Aurora material. Since my music major required many hours, Sister Jeanne suggested that I audit her writing classes. And this led to my forty years of teaching high school English. My goal as a teacher has always been to emulate my mentor and role model, our beloved “Greg.”
S. Jeanne gave me my start in the development profession when I was a freshman at The Woods, and she was President. She involved students in the Decade XV campaign, and I was one of the lucky ones she selected! And, later when she was working at the Lilly Endowment, she invited me to lunch and told me that I needed to go back to school to get my masters degree. Of course, I did! She had such a profound impact on so many lives, especially her legacy of starting the WED program at the College. I cannot imagine coming to The Woods without her bring there. May she rest in peace.
My heart is heavy. S. Jeanne was a dynamic teacher and, for many of us, the face of The Woods. It is inconceivable that we might lose her. I will never forget the time she took our Critical Writing class out to dinner — my first gourmet meal — and even encouraged us to order an after-dinner cappuccino. She was a lady of grace and excellence. From heaven, where she undoubtedly is, I hope she prays for us.
I was so shocked to hear of Sister Jeanne’s sudden passing. I was just thinking of her the other day, we worked so closely with her during our professional time at the Woods, but we became very dear friends and we would always be certain that we saw her on every visit that we made back to the Woods, she was the kindest and most tenacious woman and she has touched so many lives, she will always be remembered as a wonderful person and a dear friend, I will miss her!!
Most of all she was a loving mentor. and teacher. To the end, it seems. SMWC grad Jen Dorsey reports yesterday at Sisters of Providence Family Day, Jeanne taught Jen’s young son Will to play the kazoo. I, among so many others, was fortunate to have her a a mentor. About writing, I remember her saying it does no good to be able to write if you don’t have anything to write about. She was trying to get me to take Music Appreciation 101. So, this past weekend, I went to three art openings and two concerts. One concert was zydeco. But they didn’t have a kazoo.
Will miss you, Jeanne.
How I will miss Sister Jeanne. In 1963-64, we were both in graduate school at Indiana University. In the mornings, Sister and I would trek to the Neumann Center for Mass and reminisce about the experiences we shared being at a state university, so different from our beloved Woods.
I first met Sr. Jeanne at SMWC President King’s Inauguration Dinner, as we sat at the same table. We began talking, and I was instantly struck by her gentleness, kindness, and her joyful spirit. In my three years at the Woods, I worked with her at times and was always inspired and uplifted by the constant smile on her face and the way she seemed to brighten everyone’s day. I will certainly miss her.
It happens in the classroom for time-starved students. They nod off. Even in S. Jeanne Knoerle’s journalism classes. Be they Reporting, Editorial Writing or History of Journalism using Edwin Emery’s “The Press and America” as a text. And, look out when that happened in the room with the big, sash-driven windows. She’d dramatically (of course!) roll up the glass and let in the fresh air amid what seemed to be a clap of thunder. And, that’s what the best of the best teachers do. They open the windows to the world with much commotion.
She lived a life so full that one can only wonder at her sense of mission. There is no frustration at what might have been. The pain is in the parting and the loss of the joy that she brought to the world.
God is saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Welcome home.”
Sister Jeanne helped guide me in preparation for becoming a Providence Associate. She embodied St. Mother Theodore Guerin and the joyful spirituality of Providence! In so few words, Sister said so much!! But there was never any judgment, or ‘scolding’ from Sister Jeanne, only gentle guidance. It’s wonderful to read all these comments because I knew her for only a few short years. I can only thank God in wonder and amazement that I did know Sister Jeanne and counted her as friend and mentor. I was honored and humbled to be with her and learn from her. I will not let her down, but will continue this walk with Providence, as other wonderful Sisters and Associates help me stay on the path. Sister Jeanne, I will miss you and I am forever grateful to you.
Sr. Jeanne was one of the most special people I have ever encountered. She always acknowledged everyone and had kind words for them. She has been such a support for us in our efforts to build a sports and recreation center. I am even more committed to getting it done in her name. She was a special lady and I will never forget her. Thank you Sr. Jeanne.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to know Sr. Jeanne. Her approach to life and service is so inspiring and we cannot measure how many women and communities have been impacted by her vision to create the WED Program. She was the kind of person who if I just happened to see her in my day and share a moment with her I wanted to tell others…it always made for a special day to see her on campus, even if it was just a wave and a smile. RIP, Sr. Jeanne…you have left a beautiful life’s work.
I wasn’t a “college” student of Sister Jeanne, but I was her student. We came to know each other very well when she became my “boss??” at Sisters of Providence. She came out of retirement to become the Administrator of the Sisters of Providence residental area. There was not a day that went by that I didn’t learn something from her. She had a passion for life and fulfilled it to the very brim. She looked for the gifts that you could offer and helped you to see them too. I will never forget her for she is deeply loved. I know that she was greeted with “come….good and faithful servant”.
Sr. Jeanne was such a strong role model and leader. I enjoyed being around her and I will miss her being at our college events and especially this year at our Christmas dinner when it is time for her to read to us the Christmas story from the Bible. My thoughts also go to her speaking recently at our 40th Anniversary of Woods Online (previously WED) and how proud we all were of this achievement. One graduate of the distance program got emotional when she realized she was sitting with the woman who changed her life by deciding to take a risk and start WED.
Sr. Jeanne, you touched many lives including mine. We shall miss you!
Sister Jeanne was the president of SMWC during the four years I was at The Woods. She did not know me, but it was enough for me to quietly know her. Even from a distance I watched and learned from thiis graceful,and grace-filled woman. RIP.
I met S. Jeanne shortly after her retirement from the college presidency, as she was making one of many transitions in her incredible career / ministry that impacted thousands. Over time she became a spiritual mentor to me, and to my husband as she led us on several private retreats. She was also my sister companion on my journed to become a Providence Associate. As part of my journey, I facilitated for her a strategic planning session for Our Green Valley Alliance in its early stages of formation. Like all her work, she did a wonderful job, accomplishing yet another special contribution to a cause she loved that is clearly part of her life long mission toward improving the human and earthly environment. I will miss her more than I can express.
When Sister Jeanne Knoerle passed away a short time ago, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the Sisters of Providence lost a trusted and devoted friend. At her passing, many words were written and spoken to express our sorrow at the profound loss and our pride in all of her accomplishments. She was a woman of deep faith whose talents were as diverse as her interests. She was a natural leader and was admired by all who were blessed to work with her. Whether serving as president of a college, organizing a group of community leaders dedicated to sustainability, knitting socks or watching birds, Sister Jeanne gave her entire self to whatever she was doing!
I remember my first encounter with her. I was a new faculty member in an orientation session and she was teaching about the history of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the legacy of the Sisters of Providence at the school. I was instantly taken by her formidable presence and her approachability at the same time. Through my years at The Woods and in the varied positions I have held, I have grown increasingly close to Sister Jeanne. Upon my becoming President of the College, she and I began meeting regularly. The admiration and respect that I had already formed for Sister Jeanne were now enhanced by an ever-deepening friendship. She shared with me the challenges of her day and relayed a remembrance of looking out the front windows of the office that I now inhabit and wondering if she was making decisions that were right for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. In hindsight, it is quite clear that she was a strong and visionary leader who left the College much stronger than she found it!
It has taken the days from her passing until now for me to be able to express some of my feelings. I am so thankful that she spent her last days doing things that were normal and that made her happy. She helped children in the bean bag toss at Family Day at the Woods, played with a puppy, attended mass and whacked weeds at St. Joseph Lake. The vibrancy with which she led her life was evident to the end.
Thank you, Sister Jeanne, for a life lived in service; service to God, to humanity, to the Sisters of Providence, to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, to the Wabash Valley, to those who were friends and to the Earth and its creatures. You set an example for us to follow and you were faithful to the end. Thank you for your genuine care for The College and your willingness to continue to work on our behalf. Thank you for being my friend and for the generosity of spirit that you displayed in our conversations. Thank you for sharing wisdom, for listening and for your confidence. Thank you.
My wife Jan was the first assistant in WED when there were two students.
Jeanne delighted in our new daughter Megan – who was the focus of unending prayer in the Perpetual Chapel when she was born.
As Director of Information Services, I realized quickly how Sister Jeanne willed Mother Theodore’s vision to continue.
My favorite, though, is at lunch listening to S. Jeanne marvel at the ‘modern cowboy movie’ she had seen over the weekend. She gave several details of the just-out “Star Wars”, smiling all through.
Our greatest delight was when Sister Jeanne spotted us at move-in day in 1999 when our younger daughter became a Woodsie 20 years after we left our posts at the College.
I had the the great pleasure of meeting and working with sister Jeanne when she was a student in the Executive MBA program at the IU Kelley School of Business. As you can imagine, she was a favorite among both her student colleagues and the faculty. She was a delight to be and work with, was obviously very bright and really knew how to make the hard decisions. In all of my 38 years of teaching at IU, she was my favorite student. She also had a wonderful “light side”. We enjoyed teasing her that, although she had taken vows of poverty, she had a penchant for expensive, brightly colored Nike running shoes.
My Kelley School colleagues join me in expressing our sadness at the loss of one of our most distinguished graduates.
P. Ronald Stephenson