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Sister Jeanne Knoerle, former college president and Terre Haute community partner, dies Monday

Sister Jeanne Knoerle demonstrating her weaving skills will alpaca fiber.
Sister Jeanne Knoerle demonstrating her weaving skills will alpaca fiber.

Sister Jeanne Knoerle, a Sister of Providence for 64 years and president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for 15 years, died early Monday morning (June 10) at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods where she resided. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Sister Jeanne also was well known for her involvement in many community groups and activities in the Terre Haute area. At the college, she founded the highly acclaimed distance learning program, only the second such program in the United States at the time, and she has been credited with steering the college through a difficult era of transition during her time in leadership.

“To say Sister Jeanne Knoerle was a remarkable woman understates the case. Sister Jeanne possessed many gifts. She had keen intelligence, a penchant for analysis and action on behalf of whatever ministry or cause she embraced,” said Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior of the Sisters of Providence.

“Sister Jeanne centered her life on her belief in the God of Providence; that belief impelled her to love God’s people and the entire cosmos created by God. Sister Jeanne loved the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence and most certainly loved Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She worked enthusiastically for the good of both Congregation and College,” Sister Denise added.

“Sister Jeanne’s passing is a profound loss, not only for the entire college community but also in the Wabash Valley community where she was highly respected,” said Dottie King, Ph.D., president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. “Her work was always groundbreaking. I, as others, found her to be energetic, visionary and positive – always positive. To me she was a treasured friend, a trusted confidant and a mentor. I will miss her greatly.”

Sister Jeanne, 85, formerly known as Sister Mary Gregory, was a native of Lakewood, Ohio. She entered the Congregation July 22, 1949, from St. Angela Parish in Fairview Village, Ohio. She professed perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1957.

She received a bachelor’s degree in drama from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in journalism, a doctorate in comparative literature with emphasis on Chinese literature and a master’s degree in business administration, all from Indiana University. She also received honorary doctorate degrees from six Indiana colleges and universities, including Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Sister Jeanne Knoerle
Sister Jeanne Knoerle

Former Terre Haute Mayor P. Chalos once said about Sister Jeanne, “She opened Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to Terre Haute and made the city and Saint Mary’s cohesive.”

She was named a Woman of Influence in Terre Haute in 2012. She previously had served as a member of the board of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, Wabash Valley United Way, board of directors for Indiana Vocational Technical Institute, Terre Haute Medical Education Foundation, Mental Health Association of the Wabash Valley, Hospice of the Wabash Valley, Union Hospital and Woods Day Care/Pre-School.

She was a Fulbright Scholar and was a recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship and the John K. Lamb Award in Terre Haute, a prestigious honor for service to the community. She formerly served as chairperson of the Indiana College Press Association, past president and founding member of the Alliance for Growth and Progress in Terre Haute, chairperson of the Association of Catholic Colleges (ACCU) and Universities, president of the Indiana Conference of Higher Education, director of the Federal Home Loan Bank and she was employed as a program director in the Lilly Endowment’s religion division for several years.

She envisioned the concept of the Our Green Valley Alliance in Terre Haute and served as its first president.

She received the Theodore Hesburgh Award from ACCU. She was honored at Sister Jeanne Knoerle Day in Cleveland in 1983, so proclaimed by Mayor Greg Voinovich. She was honored by a resolution passed in the Indiana Senate in 1984 for her leadership at Saint Mary-of-the-the-Woods College. She attended a White House program hosted by Rosalyn Carter while she was chairperson of the ACCU.

She was the founder with Tracy Schier of Woods Associates, a consulting firm to assist not-for-profit agencies with strategies, planning, management and marketing.

She also received awards for her creative work with alpaca fiber and worked as a volunteer at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She taught at schools in Indiana, Illinois and Washington, D.C., and she served as a visiting professor at Providence University in Taiwan. Prior to becoming president at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, she served as a professor and assistant president, then served as chancellor after her presidency. She was an author, publishing a book titled, “The Dream of the Red Chamber,” a critical study of a Chinese classic. She also was a frequent contributor to other publications and to the Sisters of Providence website. She was an avid bird-watcher and was well known in the Terre Haute bird-watching community.

Sister Jeanne is survived by one sister, Anne Schram of Los Altos, Calif., and nine nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by a brother, Harold M. Knoerle, Jr.

Friends may make memorial contributions to the Sisters of Providence, 1 Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876, to further education for sustainable living, or to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Pomeroy Pride Campaign, 1 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a Congregation of nearly 250 women religious, with more than 280 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries may be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.
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For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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2 Comments

  1. NORMAN FRANCIS BALDASARO JR on June 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    PEACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,JUST WONDERING HOW TO SEE IF OUR BELOVED AUNT,SISTER RUTH,E.SAMPSON HAD AN OBITUARY ON HER WONDEROUS LIFE IN CHRIST AS WELL AS A BLOG FOR HER FAMILY TO LEAVE COMMENTS? NORMAN IN BRISTOL,NH.,03222 VERY NEAR TO HEAVEN……~~~ + ~~~ J.M.J. ?????????