Of liverwort and shaved eyebrows: Anne Healey remembers Sister Helen Vinton the scientist
I took Biology from Sister Helen [Vinton] as a sophomore at Ladywood-St. Agnes High School [in Indianapolis] and the most memorable lesson I learned from her was a curiosity and appreciation for the minute miracles that occur in nature. For one project I remember attempting to grow a liverwort called marcanchia in a petri dish. Her fascination with and excitement about the growth of these tiny cells over several weeks was catching. We even mourned when part of the plant died. I was impressed with Sister Helen’s commitment to the wonderment of nature and that she genuinely cared how much my plant grew.
The other significant memory I have is one summer she went somewhere to study something. (My memory fails me on the specifics.) Anyway she came back with shaved eyebrows because they were studying a microscopic mite that lives in our eyebrows. I was astounded that she would shave her eyebrows all in the name of science. This is an example of her commitment to learning and discovering the complex nuances of creatures that live among us without our awareness.
After spending several years as a laboratory scientist at the graduate level, and conducting experiments involving radioimmonoassays, etc., I realized that Sister Helen was the first true scientist I had met. One couldn’t take her classes without being exposed to her unerring appreciation and wonderment of all that she studied in nature. She gave me a gift that I treasure to this day.
Anne Healey, Ladywood-St. Agnes class of 1973, lives with her husband, William Fenner, and their two daughters at Wandering Creek Farm on 6 acres, 40 miles northeast of Seattle. Wandering Creek is also home to two off-the-track thoroughbreds, two rescue goats, one chicken, two cats and one dog.