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SMWC honors legacy of Sister Barbara Doherty

College names new dining hall after former President

“Her name belongs somewhere on our campus in a prominent place to celebrate her service.”

Sister Barbara Doherty, a member of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, gives a talk at the National Retreat on Providence, July 16-18, 1993.

Those words, spoken by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College President Dr. Dottie King express everything anyone needs to know about Sister Barbara Doherty (RIP).

King and officials at the College recently announced that the new dining hall in the new dormitory currently being built on the campus will be named the Barbara Doherty Dining Center to honor the legacy of Sister Barbara, who ministered as the 13th president of the College from 1984-98.

“Sister Barbara was the last president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) who was also a Sister of Providence and she served as president for nearly 15 years,” King said. “She led the College through some tough years and she was always mindful of the mission and was very student-centered!”

Sister Barbara passed away on Aug. 16, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 88 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 69 years.

Sister Barbara succeeded Sister Jeanne Knoerle (RIP) as SMWC President in 1984. She became the first woman to be elected to the presidency of the college by the Board of Trustees. The previous 12 presidents had been appointed by the Sisters of Providence.

‘A delightful person!’

King, who became the President of SMWC in 2011, said she met Sister Barbara “early in my presidency.”

“She would visit the President’s Office as part of her walking routine on campus,” King commented. “During those visits, she would recall some of what she remembered of being president. She always reminded me, however, that she didn’t want my job! Sister Barbara retained her sense of humor and her devotion to SMWC. She was a delightful person!”

While ministering as SMWC President, Sister Barbara expanded the school’s athletics programs and was responsible for the physical restoration and repositioning of the College for its future in terms of information technology.

Enrollment at the College increased during her tenure as well. In addition, Sister Barbara helped foster new academic programs at the school, including the Student Mothers Program, Master’s of Arts in Earth Literacy, an exchange program with Providence University in Taiwan and the founding of the Mari Hulman George School of Equine Studies in 1990.

‘Multiple food stations’

The new dining center — which will seat approximately 200 people — will be opened in the fall of 2021. King added the center will offer food to students throughout the day.

“We will also offer a market within the dining center and this will accommodate students who want a snack after the dining center is closed,” she said. “Multiple food stations will provide a variety as well as accommodation of food allergies and restrictions.”

She also said the new residence hall will house 98 students when it is full. The residence hall has not been named yet.

Sister Barbara Doherty (right) with a health care aide during an outing at Deming Park in Terre Haute.

‘Intentional to remember’

Sister Barbara, formerly Sister Vincent Ferrer, entered the Congregation in 1951. She professed first vows in 1953 and perpetual vows in 1958.

Sister Barbara earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin from SMWC and a master’s degree in sacred doctrine from St. Mary’s College in South Bend. She also received a doctorate in theology from Fordham University and an honorary doctorate of letters from Indiana State University.

Sister Barbara also taught at SMWC in the Theology Department from 1965-75.

“Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is a special place and its distinction is the people who studied, taught and toiled here,” King added. “We are intentional to remember those who came before us, to learn from their lives and to honor their service. It is my blessing to be able to honor Sister Barbara.”

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Doyle Brodien on June 12, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    So happy to have known and loved Sister Barbara. She was an inspiration to me.

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