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  • Home / Inside Ursuline / 150th Anniversary / Portraits of Ursuline College People

    Portraits of Ursuline people

    Faculty, staff, and alumnae/i are lovingly remembered for touching the lives of others

    150th Anniversary Ursuline Portraits series
    Estelle O. Smith Cunnea

    Estelle O. Smith Cunnea, the first graduate of Ursuline College

    Sister Kathleen Burke, OSU, PhD, co-founder of Ursuline's master's program in Counseling and Art Therapy

    Laurel Yuratovac, BA'16, long-time UCAP advising coordinator

    Mary Jo Cherry, PhD, Director of the Undergraduate Education Department

    Sister Ann Gertrude Hill, OSU, PhD, long-time faculty member

    Mary Lynn Perri, Assistant Dean, Enrollment Management and Financial Aid Operations

    Sister Michael Francis, OSU, English Department faculty member during the 1950s and 1960s

    Dr. Debra L. Fleming, retired chair of the Business Department

    Rosa Johnson, MSN, BSN ’02, RN, adjunct clinical faculty

    Gary Polster, sociology professor for more than 50 years

    Gary Polster, sociology professor for more than 50 years

    In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Ursuline College’s founding, the Alumnae Relations office asked graduates to write about faculty and staff who touched their lives. The response was robust and heartfelt: more than 50 current and former Ursuline College community members lovingly remembered.

    Because the story of Ursuline College is the story of its people, we celebrate our sesquicentennial by celebrating theses exceptional individuals. We highlight them in a series of social media and website posts we are calling Ursuline Portraits, in a nod to the sesquicentennial gala planned for April 30, 2022 at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

    Stay Tuned

    Bookmark this page to review Ursuline Portraits as they are posted, or follow the College on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for weekly updates.

    Our Wonderful Sponsors

    The Ursuline Portraits series is made possible by the generosity of KeyBank, the Presenting Sponsor of our 150th anniversary celebrations. Additional support comes from  Ancora, Carnegie Management and Development Corporation, Glenmede, Tony and Cindy Panzica, Taylor Oswald, and the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland.


    Estelle O. Smith Cunnea, Class of 1872

    The first woman to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ursuline College was Estelle O. Smith Cunnea from the class of 1872. After Ursuline, Estelle attended Columbia University. According to The Plain Dealer (August 5, 1925), she was the organizer and first president of the Ursuline Alumnae in 1900.

    Sr. Kathleen Burke, OSU, PhD '62

    Sr. Kathleen Burke, OSU, PhD, was the impetus behind the founding of Ursuline’s Wasmer Gallery, then co-founder and long-time director of the master’s program in Counseling and Art Therapy. A bright spark, she touched many lives as an Ursuline Sister, art therapist, professional counselor, award-winning photographer, and educator.

    Laurel Yuratovac,  BA '16

    Laurel Yuratovac has been advising UCAP (Ursuline College Accelerated Program) students since 1998, helping hundreds complete their bachelor’s degrees. Many have told us they would never have completed if not for Laurel's mix of tenacity and empathy and her genuine concern for their individual success. For many, she is not only the face but the heart of Ursuline College.

    Mary Jo Cherry, PhD

    Mary Jo Cherry, PhD, Director of the Undergraduate Education Department, is an expert in the field of early childhood education. She has a passion for education, cares deeply for her students, has high expectations, and promotes strong student-teacher relationships to foster true learning. In the words of a former student, Dr. Cherry “is incredible, talented, whip-smart, comforting, a great baker, quick-to-correct, and a master storyteller.”

    Sister Ann Gertrude Hill, OSU, PhD

    Sister Ann Gertrude Hill, OSU, PhD ’44 served the college for 52 years. She taught chemistry for 40 years, had a short term as resident advisor, and later taught microcomputer applications. She earned her bachelor’s at Ursuline, her master’s and PhD at Notre Dame University (all in chemistry), and then retooled to teach computer applications. In the words of one alumna, “She was not only a great teacher but impressed upon us that learning is a life-long process.”

    Mary Lynn Perri

    Mary Lynn Perri has led Financial Aid and Enrollment Services at Ursuline for 32 years, helping countless students to finance their education. Wrote one alumna, “Mary Lynn was always fun to talk to. When I worked in Admissions, she was always around if I needed to ask her a question. She always encouraged me to apply for scholarships and grants that helped me along the way.” 

    Sister Michael Francis, OSU

    Sister Michael Francis, OSU (formerly Maureen Hearon) was a distinguished faculty member in the English Department during the 1950s and 1960s. Former students describe her as animated, challenging and delightful. In retirement, she was a voracious reader, sometimes reading five books in a week. She received the College's Amadeus Rappe Award in 1989.

    Dr. Debra L. Fleming

    Dr. Debra L. Fleming retired this year after 15 years of teaching and leading in the Business Department at Ursuline College. Wrote one former student, “She has made this community better and she has made it stronger. Her passion has consistently been to foster an academic culture where all members of the community are able to flourish and develop both academically and professionally.” 

    Rosa Johnson, MSN, BSN ’02, RN

    A nurse since 1968, Rosa Johnson, MSN, BSN ’02, RN, RN-BC, OCN, has a wide range of bedside nursing experience. Her passion for nursing is founded on her desire to help patients and their families, and teach others about nursing. She joined the Breen School of Nursing and Health Professions in 2007 as an adjunct faculty member and clinical supervisor and is this year’s recipient of Ursuline’s Adjunct Teaching Excellence Award. Her students have called her “tough but fair” and said “she makes you become a better nurse.”

    Gary E. Polster, PhD

    In more than 50 years of teaching sociology courses, Dr. Gary Polster has educated, enlightened, and influenced generations of Ursuline students. Wrote one alumna, "Gary Polster knew my strengths and weaknesses better than I knew my own."