Faculty, staff, and alumnae/i are lovingly remembered for touching the lives of others
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.
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, Bialosky Cleveland, Carnegie Management and Development Corporation, Glenmede, Lake Health, M.E. Osborne Building Co., MetroHealth, Metz Culinary Management, Kimberley and Brock Milstein, Cindy and Tony Panzica, Mary Lynn and Michael Silvestro, Taylor Oswald, Thompson Hine, and the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland.
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, 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 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, 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 ’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 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 (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 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.”
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.”
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."
Sister Ann Kelly, OSU, PhD, (formerly Sr. James Therese) taught hundreds of students in her years on the Ursuline College faculty from 1956-2014. She taught philosophy but also served as academic dean and academic advisor. A 1955 graduate of Ursuline, she earned her master's and PhD at University of Notre Dame. Sr. Ann created an individualized program to assist students needing academic support and she treasured the friendships she made with faculty, staff, and especially her students.
Connie Beal, DNP APRN, an assistant professor in the graduate nursing program at Ursuline College, was honored with the College's Teaching Excellence Award in 2017. Wrote one alumna, "I learned so much from her that I have applied to my career as a (nurse practitioner). Connie had respect for all of her students, regardless of background, age, gender. I loved attending her lectures, even though it was usually after a long shift at my day job as an RN.”
Sister Miriam Lynch, OSU, PhD, graduated from Ursuline in 1937 and taught at the college for 27 years as professor of sociology and social work, most of the time as department chair. Wrote one alum, “Whereas others might avoid difficult and challenging topics, Sr. Miriam forged bravely into the fray. She involved me in planning and executing “Black Week” on campus during which we would educate ourselves on the issues of the time. We invited speakers on racial issues followed by discussions. She also planned a film, which was a dialogue interview between Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, followed by discussion. Sr. Miriam’s implacable courage in taking risks, facing opposition, enthusiasm, and intelligence inspire me to this day.”
Dr. Constance Korosec, who retired at the end of the 2021 academic year, led the Fashion Department for 37 years, developing the extensive Historic Costume Study Collection. Wrote one alumna, “Dr. Korosec knew that I was a non-traditional, part-time student who was also operating a business at the time. With her help I was able to move through at a pace that worked for me. I don't think Dr. Korosec even knew how instrumental she was in helping me to navigate those years at Ursuline.”
Sister M. Gonzaga Haessly, OSU, served the College as “Directress of Studies” from 1922-1932, and then as dean until 1966. She is remembered by alumnae as one who exemplified the true spirit of Ursuline College. She was a religious woman who was a scholar, teacher, administrator, and a friend to many. The outstanding senior award is named in her honor.
Carole Ganim, PhD, is a former Ursuline Sister who taught English literature and grammar in the 1960s and 70s. Wrote one alumna, “The true gift that she gave me was an introduction to thinking, analyzing and questioning. She opened my mind and eyes to the search for truth in the human experience. Yes, we studied Shakespeare and Chaucer. We read books and wrote papers. But she and her colleagues of the day led me to be an independent thinker … Her introspection and openness to young people and the concerns of the times lit a fire in me and I am forever grateful.”
Sister M. Genevieve Jankowski, OSU, taught mathematics and served as registrar from 1953-1988. One former students wrote, “I have been led to mimic her caring model throughout my teaching career; that is, I have consistently looked out for students prone to math anxiety. When working with such students I try always to model Sister Genevieve’s caring approach.”
Professor Sharon Zimmerman Wilson, MSSA, LISW-S, has taught in Ursuline's Social Work program since 1990, shaping the caring careers of scores of graduates. Wrote one alumna, "Sharon Wilson was an integral part of shaping who I am today as a social worker. Not only did she instill in me having boundaries but also making sure I take time to take care of myself."
Ursuline graduate and Assistant Professor Denise Crowther, MSN, JD, has taught in the Breen School of Nursing since 2012. Wrote one alum, “Mrs. Crowther was always so encouraging and helpful. Almost every Monday for 3 years I would visit her in her office during a break and we would talk about classes, grades and life. She pinned me during our pinning ceremony and attended the “Turning 21 Dinner” with me. She’s become such a great mentor and a huge part of my life still to this day!”
Associate Professor Mary Beth Zeni teaches in the graduate program of the Breen School of Nursing and Health Professions and focuses her research on access to equitable and quality health services for vulnerable groups. One student wrote, “Dr. Zeni has influenced my yearning for knowledge and love of research. . . . The sharing of her diverse experiences has taught me that we are all capable of addressing societal injustices in our own workplaces.”
Sister M. Canisius Horrigan, OSU, taught in the Chemistry/Sciences Department at Ursuline from 1947 to 1986. A student of hers writes, “I remember being hesitant about taking Organic Chemistry. Sr. Canisius was a total delight. She presented the material so logically, she built your knowledge base week by week, taking you from single molecule organic compounds to 10 and 20 molecule chains, their naming conventions, their structure, their behaviors. Her teaching method made a very difficult subject easy and clear to follow. I loved her class!!”
Sister Felicia Levy taught at Ursuline from 1934-1984, heading the Biology Department for 33 years. In addition to her teaching, Sister assisted in the revision of both a biology textbook and a laboratory manual. She had the ability to make what she taught in biology alive, meaningful and important. As one of her former students wrote “At the time I didn’t realize it, but Sister Felicia was truly my mentor besides being my biology professor. Much of what I did in my own biology teaching was influenced by the way Sister taught us. For example, our seminar courses gave us a knowledge of the history of science by reading the actual papers of biologists. I loved infusing my own courses with this history.”
Associate Professor Katherine Jackson, PhD, has been teaching in Ursuline’s Counseling and Art Therapy program since 1993. A practicing psychotherapist, she established the service learning program and has accompanied groups to Nepal, Peru, and several other countries. Wrote one alum, "Professor Jackson is a tour-de-force. Her competence and accomplishments could easily make her intimidating but she was always approachable and warm. She showed interest in her student's work and her passion for her own work seemed to radiate off of her in class and served as an inspiration."
Mary Pat Daley '54, MFA, taught speech and drama (later called communication arts) and English at Ursuline College from 1956 until the 1980s. She died in 2011 at age 79. Wrote one alumna, “She was an excellent educator and prepared me to teach these subjects and to direct many successful plays.”
Sr. Rose Angela, OSU, had many roles at Ursuline College from 1949-1969, including biology and music instructor, academic dean, and president. As president, she moved the college from Cedar Hill to the new Pepper Pike Campus. A former student writes, “Sr. Rose Angela provided me the immediate role model I needed to move forward in life. She has always been my ongoing notion of a successful woman.”
James Connell, PhD, director of the Educational Administration (EdAD) program, has dedicated his life to education. He has been a full-time faculty member at Ursuline since 2014 but began teaching as an adjunct instructor in 1993. He served for 35 years in public education, concluding that chapter of his career in 2005 as Superintendent of Berea City Schools. Wrote one grateful EdAd grad, “Dr. Jim Connell is the best! He is very personable, knowledgeable, and also very approachable and supportive. He made me believe that I can do ANYTHING as long as I put forth the effort to do so.”
Sr. Rose Tadsen, OSU, taught World Religions and various philosophy courses over the course of 30 years, from 1976 until 2006. She died in 2017. Wrote one alumnus, “I thoroughly enjoyed my time and education that I received at Ursuline and am forever grateful to Sr. Rose for her kindness and inspiration.”