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Mercyhurst remembers Sister Maura Smith, RSM

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sister Maura Smith, RSM, died early Nov. 13 at the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse.

Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor – noting her immense contributions to the university throughout her career – noted, “We lost a true Mercyhurst legend today.”

A 1948 Mercyhurst graduate, she taught biology and secondary education at Mercyhurst from 1970 to 1977. After moving on to leadership positions at Mercyhurst Preparatory School and with the Sisters of Mercy, she served on the Mercyhurst Board of Trustees from 1980 to 2012. She was named a trustee emerita at that time, but continued to weigh in on matters that would impact the college environment.

Sister Maura is probably best known for her commitment to environmental issues and responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources. She helped to create the sustainability studies program at Mercyhurst and co-founded the Green Team in 2000. After she received the Mercyhurst Sustainability Award in 2009, the university created the Sister Maura Smith Peace Garden behind Warde Hall to honor her. Mercyhurst’s annual Earth Day Lecture Series is also named for her.

As a professor, she was passionate not only about the environment but also about social justice more broadly and the cause of world peace. The Department of Religious Studies presented her with its Oscar Romero Award in 2006, an honor that recognizes those “living the call of faith and justice in an extraordinary manner."

While on the Mercyhurst faculty, she chaired two task forces that introduced new curricula to the college. It was at her urging that Mercyhurst developed its pioneering Learning Differences Program in 1986.

Sister Maura also spearheaded the development of the Continuum of Lifelong Learning, which joined Mercyhurst College and six other educational programs offered by the Sisters of Mercy into a network of learning experiences for people of all ages from preschoolers to senior citizens.

She lived for many years in the Mercy Campus House, a former farmhouse that used to stand behind Zurn Hall.

Mercyhurst honored her as a Distinguished Alumna in 1996.

Friends may call at the Mercy Motherhouse on Sunday from 2 to 4 and 6:30 to 8 p.m. with a vigil of memories at 7 p.m. Viewing hours also will be held Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. with a funeral Mass in the Motherhouse Chapel at 4:45 p.m.  The Dusckas Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Sister Maura will be remembered by many at Mercyhurst. Among those sharing their sentiments today are:

Sister Lisa Mary McCartney, RSM, vice president for mission integration, on the loss to the Sisters of Mercy:

The Sisters know they have lost one of their giants. She was a visionary, a truly transformative teacher and leader. She carried a passion for the splendor of creation and for its well-being. She dedicated her life to the well-being of others, whether they were individuals, a school, a community or a neighborhood.

Dr. Alice Edwards, professor of Spanish, who taught at Mercyhurst Prep when Sister Maura was principal there:

Sister Maura was an educational visionary; Maura challenged all of us to do more and better, to care deeply for our students and to live the Mercy charism. She was a principled and fearless advocate for education, the environment, women and children. When she was on the Mercyhurst Board of Trustees, we knew that she was always working for our best interests.

History professor Dr. Chris Magoc, who worked collaboratively with Sister Maura as they founded and grew the Green Team at Mercyhurst:

Sister Maura Smith embodied the soul of Mercyhurst, that is the steadfast determined application of the intellect to the quest for a better and more just world.   Beyond her wide-ranging work as a scientist, an activist on issues of peace and social justice, Sister Maura was above all an indomitable force for nature.  From her own work as a biologist, to her leadership in establishing the celebration of Earth Day at the college in 1970 to the creation of an environmental studies program, to her leadership role in forging the Green Team — Sister Maura's legacy in the arena of environmental activism cannot be measured.  It remains to us now to carry on her work — as she would say, to “keep on pluggin."

Biology professor Dr. Michael Campbell, who, through his teaching and example, shared many of Sister Maura’s concerns about the environment:

Sister’s tireless work to advance environmental problem-solving has been inspirational to many. Those of us who will follow in her footsteps will continue to honor her legacy in all that we do.