Loy­ola’s Sis­ter Jean, 99, joins state Se­nior Hall of Fame

Com­ing off team’s run to Fi­nal Four, chap­lain eager for Ram­blers’ new sea­son

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - News - By Dawn Rhodes drhodes@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @rhodes_­dawn

Sis­ter Jean can’t wait for the sea­son to start.

As chap­lain of Loy­ola Univer­sity’s men’s bas­ket­ball team, the joy­ful nun cat­a­pulted to in­ter­na­tional su­per­star­dom as the squad stormed its way to the NCAA Fi­nal Four last spring, her pop­u­lar­ity ex­plod­ing via GIFs and memes on so­cial me­dia. Her mem­o­ries of it are vivid, but she’s ready to launch her 25th year as the spir­i­tual and mo­ral cen­ter of the team, and eager to talk shop about the play­ers’ chances when the sea­son starts in Novem­ber.

Ow­ing to that and her more than seven decades in ed­u­ca­tion, state lead­ers hon­ored Sis­ter Jean Dolores Sch­midt on Fri­day by in­duct­ing her into Illi­nois’ Se­nior Hall of Fame.

At 99 years old, she shows no signs of slow­ing down.

“I en­cour­age se­nior ci­ti­zens to for­get about their age and just keep do­ing,” she said in an in­ter­view. “The ag­ing part doesn’t bother me at all be­cause that’s where I am at this point. I hope other peo­ple my age and younger will con­tinue to do ev­ery­thing they pos­si­bly can as long as they can to help other peo­ple.”

Born in 1919, Sis­ter Jean be­came a mem­ber of the Sis­ters of Char­ity of the Blessed Vir­gin Mary in 1937. She spent the next 24 years work­ing in el­e­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion as a teacher, coach and prin­ci­pal.

She moved on to the Catholic all-women’s Mun­delein Col­lege in 1961 serv­ing in a va­ri­ety of roles, in­clud­ing as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor, dean and direc­tor of aca­demic ad­vis­ing. When Mun­delein merged with Loy­ola in 1992, Sis­ter Jean was still work­ing and took on aca­demic ad­vis­ing at the Rogers Park Je­suit in­sti­tu­tion.

She was ap­proached to be­come the men’s bas­ket­ball team chap­lain in 1994 when her pre­de­ces­sor in the role re­tired.

In ad­di­tion to that role, Sis­ter Jean is in­volved in a schol­ar­ship pro­gram to ben­e­fit stu­dents in the U.S. with­out le­gal per­mis­sion, as well as one match­ing stu­dents with res­i­dents of a nearby re­tire­ment com­mu­nity for com­pan­ion­ship and as­sis­tance.

“She em­bod­ies Loy­ola’s com­mit­ment to ed­u­cate the whole per­son,” act­ing Provost Mar­garet Cal­la­han said.

Sis­ter Jean is among four peo­ple to be added to the Se­nior Hall of Fame this year, es­tab­lished by the Gen­eral Assem­bly in 1994 to rec­og­nize the con­tri­bu­tions of Illi­noisans over 65.

Illi­nois Se­nate Pres­i­dent John Culler­ton nom­i­nated her for the award, say­ing it was an ob­vi­ous choice.

“She has opened doors to non­tra­di­tional stu­dents, worked to ex­pand higher ed­u­ca­tion for im­mi­grants, united gen­er­a­tions and served as a daily emis­sary and coun­selor to the greater stu­dent body, fac­ulty, staff and neigh­bor­hood,” Culler­ton said. “Frankly, Sis­ter Jean, I’m stunned no one has so far men­tioned you for mayor.”

“Sis­ter Jean rep­re­sents all that is won­der­ful in life: faith, love of com­mu­nity, love of God, giv­ing back to those most vul­ner­a­ble among us,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said.

Not only does Sis­ter Jean not want to scale back her work, but also she doesn’t feel like she needs to.

“It seems to me we keep drop­ping the age of ‘se­nior ci­ti­zen’ down to, like, 55 now. That’s not old at all!” she said. “I feel fine ex­cept that my old bones are tak­ing a lit­tle longer to heal than I ex­pected. But I’m rec­on­ciled to the fact that it’s go­ing to take a lit­tle while.”

For any­one plan­ning to at­tend Loy­ola’s open­ing ex­hi­bi­tion game against Wi­chita State, she has some ad­vice:

“You’re go­ing to have to come early be­cause the Gen­tile (Arena) is go­ing to be packed,” she said. “We are de­lighted by how much joy and hap­pi­ness that we have brought to the world, re­ally. We hope to con­tinue that.

“Andof course Ihave to say, ‘Go Ram­blers!’ ”

“Sis­ter Jean rep­re­sents all that is won­der­ful in life: faith, love of com­mu­nity, love of God, giv­ing back to those most vul­ner­a­ble among us.” —Gov. Bruce Rauner

CHRISWALKER/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Sis­ter Jean Dolores Sch­midt, chap­lain for the Loy­ola men’s bas­ket­ball team, re­acts to be­ing pre­sented the 2018 Se­nior Hall of Fame award Fri­day from the Illi­nois De­part­ment on Ag­ing dur­ing a cer­e­mony at Loy­ola’s Cor­boy Law Cen­ter.

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