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44 Years of Commitment to Our Lady
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44 Years of Commitment to Our Lady

When long-time faculty member Sr. Mary Louise Trivison, SND ’50 travelled with her brother, Rev. Lou Trivison, to Florida in December 2008, her would-be vacation turned into several weeks of recuperation in a hospital. While she was convalescing, one of Sister’s biggest concerns was not her own health, but helping one of her students complete a course, long distance. The episode is just one example highlighting Sister’s 44 years of concern and dedication to her students at Notre Dame College.

Regaining her strength over the next several months, Sr. Mary Louise didn’t return to the College until Wednesday, May 13, to be honored at the general meeting for nearly five decades of commitment to Our Lady.Sr. Mary Lou Trivison in the 1970s.

Associate Professor of Fine Arts Rachel Morris led a presentation about Sister’s many accomplishments that day. “I have always held Sister Mary Louise in the highest regard,” Morris said. “Sister has served as a role model, a professional colleague and dear friend.”

Sr. Mary Louise Trivison received her Bachelor of Arts from Notre Dame College in 1950 and earned her master’s degree and doctorate in Spanish and Latin from Case Western Reserve University. She received a diploma in sacred sciences from Regina Mundi in Rome, Italy in 1958. For 44 years she taught Spanish, Latin, theology and Holocaust studies at NDC.

From 1973 to 1993, Sister served as department chair in theology and philosophy. She has been on every major academic committee at the College, such as the curriculum committee, faculty development committee and North Central Core committee. She has published many scholarly papers and won numerous awards including the 1982 Distinguished Faculty Award and the 2007 Fidelia Award.

Over the decades, Sr. Mary Louise has left her mark on the College. One of her biggest accomplishments was establishing the Tolerance Resource Center, which was renamed the Abrahamic Center this fall.

Building the Tolerance Resource Center

During her time at Notre Dame, Sr. Mary Louise received numerous grants, including a faculty development grant to study in Jerusalem, Israel. In 1992, Sister went there to attend a three-week seminar at Yad Vashem and the Catholic Institute for Holocaust Studies. The seminar was specifically designed for educators working in Catholic institutions to enter serious discussions on the causes of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. It led Sister to present her research in a reading seminar called “The Righteous of Nations” on four evenings in the spring of 1993.

Her interest in Holocaust education eventually led to the establishment of the Tolerance Resource Center on Nov. 16, 1997. The idea for the center was proposed by the late Maggie Kocevar, an adjunct professor and NDC graduate who shared an interest in Holocaust studies with Sr. Mary Louise. Kocevar on many occasions spoke with Sister about establishing a center for the study of religious, ethnic, racial and gender tolerance. When Kocevar died suddenly of a heart condition in 1996, Sr. Mary Louise Trivison helped see her vision through to completion.

Over the past decade, Sister’s tireless dedication to the living history of the Holocaust turned the center into a major asset for the College. Sister has invited many Holocaust survivors to speak to her classes and she listened with compassion and interest to all of their stories. Because they held Sr. Mary Louise in high regard, many survivors returned for the center’s tenth anniversary celebrations in 2007.

“We spent many long evenings together at numerous events during the course of the anniversary year,” said Morris, who along with Clara Fritzsche Library Director Karen Zoller was instrumental in helping Sister build the Tolerance Resource Center.

“We were frequently the last ones to leave the events, and despite the fact that Sister suffered from many physical limitations, she never failed to check on me and make sure I was not left alone to clean up and close up,” Morris said.

Designating the Marian RoomSr. Mary Lou Trivison helped create the Marian Room.

Another project close to Sr. Mary Louise’s heart is the creation of the Marian Room on the first floor of the Administration Building. Sister wanted an appropriate place to house a large collection of artwork related to the Blessed Virgin inherited by the College. In 1995, she helped raise money to designate the Marian Room for that purpose.

Funded by donations of Sister’s cousins, Mary Jo and John Boler, the Marian Room is designed to house over 150 Mary sculptures. Sr. Mary Louise coordinated the installation of cabinets, lighting, selection and placement of the sculptures. She also donated several valuable Madonna sculptures created by Eugene Patterino, a renowned sculptor from Florence, Italy. Sr. Mary Louise is enormously proud of this meditative space on campus and would often show the artwork to her students.

A Deep Connection with the Community

But despite her many projects, nothing is more important to Sr. Mary Louise than her students, fellow faculty and the religious community.

“One of the greatest privileges in my life was to be able to oversee the personal, religious and intellectual growth of students as they developed into thinkers, doers and leaders in the Church, society and their professions,” Sister has said about her work at Notre Dame.

Over time, Sr. Mary Louise has shaped the lives of countless people at the College. Several colleagues and an alumna thanked Sr. Mary Louise at the general meeting for making a difference in their lives.Sr. Mary Lou Trivison with Tina Jurkison '85.

“Her classes were so full of wisdom and she was so educated that we immediately had so much respect for her,” said alumna and former employee Tina Jurkison ’85. “She was always just a delight and a wonderful woman to have as a professor, friend and colleague. Every single day she would come to my office and give me the biggest hug, and to this day I still miss those hugs.”

Associate Professor of Communication Tony Zupancic used to the words “teaching, scholarship, spirit” to describe Sr. Mary Louise. “I have been here for 28 years and I have never heard a student say one negative thing about a Trivison class,” said Zupancic. He recalled Sr. Mary Louise’s support during his mayoral run in the 1980s adding, “I can vouch for you, Sister. When I grow up I want to be just like you!”

Sr. Helen Burdenski, professor of business administration, said, “What a blessing it has been to share my life with you over the many years, a blessing that is almost impossible to put into words. What I remember the most is your dedication to excellence, your graciousness, your kindness, your thoughtfulness.”

Roz Scheer-McLeod, associate professor of health science, thanked Sister for her commitment to Holocaust education and bringing speakers like Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl to campus.

“Sister Mary Louise in her classy understated way took on the Notre Dame establishment,” Scheer-McLeod said. “You always remembered to wish me a happy Passover and Rosh Hashanah, which I really appreciated. Viktor Frankl wrote, ‘Survival means holding on to a vision for the future.’ Thank you, Sister, for showing me how to do that.”

Rachel Morris wondered throughout her presentation where Sister gets her energy. While that question remained unanswered, Sr. Mary Louise in her closing remarks showed that she still has plenty left.

“Thank you for your support, friendship and inspiration over these many years. We had joys and sorrows over the four plus decades some of us have spent together. We have experienced an untold number of changes and challenges. It has been a great grace for me, an unbelievable time spent enjoying the sheltering love of the good God and the College of Notre Dame, Our Lady,” Sr. Mary Louise said.

Before she was acknowledged with standing ovations, the 81-year old had to add one more thing saying, “I hope to be back to finish an unfinished project and work with the Tolerance Resource Center.”

Christian Taske ’07 is the editor and writer at Notre Dame College.