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A Transformative Presence

Note: This is the 34th profile in a series of 90 stories highlighting individuals who have shaped Notre Dame and/or live the College’s mission of personal, professional and global responsibility.

By Caroline Pratt ’13

Anyone who has been to Notre Dame College’s campus during the semester knows how difficult it can be to find a parking spot. Fortunate are those who have their own personal spaces, a privilege bestowed upon a select few employees.

As of this fall, Roslyn Scheer-McLeod, associate professor of health science and psychology, became one of those select employees. What she did to receive this privilege was something no other lay faculty member at NDC has ever accomplished – teaching at Notre Dame for over 45 years!

Entering her 46th academic year this fall, Roz, as she is known by everyone on campus, became the longest-serving professor who is not a Sister of Notre Dame to teach at the College. She surpassed Dr. Frances Quinlivan, who taught at NDC for 45 years, and is second only to Sr. Inez McHugh, who spent 60 years of her life on campus.

“Over the years, Roz has been a transformative presence on campus,” President Andrew P. Roth said when he honored her during the College’s general meeting in August. “Today, it is almost impossible to imagine the College without Roz, or Roz without the College.”

Throughout her 45 years at College Road, Roz has taught thousands of students. Very few of them would disagree that she is a phenomenal teacher, one who is concerned for her students’ well-being, always of assistance to her peers, and dedicated to the College’s mission.

In recognition of her 45 years of service, Roz received her personal campus parking spot.

“Professor Scheer-McLeod enlivened every classroom discussion with her great knowledge back when I attended NDC,” Marilyn Novosel Pryor Osborne ’05 wrote on the College’s Facebook wall. “I’ll always remember her.”

Adjunct faculty member and alumna Tina DiBacco Jurcisin ’85 said Roz is “a great lady and a true asset to NDC.” Paula Hlivyak Wilson ’97 called her “one of the most amazing women I know,” and Julie Shields Gielow ’97 wrote: “LOVE Roz! She made learning SO much fun!”

Throughout her impactful career at Notre Dame, Roz has witnessed momentous changes. The largest, perhaps, occurred in 2001, when Notre Dame welcomed male undergraduates to campus. That year, Roz taught her first co-ed class, which included most of the men’s basketball team.

“They all sat in the front row, leaning back in their chairs with what I perceived as a ‘show me’ attitude,” Roz said.

But just as she had always done, on this day she introduced herself as “Roz.” She then asked her students to introduce themselves and to mention whether they had a nickname they would prefer. One student introduced himself as “Pee-Wee” to the delight of his classmates, who immediately erupted into fits of laughter.

Roz stood up to the challenge.

“I remember thinking, ‘Aha, I’m being tested!’” she said.

So, every time she addressed the student in class that day, Roz called him “Pee-Wee” and his classmates began to snicker. After class “Pee-Wee” walked up to Roz with a big smile and said he’d prefer to be called by his proper name.

“The banter with him struck a chord,” Roz said. “I realized how much I could enjoy working with young men. Now, I can’t imagine Notre Dame without men on campus.”

Likewise, as Dr. Roth said, it is impossible to imagine Notre Dame without Roz. Therefore, it’s almost inconceivable to think that she nearly never made it to campus.

An avid traveler, Roz has been around the world.

Born and raised in the Bronx, fortune brought Roz from New York City to South Euclid. After a teaching fellowship and five years as a faculty member at the University of Michigan, Roz travelledto St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands to manage a small tourist hotel for the summer. There she met her husband, a native Clevelander. They moved to Cleveland in 1967, and Roz sent her credentials to Case Western Reserve University to apply for a teaching position. But Case had no openings at the time and referred her to Notre Dame College instead.

“It was serendipitous and lucky for me,” Roz said, adding the College is a good fit for  her values. “Over the years, through my connection with the Sisters, I’ve learned how the spiritual dimension anchors all of our lives. As a result of that, I’ve been able to grow as a person and also give depth to my teaching.”

Roz has taught everything from health and wellness, psychology, and sociology to stress management, and marriage and family. With her extensive background in counseling and holistic health, she has always been passionate about empowering students.

“I think it’s possible to make a difference – especially in the Notre Dame environment,” Roz said. “It’s not just about knowledge. It’s more than that.”

Roz said teaching is also about helping students think about their choices and the possible consequences of their actions. In her classes she stresses the benefit of clarifying values and attitudes and determining who we are and what we believe in. In 1996, she received the Distinguished Faculty award for excellent teaching skills.

Roz also brought her progressive views on women’s issues to the College. For 10 years she taught “Women in Transition,” a course she developed for adult women reassessing goals and seeking enrichment. She also facilitated several popular adult development programs including “Women in Focus” and “Making Midlife the Prime of Life.”

In the 70s, Roz even taught a camping course in the woods behind the dorms. It taught women how to build campfires, pitch tents, rappel off walls, and even cook eggs on a #10 can. One alumna told Roz that thanks to the class, she was able to feed her family while out of power during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“Even today I hear from alumnae about things they learned in that class,” Roz said.

Roz may not be teaching women to camp anymore, but in the past 17 years she has taken dozens of students on other adventures around the world. Every spring semester, she takes a group of students, alumni, employees and friends to places like Greece, Israel or China.

Roz herself has traveled to all seven continents, and it’s not uncommon for her to jump on a plane and visit friends in the Netherlands, England or France.

Roz has traveled to all seven continents.

“She seems to have connections everywhere and uses these connections to give others the opportunity to see the world as well,” Dr. Roth said.

But while she loves to travel the world, it seems that Roz feels home most at Notre Dame College. Attend any event, whether it’s a football game or an art show, and you are likely to run into her.

Roz believes in the mission of Notre Dame and models it in the courses she teaches, the opportunities she creates for students, and the life she lives.

“Our mission is more than just words,” Roz said. “And I hope we never lose that.”

Roz certainly hasn’t. She volunteers for the Citizens Advisory Committee and the Forest Hill Preservation Society in East Cleveland, and is also a bronze contributor to the Notre Dame College Fund.

“At Notre Dame, I found a community in which I could expand my own personal development while helping to educate and empower students,” Roz said when she was honored at the general meeting. “I found colleagues willing to talk about values and excited about discussing the process of tying these values to actions.”

As a Jewish woman at a Catholic college, Roz said she “found that spirituality can transcend diverse religious beliefs.” She said she developed and deepened her spirituality through her friendship with Sr. Mary Frances Dunham, a former College administrator.

“Sr. Mary Frances helped me begin to think about spirituality as a force in my life,” Roz said. “This happened through our conversations and her actions, never through preaching. The reflection and personal growth that resulted changed my approach to teaching as I began to incorporate more of the spiritual dimensions of wellness into my own life and my work with students.”

Roz’s work with students extends far beyond book knowledge. With each lesson she teaches, she strives to build well-rounded individuals with a passion for change.

“When I was a college student, my dream was to be a factor in changing the world,” Roz said. “Then I realized that the arena in which I could make a difference was smaller… Changing the world one student at a time; it’s not just words.”

Caroline Pratt ’13 is a senior communication student at Notre Dame College.