A Woman Before Her Time

Great sadness filled the halls of Notre Dame College when news arrived that Sr. Mary LeRoy Finn, SND ’40 had died peacefully at the Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center in Chardon, Ohio on January 20. Sr. LeRoy, who held several administrative positions at the College, was considered a visionary by many of her colleagues. She was 92 years old.

Sr. Mary LeRoy Finn was 92 years olds.Sr. LeRoy, who received her M.A. in philosophy and theology from the University of Notre Dame, joined the College in 1950 as a philosophy professor and later served as academic dean, executive vice president and vice chairperson of the Board of Trustees. She was acting president from October 1972 to July 1973. Offered the College’s presidency, Sr. LeRoy quietly declined saying she would prefer being in the “number two position rather than at the top.” In 1992, she was named the Alumnae Association’s Woman of the Year. She received the College’s Fidelia Award in 1994 and an honorary degree in 1996.

In the late 1970s, Sr. LeRoy created the Weekend College (WECO), the first in the area to focus on needs of adult women. She also founded Tot Spot, the College’s day care center for children of mothers taking classes at NDC. She was director of WECO from 1978 to 1987 and assistant director until 1992. She was also director of the Lifelong Learning Center from 1976 to 1987.

Researching higher education needs of Cleveland’s Hispanic women, Sr. LeRoy created the Hispanic outreach project, forerunner of the College’s multicultural focus. She also initiated the Catechetical Center (now the Center for Pastoral Theology and Ministry). After her many attempted retirements Sr. LeRoy volunteered in the Advancement Office until moving to Chardon in 2000.

At Notre Dame College, Sr. LeRoy had a profound impact on many of her students and co-workers; three of whom share their memories.

Sr. Helen M. Burdenski, SND ’62:

“When I was a 17-year-old freshman at Notre Dame, Sr. LeRoy was my philosophy professor. She made the concepts so enticing that I was mesmerized by her class. I couldn’t get enough of it and after class I would walk with her down the hallway still asking questions about the day’s subject matter.

“Sr. LeRoy was a model of a religious woman totally dedicated to Jesus Christ. She lived the gospel every minute of every day and had a heart as big as the ocean. She was transparent, uncompromising in her values, always approachable, warm, and engaging.

“During the years that I taught at Notre Dame Academy, Sr. LeRoy was truly my mentor. Besides being exceptional in her professionalism and leadership, she was always gracious, kind and compassionate. When I was assigned to the faculty of Notre Dame College, I thoroughly enjoyed working with Sr. LeRoy. She was a woman ahead of her times, always on the cutting edge of new directions and trends.”

Karen Poelking, Vice President for Community Relations:

Sr. LeRoy won several awards at NDC.“Sr. LeRoy was such a positive influence and so insightful. She showed me how important it is to see the world from other people’s perspectives before making judgments and decisions. She was truly a lady with perseverance. Sr. LeRoy didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer easily. She was always looking for solutions to problems and had a keen sense for drilling into things.

“Sr. LeRoy loved fashion, especially anything in the color brown. She once mentioned how she really liked spectator pumps, so Mary Lou Currivan and I bought her a pair in black and white since brown wasn’t a color the Sisters could wear. She would put them on for very special occasions along with one of her many favorite hats. 

“Sister also loved baseball. She and I would sit in the Lifelong Learning Office on weekends when there were classes and would listen to Indians’ games. My husband and my toddlers would come over for lunch and we would share McDonald’s hamburgers or corned beef sandwiches. She became a part of our family!”

Mary Lou Currivan, Dean of Weekend College:

“Sr. LeRoy was a visionary able to put her vision into action. The Lifelong Learning Center and Weekend College were major testimonials to her ability to respond to the needs of adult, working women before anyone else did in the Cleveland area. Knowing the College was not meeting their needs, she developed the Lifelong Learning Center to assist them in returning to school.

“When she realized some women wanted to reach their academic goals faster, she created WECO. It took awhile to get support from the administration, board and faculty, but Sr. LeRoy was insistent. Under her guidance, the program flourished for decades and over 1,000 women graduated from WECO. Sr. LeRoy was also a computer visionary. Long before anyone had computers at the college, Sr. LeRoy did. She revolutionized record keeping for WECO, diligently entering information using Lotus.

“It is fitting that the College named the adult student award given at commencement after Sr. LeRoy. The recipient is selected on the traits embodied by Sr. LeRoy and inscribed on the custom-made award presentation bowl: ‘Scholarly. Catalyst. Diligent. Resilient. Spiritual.’ Sr. LeRoy was all this and more.”


May 20
11:30 AM
Monday May 20, 11:30am
Softball Field
E.g., 06/19/19
E.g., 06/19/19