Sister Mary de la Salle O’Donnell retires

Sr. Mary de la Salle O'Donnell '47

After 49 years at Saint Joseph’s College, most of them as a history professor, Sr. Mary de la Salle O’Donnell ’47, RSM, Ph.D., has retired. She was honored during the spring semester at a reception with the Board, staff and faculty, where she gave an eloquent speech on the importance of teaching as the best way to influence young people.

In addition to teaching, Sr. de la Salle also served as president of the college for two years from 1967 to 1969.

Sister de la Salle taught Ancient History, the Science and Methodology of History, and Western Civilization courses. She had a reputation as a hard grader. “She never dropped her standards; she was demanding of her students,” said a colleague, Dr. Michael Connolly.

Will Sanborn ’86 says of her, “Sr. de la Salle had a great influence on me – and many other students – with her love of history and willingness to help students reach for academic excellence. Sister has many qualities that make her special, among them her soft-spoken manner, dedication to her students, tireless work ethic, and unyielding academic standards. She has an important place in the history of Saint Joseph’s College.”

At the reception, history professor William Lemke offered a tribute to Sr. de la Salle and praised her as a mentor. She was gifted with a plaque, a book of translated Irish literature, and an original painting from Newcastle, Maine, of the oldest Catholic church in New England. In addition, the annual Clio prize for excellence in history will now be called the Sister de la Salle O’Donnell prize. One of her joys is for former students to contact her. She can be reached at Diocesan Sisters of Mercy, 265 Cottage Road, South Portland, Maine 04016. The phone is (207) 767-5819.