Glasgow native Sister Mary Teresa Noth of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, 95, former dean of the Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, died on Dec. 14 in St. Louis.
She had been a Franciscan Sister of Mary for 72 years.
A Funeral Mass was celebrated on Dec. 21 in the chapel at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton.
Born on Oct. 28, 1923, in Glasgow, she graduated from St. Mary School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Mary’s College in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1945.
She then taught science at Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas.
She entered the Sisters of St. Mary on Aug. 2, 1946, and received the name Sister Mary Stephen.
She professed final vows Feb. 11, 1952.
She earned a bachelor’s (1952) and master’s (1957) degrees in nursing education, both through SLU.
She earned a doctorate in education from Columbia University in New York (1964).
In 1988, she earned a certificate in corporate ministry through SLU.
She served as head nurse/supervisor at St. Mary’s College (1952-56), also teaching science in the congregation’s high school and serving as director of novices for a year.
She was administrative assistant to the dean of the School of Nursing at SLU (1956-62), where she also taught nursing.
She was appointed director of SLU’s Department of Nursing (1964-66).
In 1966, she became Dean of the School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, serving until 1982.
In 1971, Sr. Mary Teresa created the nation’s first accelerated nursing degree program, which offers students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees a fast-tracked nursing education and quicker entry into the nursing profession.
“Sr. Mary Teresa was the flame that sparked a wildfire in accelerated learning, and she changed the landscape of nursing education,” said Teri Murray, Ph.D., dean of SLU’s nursing school, who was a nursing student at SLU when Sr. Mary Teresa was dean. “She was innovative and daring, so far ahead of her time.”
More than 300 accelerated nursing degree programs have since prepared many thousands of nurses for careers, Dr. Murray said.
The push for accelerated education came from Sr. Mary Teresa’s own experience. She held a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and taught high school science before deciding to become a nurse.
Despite having a deep science background, she returned to school to complete the full nursing curriculum at SLU.
“Once she became dean of SLU’s School of Nursing, she said, ‘I’m going to fix this so students can get credit for their previous experience and education,’” Dr. Murray said.
Before becoming dean, she spent five years as assistant to the dean, coming to understand how the various schools, including Nursing and Allied Health Professions, functioned within the university as a whole and working with the deans of other schools and vice presidents of the university.
As dean, she strove to develop a strong faculty who were also committed to meeting the needs of the students.
One of her most visible accomplishments was getting the nursing school a building of its own in 1978; for the first 50 years, the nursing school had offices and departments scattered all over the medical center campus.
Under her leadership, SLU received a $3.9 million federal grant for the new building. A plaque honoring Sr. Mary Teresa from the faculty and staff of the School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions hangs on a wall of the nursing building, presented “in appreciation for making a dream a reality.”
A display on the School’s Heritage Hall also recognizes Sr. Mary Teresa’s contribution to the school. “During her tenure, Sr. Mary Teresa created an atmosphere of caring, respect and appreciation, where faculty, staff and students felt free, motivated, supported, and encouraged to perform at their highest potential.”
She also developed and implemented innovative academic programs and curricula, on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, such as the midwifery program.
In 1981, she was elected to serve as councilor and vicar general for the Sisters of St. Mary in addition to nursing school dean for a year. She moved full time to congregational service in 1982.
In 1988, she joined the pastoral care staff at St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island, Illinois, serving as director from 1989 to 1994.
She then served as a chaplain at St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights (1994-2006).
She moved to The Sarah Community for retired religious sisters in June 2010.
Of her leadership philosophy she said: “It was never about you. All the graduates speak for themselves. It was a faculty and staff that worked together that brought the School of Nursing to where it is today.
“Maybe I was able to make the nursing school more about education,” she said. “It helped us to become all that we could become just a little better all the time.”
Sr. Mary Teresa donated her remains to the Saint Louis University School of Medicine for research.
Information in this article came from Saint Louis University; FSM, quarterly magazine of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary; and the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis archdiocese.