Sister Phyllis Heuisler, educator, president of Massachusetts college

December 17, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Sister Phyllis Heuisler, R.S.C.J., an educator and former college president, died Tuesday of heart failure at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Albany, N.Y. The former Baltimorean was 95.

After retiring from Newton (Mass.) College of the Sacred Heart in 1974, where she had been president since 1970, Sister Phyllis worked for several more years in Portsmouth, R.I., doing pastoral work and teaching in a Montessori school there.

In 1978, she went to live at the Albany convent.

Born and reared in Catonsville, she was the daughter of the late Hilda Gardiner and Philip I. Heuisler, a chemist who assisted Capt. Isaac E. Emerson in perfecting the formula for Bromo-Seltzer.

Her father was later president of the Maryland Glass Co., which made the trademark cobalt blue bottle for Bromo-Seltzer, the popular headache and stomach remedy.

L James Cardinal Gibbons presided at her confirmation in 1907.

She graduated in 1915 from Mount de Sales Academy of the Visitation in Catonsville. She joined the Madames of the Sacred Heart in 1918 and studied at Eden Hall in Torresdale, Pa., and took her final vows in Rome in 1926.

She continued her education at Fordham University in New York and studied theology at Providence College before starting her career in the late 1920s as the dean of women at Maryvale College in St. Louis.

She was mistress general of the Sacred Heart School in Rochester, N.Y., then held the same office at Eden Hall from 1944 to 1952. From 1952 to 1969, she was mother superior of Overbrook Academy on Philadelphia's Main Line.

"She was very broad-minded and liberal," recalled Betty Stevens, a niece who lives in Baltimore. "Because she was a member of a semi-cloistered order, the Religious of the Sacred Heart, it wasn't until after Vatican II in 1965 that she was able to learn how to drive a car and got her license at the age of 76."

Sister Phyllis came to Baltimore two years ago to visit her family and Mount de Sales.

"At 93, she walked from the sub-basement to the attic of the school and explored every nook and cranny," recalled the Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore and a board member and archivist at Mount de Sales.

"She wanted to see every inch of the school where she had grown up. She kept up the pace and never needed any assistance."

In a letter to Father Roach, she wrote, "I got my greatest love of the Sacred Heart at Mount de Sales and found my vocation at Eden Hall."

"She was very faithful and devoted to her old school," Father Roach said.

Services were set for 9 a.m. today at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. A memorial service will be held at 6:15 p.m. Monday in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

Other survivors include a brother, Philip I. Heuisler Jr., and three sisters, Katherine Heuisler, Elizabeth Lentz and Mary Charlotte Russell, all of Baltimore; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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