Sister Mary Theresine, 91, led department of music at College of Notre Dame of Md.

September 09, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

For Sister Mary Theresine Staab, S.S.N.D., nothing was more satisfying than sharing her love of music with students and senior citizens.

Sister Theresine, who headed the music department of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland for 43 years, died of a heart attack Aug. 27 at Maria Health Center of Villa Assumpta, her order's motherhouse. She was 91.

Born Marie Theresa Staab, she was the daughter of immigrants from Germany and Austria. She was raised in East Baltimore, attending St. James the Less Roman Catholic School, and began her music studies at the old motherhouse of the School Sisters of Notre Dame on Aisquith Street.

She entered the order in 1924 and, in 1928, professed her vows. She earned her bachelor's degree and master's degree from Catholic University in Washington. She also studied piano at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

After beginning her teaching career in the early 1930s at Notre Dame Preparatory School, Sister Theresine joined the faculty of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 1936. She was department chair from 1938 until retiring in 1973.

Demanding as a teacher and a perfectionist, Sister Theresine didn't tolerate tardy students who wandered in late to her rehearsals.

"We would assemble, and at the stroke of 4 p.m., she'd walk in," recalled Sister Caroleen Baummer, S.S.N.D., who was a college freshman when she was taught by Sister Theresine in 1940. "No one budged or dared talk. After a short prayer, she would hit several notes and rehearsal would begin.

"I remember her telling glee club members that rehearsal was at six and if we chose to eat dinner first we could forget coming into practice, so we didn't eat," she said, laughing.

The Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, said he was a student at St. Mary's Seminary on Roland Avenue when he first met Sister Theresine during a cooperative concert with the Notre Dame Glee Club.

"She threw fits of the first magnitude and struck terror into our breasts," he said. "But her efforts were indefatigable. She knew what she wanted musically, and she was going to get it, and she did."

She was credited with building a strong faculty within the college's music department, and attracting talented students.

"Despite being demanding, her students idolized her. And she had a marvelous wit," said Sister Caroleen. "Once you got beyond that stern exterior, she was a very friendly person who had a tremendous capacity for friendship."

Sister Caroleen added, "She kept up with her students over the years, and she wished to hear of their families and heartaches."

Her work brought many honors, including establishment at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland of the Sister Theresine Lecture Series, and a scholarship and a LeClerc Hall recital room in her name.

She managed by the end of her life to give away her extensive collection of classical and operatic recordings.

She regularly attended productions of the Baltimore Opera Company, traveled to New York to hear the Metropolitan Opera Company, and maintained a friendship with the late diva Rosa Ponselle, visiting her Green Spring Valley home.

She also had a deep interest in the music of Native Americans, especially the compositions of the Paiute Indians of Nevada.

After retiring, she embarked on a second career teaching music to those whom she lovingly called the "chronologically gifted."

She conducted classes at the Waxter and Bykota senior centers, and the Broadmead, Pickersgill, Roland Park Place and Edenwald retirement communities.

She had boundless energy, refusing to slow down -- even when, in her early 80s, she began to need a wheelchair to get around.

It was only after she reached age 88 and was experiencing failing health that she reluctantly gave up teaching.

A memorial Mass for Sister Theresine, who donated her body to science, will be offered at 4 p.m. Monday at the chapel of Villa Assumpta, 6401 N. Charles St.

She is survived by two second cousins, Arthur Schulmeister of Philadelphia and Cecilia Schmidt of Rockledge, Pa.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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