Sister Sharon Dei, one of the founders of the Communication Arts Department at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and an associate professor of communications at a seminary in Nigeria, died Tuesday of a blood clot at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She was 63.
Sister Sharon had been recuperating from ankle reconstruction at the Maria Health Center at the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Woodbrook at the time of her death. She had earlier taught at St. Matthew Parochial School in Baltimore and St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown.
Before coming to the North Baltimore campus of the College of Notre Dame, Sister Sharon had been principal of St. Mary's High School in Annapolis from 1971 to 1974.
In 1975, she and her colleagues created the college's Communication Arts Department, which she headed for three years. Under her leadership, she supervised the construction of a television laboratory and radio station.
In 1978, she took over as director of Notre Dame's Weekend College, then in its fourth year, and in 1981 was named associate dean for continuing education, continuing to be involved in adult education programs.
"Sister Sharon was a woman for all seasons," said Sister Kathleen Feeley, former president of the college and now a professor of English there.
"Her colleagues at the college laud a woman of high intelligence, unwavering energy, and creative genius," Sister Kathleen said. "Her brilliant mind could encompass a large picture, and yet see a myriad of details that it contained. She personally influenced many students; they admired her easy spirit, vibrant energy and ready wit."
Allene Taylor of Timonium, who is retired from the Federal Reserve Bank branch in Baltimore, is a 1981 graduate of the Weekend College. Her adviser was Sister Sharon.
"She was a great light," said Mrs. Taylor. "She was an inspiration to me and a marvelous person who found great joy in life."
After earning her doctorate in intercultural communications at the University of Minnesota in 1989, Sister Sharon returned to Notre Dame, where she directed the International Studies Program. She also later taught at Notre Dame College in Kyoto, Japan, and in 1990 she traveled to Eastern and Western Europe to link Notre Dame's international programs with the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia.
In 1992, she was appointed associate professor of communication at St. Augustine Major Seminary in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. During her tenure there, she taught more than 300 seminarians and young priests.""She had a desire to be a missionary; it had been a lifelong vision, and she experienced a great deal of fulfillment in Africa," said Sister Delia Dowling, former academic dean who retired from Notre Dame in 1996.
With little money available and relying on the strength of her personality, Sister Sharon obtained computers, cameras and other equipment she needed to teach her courses in Nigeria. Many of her former students have gone on to hold key positions in the Catholic communications network there.
Karen Stoddard, former department chairwoman and a professor of communication arts at the college, said: "She believed people needed effective, modern means of communication in undeveloped countries and saw the importance of training native people in communication technology. It was the basis of her ministry."
She recalled Sister Sharon's admonition: "Join a convent and see the world."
"Wherever she went and whatever she did, she made her mark," Dr. Stoddard said. "She never saw things in terms of her own self-interest."
Anxious to work and keep in touch with Nigeria, she asked that a computer be installed in her hospital room in the health care center at the motherhouse.
"She worked until within an hour of her death, when she was fatally stricken," said Sister Kathleen.
Born Patricia Dei in Pittsburgh, where she attended public schools, she entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame order in 1954 and professed her vows in 1956. Sister Sharon received a bachelor's degree in English in 1965 from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and a master's degree in communications from Shippensburg State University in Pennsylvania.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Villa Assumpta, 6401 N. Charles St.
Sister Sharon is survived by several cousins.