Sister Marie Xavier, 91, instructed aspiring elementary school teachers

September 17, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Sister Marie Xavier Looymans, who instructed prospective elementary school teachers for more than three decades at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, died of pneumonia Monday -- her 91st birthday -- at St. Joseph Medical Center.

Born Frances Ann Looymans in Baltimore, she grew up on 22nd Street and attended St. Ann's parochial school, where she was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the order she later entered.

After her 1932 graduation from the Institute of Notre Dame, she earned a teaching certificate from what is now Towson University. She then taught fifth-graders for six years at Baltimore's School 34, Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary in Pigtown.

She entered the Roman Catholic religious order in 1941 and received the name Marie Xavier. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 1946 and a master's from Catholic University of America.

After teaching at schools in Washington and Tampa, Fla., she returned to Baltimore in 1958 to set up a new elementary education program at the College of Notre Dame. Colleagues said she insisted that the program have a core content in the liberal arts and that her students be sent to schools in the city for additional preparation.

"She loved teaching because she loved her students and she loved the content she was teaching," said Sister Sharon Slear, a fellow School Sister of Notre Dame, who is the college's dean of education.

"She was humble, wise and gracious," said Margaret Steinhagen, a Notre Dame professor of education. "She had the highest expectations of any student becoming a teacher. She could be relentless that they met the standards. And ... she insisted that you develop whatever talent you had."

Colleagues said she would post in her classroom historian Henry Adams' observation, "Teachers affect eternity."

In 1977, she was given the college's Mullan Distinguished Teacher Award. A scholarship was also named in her honor.

In 1995, fellow faculty member Barbara Liverman wrote a citation praising her for "single-handedly [teaching] every course in the teacher preparation sequence. From 1958 to 1986 Sister Marie Xavier was the elementary education program."

Sister Marie Xavier gave up teaching about 11 years ago, but continued to remember her past students' birthdays with cards. She worked in the school's education office until retiring four years ago. She had lived since then at her order's retirement home, Villa Assumpta in Woodbrook, where a Mass of the Resurrection was offered yesterday.

Survivors include a sister, Marie L. Riley of Baltimore.

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