Sister Elissa, Notre Dame president


Services will be held today for Sister Mary Elissa McGuire, the seventh president of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Sister Elissa died Wednesday of cancer at her order's retirement home in Baltimore County. She was 93.

She was the college's president from 1968 to 1971 and spent nearly all her career at the North Baltimore school. She also served previously as the school's registrar, and as an economics teacher.

Born Mary Norene McGuire in Baltimore, she was raised in Hagerstown and graduated from St. Mary's School, where she studied business subjects.

After working as a secretary, she entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1938 and taught for two years at the old St. Andrew's School near the Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore. She was given the name Mary Elissa, which she kept until her death.

"She was an extraordinary teacher and loved teaching. Her students adored her," said Dr. Mildred Otenasek, retired professor of economics and political science at Notre Dame. "She was so human. She understood her students as individuals and shared their problems and their lives."

In 1941 Sister Elissa was assigned by her order to the College of Notre Dame, where she received a bachelor of arts. She earned a master's degree in economics and political science from the Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate from Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. , then embarked on her career as a professor and administrator.

She left the college campus only once, to served as finance director for her order from 1972 to 1975. She retired in 1988.

Colleagues at the college credited her with building up an endowment fund for the school.

They said Sister Elissa managed the college's investments with a high degree of success for more than 40 years. She started with a gift of $1,000, which established the endowment fund in the 1930s. The fund now is about $33 million.

"She was a brilliant woman who worked assiduously to make the endowment grow," said Sister Francis Regis Carton. "She was a prayerful, spiritual person, too, with a great deal of Irish wit about her."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Villa Assumpta, 6401 N. Charles St.

Survivors include two nieces.

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