Sister Ruth Miriam Carey dies at age 82

English teacher inspired her young writers and built confidence in her students

April 18, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Sister Ruth Miriam Carey, who taught English at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland for nearly 40 years and was a mentor to young writers, died of complications from diabetes April 10 at her order's motherhouse in Woodbrook. She was 82.

Born Anna Ruth Carey in Baltimore and raised on East Biddle Street, she attended the St. Katherine of Sienna school and was a 1944 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame. She earned a bachelor's degree in English at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Explaining her choice of a major, she later wrote, "All I knew was that I wanted to teach. What? I didn't know, and I didn't care."

She entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1948, where she received her religious name, Ruth Miriam. She made her first vows in 1949.

Sister Ruth Miriam began teaching at the Notre Dame Preparatory School and taught English and French at the Institute of Notre Dame from 1950 to 1959. She earned a master's degree at the Catholic University of America in 1963. Her thesis was on the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

She taught in the English department of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and later became an associate professor there.

"She was a vital part of the Notre Dame of Maryland community from 1959 to 1997," said a colleague, Sister Kay O'Connell. "She was a dedicated teacher of writing, assisting first-year students as well as guiding and encouraging those with exceptional writing potential to consider careers in writing."

Diane Scharper, a former student who teaches at Towson University and reviews books for The Baltimore Sun, said that Sister Ruth Miriam advocated strict standards in writing.

"As a teacher, she was excellent and tried to draw the best out of us," said Ms. Scharper. "She was welcoming, a confidence-builder in students. Personally, she was outgoing, down-to-earth, and she was honest with you."

"She counseled us to ‘say exactly what you mean' and to avoid wordiness or padding," Ms. Scharper said.

She also recalled her former teacher's "demanding, difficult tests" and her advice regarding speech: "Speak out with confidence."

"She had great force as a teacher," said Jo Trueschler, a faculty member who is now retired. "She had a wonderful way of making a poet out of students who were 19 years old. She would tell them, ‘Don't write a poem about love; write a poem about oatmeal.' "

Ms. Trueschler said that Sister Ruth Miriam "would seem to be very practical until you saw the work of her imagination."

Sister Marie Michelle Walsh recalled her "loving and meticulous nature." She would straighten a crooked picture or chair as "part of her devotion to things as they should be."

She was also a shopper. "She loved to get lost in stores looking at what was being offered," said Sister Marie Michelle Walsh.

Sister Ruth Miriam received the college's Mullan Distinguished Teaching Award in 1978 and the 2007 President's Medal "for a life of service and leadership."

After leaving the classroom, she was a proofreader in the office of institutional advancement. She retired in 2005.

A Mass was offered Tuesday at the chapel of the School Sisters of Notre Dame at Villa Assumpta.

There are no immediate survivors.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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