It’s not every day you get to celebrate a 97th birthday, but today Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is doing just that.
During her 25 years at Loyola University Chicago, Sister Jean has become a campus celebrity. In 1961, she moved from her home state of California to work at the Mundelein College. She joined the Loyola community when the university merged with Mundelein in 1991.
Although Sister Jean retired from academics in 1994, she still serves as the chaplain for the men’s basketball team. When she’s not courtside in Gentile Arena, you can catch the active 97-year-old walking around campus, waiting in the shuttle line or relaxing at home in Regis Hall.
To celebrate her big day, The PHOENIX asked readers to submit their favorite Sister Jean memories. Listen to the stories below and submit your own to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I know when I came to Mundelein in 1991 as the interim president, you were a godsend. And you told me at that time that you enjoyed being the number two person and indeed you were the number two person as a special woman who loved Mundelein, worked with all kinds of students, remembered them well, was appreciated by staff and faculty. There’s only one Jean Dolores. Happy Birthday.” – Sister Carolyn Ferrell
“My favorite memory of Sister Jean actually happened after my sophomore year. I was lucky enough to be her neighbor in Regis, So we lived right across from each other. I think it was through that year we became great friends. After that year, I became an orientation leader. The Loyola Orientation Squad decided to celebrate Christmas in July. It was July 25 at about 9:30 p.m. [when] we walked over to Sister Jean’s apartment in Regis and asked her if she’d be willing to participate in the festivities. And, of course, giving her gracious heart and really warm spirit, she said that she’d love to. I just remember that through the entire night she waited with us until the last gift was opened on the Christmas in July. So as we unwrapped all of the gifts and then the presents, as we drank hot cocoa and sang Christmas carols and took photos with her … I think that’s a memory that I’ll never forget. Happy birthday, Sister Jean.” – Flavio Bravo, Class of 2016
“I have lots of fond stories of Sister Jean. I think some of my favorite stories are the stories about when she was a principle at a Catholic school, grade school, in Hollywood. There, she got to be friends with Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, John Wayne and as a matter of fact her and Dolores Hope, Bob Hope’s wife, were friends until Dolores had passed away. So some of those stories are some of my favorites. Happy birthday, Sister Jean.” – Pat Shultz, Associate Athletics Director
“One of my favorite Sister Jean memories comes from the Fall of 2014 at the Relay for Life Talent Show. I was dancing with the Irish Dance Team and even though we probably made a ton of mistakes on stage that day … Sister Jean was judging the talent show and told us that she could just see how much fun we were having and how much joy it brought her and the rest of the crowd and I know it meant a lot to the Irish Dance team that she said that.” – Reilly Cosgrove, junior
“My name is Alex Whittler and Sister Jean lived on my floor my freshman year. She always prayed with me about anything from doing well in a tough class to connecting with the right friends. Fast forward [to] two years later, when I interned with WGN. The morning show had her on as a guest to talk about sports and, of course, everyone loved her. But get this: She actually remembered living in Regis with me two years prior. I guess that’s why she’s a little celebrity on campus. She remembers everyone just as much as they remember her.” – Alex Whittler, Class of 2016
“Really hard to pick just one Sister Jean memory — tall task. But one I remember vividly from 2013, we were interviewing her for the Sports Locker about the Super Bowl and we were getting the opinion around campus, ‘Who’s going to the win? The Ravens or the 49ers?’ As soon as we ask her, ‘Who you got?’ she goes, ‘Oh, I better pick the 49ers if I ever want my brother to speak to me again.’ She was just really sharp on that, but then after she said that she backed up for about an hour about why the 49ers would win that Super Bowl. It didn’t exactly pan out, but if you ever just want to have an intelligent conversation about sports — if you’re ever in line at the shuttle, want to talk about the Final Four, the MVC, men’s volleyball or the Super Bowl — give a holler to Sister Jean.” – Joe Flaherty, Class of 2014
“I have tons of memories with Sister Jean, but the one that sticks out the most would be about a week before I left to start my new life in Santiago, Chile. This would be the beginning of July. I came back to say goodbye to everyone at Loyola and I ran into her and she remembered that I was leaving. So she gave me a big hug, blessed me before my trip, asked me if she could say the rosary for me even though I’m Jewish and it was the sweetest thing ever. I’m so thankful to have had her support in making this big move in this next part of my life.” – Caitlin McNamara, Class of 2016
“I started working here a little under two years ago and I learned very quickly how important Sister Jean was — not just to the university, but also to the Athletic Department. When I hosted our first department meeting I realized who was in charge of the meeting very quickly when I walked in and I went to start the meeting. Sister Jean sidled up next to me and reminded me that she’s the one who starts the meetings with her prayer and she also told me we would be starting promptly at whatever the top of the hour was. She led the meeting off with a prayer and got a huge round of applause from our staff. Then I went up in our first meeting and they looked at me like I was definitely second string and playing second fiddle to Sister Jean. So I learned very quickly how Sister Jean is on this campus — how she’s looked at. She’s the absolute perfect ambassador for the university. She’s been a loyal supporter of athletics for many years and has been a great friend to me since I’ve been here at Loyola.” – Steve Watson, Athletics Director