Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt took home Loyola’s highest honor, the Sword of Loyola, at the Founders’ Dinner Sept. 12. The Sword of Loyola is awarded to individuals who hold the spiritual qualities of St. Ignatius, according to Loyola’s website.
Sister Jean is the chaplain of the men’s basketball team and is very well known on Loyola’s campus. She gained international fame when the men’s basketball team progressed to the NCAA Final Four in March.
“When I was notified that I got the award, I was really surprised because it’s the highest award that the university can give,” Sister Jean said. “I felt very honored and humbled to receive such an award.”
The award is a replica of St. Ignatius’ sword. It is presented to those who exemplify exceptional courage, dedication and service, according to Loyola’s website. In the past it has been given to the creator of the Muppets Jim Henson and the director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Arthur Fielder, along with many other notable figures.
Jane Neufeld, the vice president of student development and Sister Jean’s close friend, said Sister Jean was an obvious choice for the award.
“She was a very natural selection,” Neufeld said. “I don’t know very much about the process, but I know it was a pretty easy decision this year.”
Sister Jean said she felt the award was a team effort and should be shared by the entire Loyola community.
“I knew right away that it wasn’t just my award,” Sister Jean said. “I said in my acceptance speech that this was a team effort, that no one person could earn an award like this, but I accepted [the award] with great recognition.”
She was especially appreciative of the players on the Ramblers men’s basketball team, who took the team to the NCAA Final Four.
“I received it in the name of our students,” Sister Jean said. “What I did was just serendipitous. It was really those young men that got us to the Final Four. We can never forget what they did for us because they brought such honor to Loyola and really put us on the map.”
Sister Jean said she views the sword as a symbol of peace and the Loyola community, not of war.
“I’m so proud of it,” Sister Jean said. “At the end of my speech I said that I didn’t look upon it as a symbol of war, I looked upon it as a symbol of peace as Ignatius did when he laid down his sword.”
Sister Jean has won many other awards throughout her time at Loyola. She received the Dux Mirabilis Award, an award that honors extraordinary Loyola leaders, an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Loyola in 2016, and was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
“Every time I receive an award, I think to myself, well, ‘that’s the highest I can go’,” Sister Jean said.
Neufeld said Sister Jean was very excited for the event. She even got her hair done and chose a new outfit.
The event seemed to live up to Sister Jean’s expectations, according to Neufeld.
“She had a blast, she had the time of her life [at the event],” Neufeld said. “She loved every minute of it. She doesn’t seek the attention and she kind of makes fun of it, but she was loving last night.”
Neufeld said she spends a lot of time travelling with Sister Jean to different events around campus. She said there is a lot to admire about Sister Jean.
“She has so many gifts and talents,” Neufeld said. “She just brings a smile to everyone she sees. She’s a gift to our community.”
Emma Jaszczak, a first-year studying biology, said she admires how many people Sister Jean has inspired.
“She’s achieved celebrity status because she’s inspired so many people,” Jaszczak said. “I am so happy for her.”
Sister Jean emphasized she was appreciative of all of the students at Loyola.
“I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know what I’ll do with a sword,’” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’ll raise it high for the students.’ So, that’s what I did. I took it, and raised it high for the students.”