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Big Names Show Out for Sister Jean’s 100th Birthday

Nick Schultz | The PhonenixSister Jean's 100th birthday cake.

As she took the microphone at her 100th birthday celebration Wednesday afternoon, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM said it “looks like classes started” because of how many people were in the audience.

Students, parents and administrators lined the railing along the second floor of the Damen Student Center, down the stairs and filled the Joan Steinbrecher Atrium outside the Damen Food Court for the festivities.

“When I came in today, I just saw all [the media] plus all the others who were there,” Sister Jean said in a press conference afterward. “I was just overwhelmed.”

Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney offered remarks and announced an alumnus donated $250,000 to create the “Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM Endowed Scholarship Fund” and said the university would match that number. 

Rooney also said the “Worship, Work, Win” fund, which was created to raise money for athletics and named after Sister Jean’s mantra, had raised about $31,000 as of 2:45 p.m. The university’s goal for the fund is $100,000.

“Sister Jean,” Rooney said, “we can never thank you enough for all you’ve done for Loyola.”

Among the crowd were government officials including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden and 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who graduated from Loyola with a bachelor’s degree in 1970 and a juris doctor (J.D.) degree in 1974, was also in attendance.

When Pritzker took the stage, he proclaimed Aug. 21, 2019 to be “Sister Jean Day” in Illinois.

“We should all be a little more like Sister Jean,” said Pritzker, who was wearing one of Loyola’s famous maroon and gold scarves.

One of the highlights of the celebration was a tribute video, which featured celebrities from all walks of life. Rooney kicked the video off before Cardinal Blase Cupich, the head of the Archdiocese of Chicago, showed up on screen.

Other famous faces such as legendary sportscaster Jim Nantz, ESPN personality Dick Vitale, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and former Loyola President Fr. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., followed Cupich with video birthday wishes to Sister Jean.

Also appearing in the tribute were Chicago Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, who turned 96 in January, and CNN reporter Coy Wire, who interviewed Sister Jean during the Final Four run and was told she’d “help [him] through the interview” after he told her he was nervous.

“Nobody told me who was going to be on the video,” Sister Jean said. “So, I was just very much surprised. But when I heard all those wonderful things that were being said, I thought to myself, ‘I have a lot more to live up to, so I’d better live a little longer so I can do all those things that people are telling me.’”

Once the guest speakers finished delivering their speeches, Loyolacapella — an a capella singing group on campus — led the student center in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” before Sister Jean blew out her candles.

Loyolacapella leads a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Sister Jean.

Sister Jean said her birthday festivities would continue through Aug. 29 at the annual Water Tower Campus block party. Since she had her first party Aug. 1, that’ll conclude a full, month-long celebration.

“What they’re going to do? I don’t know,” Sister Jean said. “[They] just [say], ‘Save the date, Sister Jean, and come.’”

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