Shared Memories of Sister Aquinas

Thank you to all who contributed these memories during the month March, while we collected these thoughtful comments.

My first sight of Sr. Aquinas was of her in a lab smock hiking up to the third floor biology labs. This was 14 years ago before her hip surgery and she was slowly making her way up with one hand on the rail and a smile on her face. No matter where you were in the building you would know she was in the building by her infectious laugh. Over the years we worked on many projects together. She was meticulous, honest, caring, and always had time to answer questions or explain situations. She loved and enjoyed nature by working in her garden, feeding the birds outside her office and watching the gingko leaves change color in the fall. She taught my grandson to play "rain" with the bright yellow gingko leaves pooled under the bare branches. She delighted in his play. I am very thankful Sr. Aquinas had time to say goodbye and did not endure a long-suffering illness. Her spirit was larger than life and will remain with us for a long time. I take comfort knowing she is at peace and with her loved ones. I miss her very much.
     - Crystal Anderson
 
There are so many things to say about this remarkable woman and so many beautiful sentiments have already been expressed. I saw her the day before she died. She was resting/sleeping and listening to opera. I never realized that she enjoyed opera. Sister Aquinas never met a stranger for each encounter had depth. Her attitudes and behaviors give me hope that there is a chance for peace. What a precious gift she gave me. Francoise O. Lepage. Professor Emerita, Dominican
     - Francoise O. Lepage
 
I knew her as "Sister Mary", as did all the graduate students of Professor Arthur Giese in the Department of Biology at Stanford. She and I entered Giese's laboratory together in the fall of 1960. This was pre-Vatican II and Sister still operated under constraints. There was a common room in which all of Giese's students had cubicles and a central area where we all had lunch--except Sister Mary, who ate her lunch alone in her cubicle. But she participated. I remember her laughter when we said anything particularly outrageous. The following summer she and I took the famous invertebrate course of Prof. Donald Abbott at Hopkins Marine Station. One of the major activities of the course was catching the early spring tides to collect invertebrates. What was Sister to do with her habit? The solution was a long, thick woolen skirt. She hitched up her "gown" around her waist, put on hip boots, and then put on the woolen skirt and clambered over the rocks and through the tide pools with abandon. Abbott told me that Sister Mary had taken his undergraduate course as well. When they were studying mollusks, Sister brought in her extensive collection of sea shells. Her response to another student's question as to how she had obtained such a collection was, he said, "My father's a sailor". Apparently Admiral Nimitz sent sailors out for collections where ever the fleet went. A photograph of Mary Manson Nimitz with the legend, "Admiral Nimitz's Daughter is a Shell Enthusiast", appeared in National Geographic, July, 1949. Sister Mary told me a great story about when she entered the order. She said one of her mother's friend was commiserating about this. Sister Mary told me her mother had replied, "I look at it this way. I haven't lost a daughter, I've gained a convent." She roared with laughter. Sister Mary applied herself with her typical discipline and application and finished her doctorate in an astounding three years. In the several years I still had at Stanford, I would take the bus up to San Rafael to visit. She still wasn't allowed to eat with me so I dined in solitary splendor in a dining room, served by a novitiate. I remember well the day I arrived and Sister came out to greet me in a short dress without her headdress and exclaimed, "John, I can eat with you now!" Over the years we exchanged greetings at Christmas. This year her letter came late. I had become concerned. But the letter was as joyous and enthusiastic about life as ever. I am very sad. John Lawrence
     - John Lawrence
 
Now I know why she didn't answer my last email dated Feb. 14, 2006. Sister Aquinas commented in her January 8, 2006 letter that she could hear ground breaking equipment beginning the construction of the new science building. In my mind, I know how wonderful those sounds were to her. Whatever disease she was fighting, I believe she was hanging on to hear that equipment preparing the foundation for the next generation of science majors. She loved the Dominican order and her vocation as a teacher and servant of the community including the greater community. When she arrived at Dominican with the ink still damp on her dissertation for a Ph.D. from Stanford University, I was a sophomore biology major, one of two in my class. I make the comment about the wet ink to make a point that she was probably the fastest Ph.D. graduate at Stanford according to her fellow graduates, who marveled at her speedy exit with her doctorate. I understand because she was doing God's Work. She taught me to be a stewart of God's resouces. I was her first lab technician. In my email to her I shared with her all the new technology I use in the lab at Whitman College and how computers and the Internet have changed the world and how we do research. We share a love for birdwatching and gardening. She would send me updates on the rose I gave her when she retired. I would have written to her this week that I participated as a victim in a mock disaster in which a bomb explodes on the campus and the courhouse and there is a hostage situation on the campus. I would have told her how I played a near dead victim after being blown out of a second story window by the bomb blast. Mulage technicians gave me horrible face lacerations with imbedded glass, a broken right arm, broken right femur, my pulse was 148, respiration was 4, and blood pressure 60/unknown. I was unresponsive (how about dead). I had an interesting experience as a victim and wanted to share my thoughts with her. Sister Aquinas was thrilled to be part of the communications center for her mock disaster last year. These are excellent opportunities to test emergency responses. I would have told her that I hope Dominican staff and students are better prepared than the staff at our college. Even though this was not a model mock disaster, it did indentify weakeness in the planning that must be corrected next time. There is time to make it better for the next mock disaster. I am still writing to her. I wanted to tell her about the 13 new roses I've planted and my experiment growing fig trees in Zone 6 that sometimes acts like Zone 5. My education at Dominican was the best thing that ever happened in my life. It is a precious gift that no one can take from you. These gifts are from God and now He has called one of his servants home. All of my other professors have passed away. She was my last contact with the college. I will miss her.
     - Bessie (Saghy) Hinchman, class 1967
 
I have known Sister Aquinas since the day she entered our Dominican Order. From my experience of knowing her and working with her for all these years my first response to her leaving us was: "Thank you, thank you dear God, for giving us such a treasure for the years we had her."
     - Sister Anna Louise LaVoy
 
I met Sister Aquinas while in the Elementary and Secondary Teaching Credential program at Dominican. Sister Aquinas taught a course in Comparative Evolution Theories; the most interesting and inspirational science course I will ever take. She expected her students to know the material in depth so that we could fully engage in the lively classroom discussions she loved to lead. There was no place to hide in Sister Aquinas' class! Sister Aquinas was a strong, positive force who helped shape me as a science teacher and an educator. I carry her memory with me each day. Keller McDonald, Superintendent, West Sonoma County Union High School District
     - Keller McDonald, '77 Teaching Credentials
 
Sister was riding up the Potomac with her family as a child in her fathers Admirals boat when F.D.Rooevelt came downstream. The Admiral told the girls to stand by the railin aqt attention. They said they did not like th President and would stay in the room His commanding response was "You have every right not to like the president, but I demand that you respect the office. Now get out there and stand at attention. Sister had a far away twinkle in her eye when she told this tale..
     - George C. Fleharty
 
I first met Sister Aquinas in Freshman History Class at the Convent. I saw her many times while at the College. We met once at Louis Bertrand Hall where we studied a deceased bird together. Last visit, while staying at the Motherhouse, I warned Sister, as she returned late one night through the kitchen door, of skunks nesting near the kitchen. We shared magical meetings of historical significance, exploration, spiritual sharing, and gentle laughter. Bless you dear Sister! Lustre M Malone OPL St. Mary Magdalene Chapter ASU Tempe, AZ Lustre Robinson '65DominicanCollege
     - Lustre Robinson Malone 1965
 
While Sr. Aquinas and I had one of those frequent and brief conversations as we past one another on the campus she loved, she asked after my life and I told her that I was redoing my back garden and wanted to include the vine that grew over her garden fence. She later sent me a note, on a recycled, small scrap of paper and wrote "Hardenbergia violacea" and signed her name. Over the next ten years as we past one another on campus we often spoke of Hardenbergia and marked the first bloom of this glorious vine with a note to one another. I think it is important to note that Hardenbergia is one of the first plants to bloom in winter and while a vigorous climber, it rarely covers other plants. The flowers while tiny are a vibrant purple with a dotting of brilliant citron in the center. All metaphorical, I think, for this holy woman I had the pleasure of knowing. LeeAnn Bartolini Class of '79 and Professor of Psychology
     - LeeAnn Bartolini
 
Oh so many but the one that really tickles me: Sr. was so involved with our WASC accredidation! As usual for her, she burned the midnight oil for months! When all was over and done, her wink and comment to me made me laugh: "WASC is a four-letter word!"
     - Annie Tobin
 
At first, I was in awe of Sister Aquinas...so intelligent, so discerning and, the daughter of an Admiral. Awe would become admiration over four years. My favorite memories of Sister Aquinas are of her walking through the Campus. She always seemed to be in wonder of her environment, looking for new discoveries. If you were lucky enough to meet Sister on a path, you might get a little science lesson about something that caught her eye. Our lives are richer for having known you Sister, if only for a little while. You will be missed.
     - Susan Grant Kato. Class of 72
 
From the very first day I came to Dominican, she made me feel welcome and appreciated. No student was outside her notice. I had the privilege to do the busy person's retreat with her one semester. She had a lively wit and unending love of God and every person. I will never think of her without considering her one of the most honourable and wonderful people I have known.
     - Alexa Chipman
 
When I first came to Dominican in the Fall of 1976, Sister Acquinas was the faculty resident in charge of Fanjeaux. This was my first time away from home, and I was shy and quiet. My roommate, on the other hand, was not shy and quiet, and had a boyfriend that came over a lot. Consequently, I was locked out of the room a lot too. Without having to tattle, Sister Acquinas knew what was going on, and how difficult that situation was for me. She was always available to lend a listening ear or offer an encouraging word. She helped make that first semester tolerable. Sometimes Sister would find me sitting in the dark in the ballroom or the kitchen, or the back stairs when she'd make her rounds. We'd talk and share stories and ideas. My father was positively jolly when he met her the first time and learned that she was the daughter of Admiral Nimitz. I think he admired her for being the daughter of the Admiral. I, on the other hand, admired and loved her for who she was--a tall, kind, graceful, straight-shooter who was intelligent, sweet, and loving. A giant mentor of spirit. I'll miss you Sister.
     - Elizabeth White
 
In my memory when I mention my mother talking about the Mexico trip, she did not mean to insult anyone. She does respect everyone in charge as well, she was merely trying to express that she really liked Sister. Thank you.
     - Lauren Brennan
 
Sister Aquinas approached problems like they were her very own. I encountered an unexpected problem with my financial aid threatening my ability to complete my final semester and graduate. Someone told me that I should speak with Sister Aquinas. She listened, she cared, and she acted on my behalf. Two days later my problem was resolved and I was focusing on my studies again. I am convinced that I would not have a Master’s degree from Dominican if it were not for Sister Aquinas. God touched many of us by sharing her with us.
     - Michael Hughes
 
The sentence that has the typo should say that Sister Aquinas would outline the whole chaper on the blackboard from memory and not even look at the text book.
     - Madelon Healy Montobbio
 
When Sister Aquinas was a young sister she came to teach at Dominican Upper School. She taught me History and I remember that she would could outline the whole chaper on the blackboard from memory not even looking at thek.At the Christmas Bazaar her father Admiral Nimitz would come and walk around the campus with her.
     - Madelon Healy Montobbio class of 65
 
Sr. Aquinas was my advisor during my years at Dominican. Whenever I needed some advice, whether it was for a class or a personal issue, she always had something positive to say to me. Her words were comforting. She'll be missed by those who knew her!
     - Annette Li, Class of 1995
 
Sister Aquinas was my freshman advisor and professor of many of my science classes. She set my positive first impression of Dominican and what this education could mean to me. With her wisdom, content knowledge, humor and kindness, she made an indelible impression on my life. Kathryn Wiedenfeld Smith 1977
     - Kathryn Wiedenfeld
 
I didn't even know her name was Sister Aquinas. I just knew this kind lady who always had a smile and a sweet word. A very brief acquaintance, but a very great loss.
     - Alisa Gray
 
What can you say about someone who has so profoundly touched your life? … In August of 1981, I began my first year at Dominican (of course, "College" in those days). I was filled with excitement, optimism, and youthful esprit, until I received a phone call from my parents with news that my father had been diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. I was fairly certain that my world would collapse upon me. Within a few days of receiving this news, I was summoned to Sr. Aquinas’ office. She and I had only briefly met, and I was rather perplexed what had precipitated this request to see her. I recall the adage 'good news travels fast, bad news travels faster.’ Sister greeted me as I appeared in her doorway and asked that I be seated. She said that she was aware of my father’s condition and she asked how I was doing. It meant the world to me. This woman availed herself to me and allowed me to share – my tears, my worries and my thoughts. Even as I write this tribute, 25 years later, I cry. There were a few sit-down chats with Sister over the next couple years (I can still hear her saying, "uh huh, uh huh" as if nodding with great interest as I would recount details of the latest surgery – she was a scientist, after all ) and many passing "hellos" on Acacia. However, as I neared the end of my Dominican experience, so too did my father’s life. He died on April 5, 1983. I returned from Spring break and a simple, ivory card with a penned message was in my mail. Of course, it was from Sister Aquinas. I still have the card. There were other demonstrative acts as well – I had Sister’s encouragement to apply for a Resident Advisor’s position (undoubtedly the most enjoyable Summer of my life). Moreover, I recall her presence at Meadowlands as I was inducted into the National Spanish Honor Society at the end of my Junior year. However, it must be the day we had our hood ceremony in the Guzman lecture hall that stands out most in my mind – Sister presented me with my hood, we hugged and she said, " Richard, we have had some good times and some bad times <pause> BOY, have we had some bad times." We both laughed heartily, and she congratulated me. I saw Sister a number of times since graduating in May of 1984. In fact, after moving to Rancho Santa Fe in 2002, I called her with no purpose but to thank her for all of her support of me during the most challenging time of my life. Naturally, her modesty prevented her from claiming anything, but perhaps the inherent joy one feels when helping a fellow human being in crisis. She was a tour de force in my life. As we (all) go forward, we shall always remember the sweet, lilting quality of her voice, the compassion that lived (thrived) within her, and, most notably, the difference Sister Mary Aquinas Nimitz made.
     - Richard Searls Class of '84 and Class Representative
 
It was wonderful having Sr. Aquinas as the residence hall supervisor in Fanjeaux Hall while I was living there. She was a very kind, humble and understanding individual. She was respectful of our needs, while promoting wise choices and providing silent leadership. While Sr. Aquinas is associated with many other reknown accomplishments throughout her life, I remember this one, simple connection I had with her. Sr. Aquinas has left Dominican University much too soon. We will miss her. Sincerely, Janice Lococo Holland '72
     - Janice Lococo Holland '72
 
Sr. Aquinas had that special gift of making one feel like the most important person in her life when I was speaking with her. Her sensitivity to others was remarkable and a gift that we will miss whether we greet her in the garden, the pathways, hallways or chapel.
     - Sister Patricia Boss, OP
 
No doubt Sister Aquinas gleaned much strength from both of her parents. I found it interesting how she chose a profession, both spiritually and occupationally, which was the polar opposite of that of her father....and I regret not being more forward in discussing this with Sister. I can only imagine what it must have been like as a child of a man who mananged the largest war machine in the entire history of humankind. Perhaps that is one of the reasons Sister chose her path. For me, the image I will always keep of Sister Aquinas will be of walking by the gardens between the Convent and Bertrand Hall and seeing Sister on her hands and knees tending the flowers and battling the weeds with trowel in hand. Godspeed Sister Aquinas on a life well lived.
     - Michael Hayes 2000
 
Sister Aquinas was the Dean when I attended Dominican. I remember appreciating the high level of biology instruction given. Sister Aquinas maintained a great Dept. with a gentle inspirational environment for learning. The growth in the Deptment demonstrates the spirit. I was shown the gentleness by quiet walks in the well groomed garden with the presents of light. I was asked to look at the garden closely. I know even though Sister Aquinas is not with us her spirit and works will still be by the garden bench.
     - Carla Ferris - 1984
 
The photo...it made me smile...it made me sad and it made me glade to have known her. She helped me through difficult times which showed me my future - the one I live now. The inner forte and gentle direction demonstrate the strength that is Sister Aquinas. May her spirit live within in us all.
     - Alan Pefley -1993 Master of Music
 
I feel forever blessed to have known such a remarkable woman.
     - Cherain L. Scott-Good
 
Sister Aquinas has been our touchstone and connection to "home" since our graduation. She has had a profound effect on our lives, as she guided and believed in us as students and as a couple from our years at Dominican. As our lives progressed, and we entered into our careers and parenthood, Sister Aquinas continued to support and gently guide us in her nurturing and caring ways. Every year we would make "Sunday" drive out to the school to get a little "grounding" and relish in the memories of our youth, and our number one goal was always to touch basis and get a loving hug from Sister Aquinas. Never did we find a time or day in which we couldn't find her in the garden, in her office, working with students, or working diligently on her next new "project". She always took time to sit and chat and "check-in". Every year we looked forward to her notes to say hi and fill us in on her version of "retired" life. I always felt she was busier than I was and that I needed to step up the pace. It saddness us that our yearly trips back to Dominican will not include acutally touching basis with Sister Aquinas, but I know that she will always live on in the everyday fabric of the campus and University life. Thank you God for allowing Sister Aquinas to share in our lives, bless her with eternal life in your graces.
     - Steven ('92) and Margaret Phillips ('94)
 
Sr. Aquinas had a rare ability; to hold strongly to her faith while being open to understanding everything in the world around her. This combination of spiritual strength and fearlessness led to her become one of the most intelligent people it has ever been my good fortune to meet. Busy as she was she always seemed to have time to talk to one more student, to be patient until you understood what she was saying, and to help you find your way. I feel very fortunate to have known her, and to have had the benefit of her wisdom in my life.
     - David Blazer
 
Sister Aquinas was my champion. That is what a lot of alumni would say, and reading all of the shared memories, I believe that must be so. Sister Aquinas' nurturing heart truly is an inspiration and a lesson --learned by many who had the good fortune to interact with her at any stage in their life or hers. I was always surprised at her sense of humor, encouraging ways --often displayed when things might seem to be hopeless or irretrievable, she brought a lightness and kindness to everything. I am sure she went out her way to connect with individuals at Dominican, or made that part of her life her faith or prayer in action. Everyone has spoken of her with such eloquence, it is hard to add to what others have felt or said. But I will tell one story: My senior year (1988) I had to take 23 units to graduate (a four year program in 3 years for me). I took a College algebra class that I needed to graduate, and admittedly did not have that much time to study for final exams in math. I had to take the final exam twice in order to pass the course and graduate. Sister Aquinas waited in the office until 7:00 or 8:00 PM as I recall to find out if I passed so she could include me in the roster of graduates the next day if I passed the exam. I don't believe I did anything to deserve her faith in me -- at least mathematically speaking at the time. And there she was rooting for me in the office -- I just couldn't believe it. You will likely not ever meet another that really took the time to pause and get to know you a little bit like Sister Aquinas. She will be missed -- by many -- and we have lost some light and love in our Universe.
     - Patricia Garford Brothers, class of 1988, credentials 1989
 
Sister Aquinas was my champion. That is what a lot of alumni would say, and reading all of the shared memories, I believe that must be so. Sister Aquinas' nurturing heart truly is an inspiration and a lesson --learned by many who had the good fortune to interact with her at any stage in their life or hers. I was always surprised at her sense of humor, encouraging ways --often displayed when things might seem to be hopeless or irretrievable, she brought a lightness and kindness to everything. I am sure she went out her way to connect with individuals at Dominican, or made that part of her life her faith or prayer in action. Everyone has spoken of her with such eloquence, it is hard to add to what others have felt or said. But I will tell one story: My senior year (1988) I had to take 23 units to graduate (a four year program in 3 years for me). I took a College algebra class that I needed to graduate, and admittedly did not have that much time to study for final exams in math. I had to take the final exam twice in order to pass the course and graduate. Sister Aquinas waited in the office until 7:00 or 8:00 PM as I recall to find out if I passed so she could include me in the roster of graduates the next day if I passed the exam. I don't believe I did anything to deserve her faith in me -- at least mathematically speaking at the time. And there she was rooting for me in the office -- I just couldn't believe it. You will likely not ever meet another that really took the time to pause and get to know you a little bit like Sister Aquinas. She will be missed -- by many -- and we have lost some light and love in our Universe.
     - Patricia Garford Brothers
 
Sister Aquinas touched my heart in many ways just by asking how my day was going. I will always remember her taking time to talk to me about how my music was going or just to talk about life. These were the moments that touched my heart and I will always hold dear to me. I will deeply miss you, Sister Aquinas, but I know that you are home with God.
     - Rebecca Merjil
 
I had the wonderful opportunity to do work study with Sister Aquinas during her time as academic dean, in 1986. It was in her Guzman office (the one with the Ginko tree just outside the window) where she very patiently taught me how to use DOS. I will always remember her kindness and spirituality, her gift of time (she always had time) and her passion for Dominican. Thank you God, for the gift of your daughter, Sr. Aquinas. Welcome her into your kingdom!
     - Kerry Desmond 1990
 
In 1967 I came to Dominican College as a freshman with no experience of Catholicism or nuns. I was given a work study assignment working for Sr. Aquinas in her biology lab. I spent much of my time feeding her fruit flies and cataloging her mamoth shell collection. As we worked on opposite sides of the lab I would listen to her happy dialog with the unseen going on much of the time. A quiet chuckle, an acknowleged presence seemed always to be with her. She was the most peaceful, gentle, and loving person I believe I have ever met. In 1969 I returned for a visit after leaving to attend UC Davis where I became, for a time, a "Jesus Freak." When I told Sr. Aquinas of my new found faith she was supportive and happy for me. She helped me organize a gathering where I "witnessed" my faith to others. She shared her own faith journey with that gathering as well. She also gave me her journal to read in support of my deepening faith. Her wisdom and openness were absolutely amazing. Her journal reminded me of Pope John's published journals...very profound! Finally, in 1997, after I had graduated from Seminary and had been ordained to ministry in the United Church of Christ, I returned to visit Sr. Aquinas and once again was struck by the depth and wisdom and incredible youthfulness of this majestic woman. We laughed and shared memories together as old friends. She is one of those rare human beings who blessed the lives of everyone who knew her well. I will miss her so much!
     - Kristi Martin Denham, would have been class of 1971
 
It has been said that,"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal." Thank you for sharing your memories of Sister Aquinas, and so your love. It is also said that "One often calms one's grief by recounting it." Thank you to Dominican for allowing the opportunity to do this, to the extent that it can be done. While I didn't encounter the Sister in any classes, hers was a memorable presence on campus. God and his attending angels must have needed her home.
     - Sue Hammerich Class of 2002 Occupational Therapy
 
Sister Aquinas was such an incredible woman and because of that, I feel truly blessed to have known her as a friend and as an instructor. Sister Aquinas taught me Marine Biology back in the early 1990's with such a contagious enthusiastic spirit that no one could ever match. I find it difficult to realize that the next time I return to Dominican that Sister Aquinas will no longer be there since she was such an integral part of the University. I will always remember her bright smile along with her shining personality. Thank you Sister Aquinas for being such an inspiration in my life; you will always have a special place in my heart. You will be missed by all of us whose lives you touched. May you be safe with God.
     - Kimberley Joffe-Corners class of 1992
 
Sister Aquinas encouraged me to no end during my time at Dominican. I always saw her radiant spirit shine through all circumstances. She was a wonderful professor; I learned a great deal from her. I enjoyed visiting her in her office and watching her guppies as she told me stories of her childhood. She and Sister Samuel were present at my wedding; this is such a precious memory I will not soon forget.
     - Rose Maria Martinez class of 1996
 
Hale Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you amoung flowers, and blessed is the smile that shines on your face. Hly Mary, mother of Dominican, pray for us sinners, now until we see you again, Amen.
     - Lauren Brennan and Christina Law
 
The last time I saw Sister Aquinas was on February 15 of this year. Father Bob had told me that she had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and I was shocked and saddened by this news. I wanted to come and see her, and, in a deep place in my heart, to just say goodbye. My friend Denise and I, a junior, went over to Lourde's that day to try and fin her. She wasn't even in the convent at all wher we thought she would be. Instead, she was at the sister's center, helping one of the other sisters with an Excel computer program. We actually had to track her down. As was her custom, she eagerly came out to see Denise and I, and we talked to her for about fifteen minutes. One thing that she said was something like, "It touches me enormously that you are here." Then she went on for a little bit, saying how she wasn't looking forward to her treatments, that she'd "much rather be thinking ab emergency prepraredness." At the end, Denise and I prayed for her, and, upon leaving, I gave her a long hug and held onto her for a minute. I told her that I loved her, and I said goodbye to her in my mind. My memory of her that day was once of immense peace and happiness. She seemed peaceful and okay, quite happy, actually. I'm very sad now that she is no longer here on earth, but I will always remember the smiles and the happy personality that she gave to us all. My mom had the pleasure of meeting her a few times and even once said, "I was she was doing the Mexico trip, I really like her." And my mom had only spent about ten minutes with her in all. So that just shows you what kind of a person sister Aquinas really was. So goodbye for now, Mary, and we will always love and cherish your spirit and the person that you are.
     - Lauren Brennan
 
I feel priveleged to have known Sr. Aquinas for the past 20 years. She always had a minute to smile, to chat, to ask about my family, my class, my school, my career. As a teacher, I try to imitate her unhurried manner with my students and their parents. I will always miss her and hold her in my heart.
     - Julianne Beach Class of 87
 
Such strength, compassion and humor. My college experience was truly enhanced by Sr. Aquinas. I will always remember her walking around in her orange hard hat and vest passing out flyers about safety preparedness. A Beautiful soul, always ready to laugh. I am blessed to have had my share of time with her. Rest in Peace and the Unconditional Love of God.
     - Lianni Castro Class of 2004
 
Last March I asked Sister Aquinas if she would write a letter to my retired Admiral Dad on his birthday, since he was a big fan of her father, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. She posed for a picture and we shared some thoughts about our similar pasts, as military dependents in our youth. Later I stopped by and thanked her for taking the time to make my Dad's birthday extra special. She was genuinely pleased her effort was so valued by someone she never met.
     - Michael Eggert, M.A. Humanities student
 
I was both shocked and saddened to learn of the loss of this wonderful, kind soul. I never knew an encounter with Sister Aquinas that didn't involve a good laugh. She was the epitome of what it means to live a life of selfless devotion and service that makes a difference in the lives of others.
     - Jim McCargar, ACE Fellow, 2003-04
 
I was really sad to learn that Sr. Aquinas died. I didn't know she was even sick. I have not had any contact with her directly, yet she is one of the faces and spirits that have stayed with me since leaving Dominican's emply 4 years ago. I recall how happy I felt for her when I saw her picture in the IJ with all the city emergency department officials rehearsing for disaster response at a table top exercise, and right there in the conference room where her colleagues, including me, had held discussions on the need to do a table top drill 10 years ago but hadn't managed to get one off the ground. I felt proud of her. Another impression I will always cherish is running into Sister standing in the bushes between Guzman and the Mailroom one night after my Pathways (cohort 10) class ended at 10 pm. She was wearing a rain jacket and boots, and had her binoculars trained on the ledge just below the second story window of Guzman Hall. I followed her gaze and saw a pair of white barn owls as they were swooping in from the direction of Meadowlands, stealthily returning to a next of hungry chicks. I learned that, years before, she had instructed the facilities crew to situate an owl house on the roof of Guzman that her sister had built her to attract mating owls. It had long been abandoned, but here they were, back at Guzman on the ledge just outside my cohort's classroom window. For the next couple of weeks, several of us spent our break turning the lights out and eagerly hovering near the window to watch the owls fly out and back to the nest, their white wings spanning four-five feet wide when fully extended and their eerie eyes glowing back at us. Sister would whisper goodnight to us from her post in the bushes as we passed her on our way out the side stairway of Guzman, cooing encouragingly as she watched the birds move about with motherly satisfaction and a scientist's eye.
     - Lenore Junker (BS 01)
 
To us Sister Aquinas was our "grandma", a friend and an effective colleague in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She always took an active role in the department by communicating to students and faculty about their research interests, attending senior theses presentations and giving advice to all of us. Her interests in the natural sciences were very broad; she was a true Renaissance woman. She was interested in plants and their growth in her beloved garden, and she kept an eye and ear out for the many species of birds and mushrooms on campus. Sr. Aquinas especially enjoyed talking about her great love of marine biology and her many students who had pursued careers in that field. She liked to discuss her past collaborations on projects, and she used to tell the story of her life aboard ship when she could recall being freed from a playpen by a sailor who knew she would shriek when the next scheduled alarm rang. Strawberry Shortcake, visits from students and faculty alike, and life on campus delighted her. In remembrance and in connection, we promise that we will stay open to all the ways life delights us. Sister Aquinas will be greatly missed. What will be missed perhaps the most will be her "open door" and her brilliant, shining face welcoming you.
     - The Faculty, Staff and Students of the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
 
In a culture where personal gifts and talents seem dedicated mainly to personal gain and advancement, Sister Aquinas stands out as a superb model of that Christian ideal wherein our lives and blessings are directed primarily to the welfare of the larger community. Among the numerous good people I have known, few have so triumphed over the intrusions of ego as has Sr. Aquinas. Even in those inevitable disagreements to which communities are ever subject, Sister's was a presence that, in its very demeanor, urged charity, tolerance, and a willingness to place the interests of others above her own. When she was called upon to speak or give a blessing, I was always struck by the simplicity and clarity of her thinking, by the sweet authenticity of her prayer. Her devotion to Dominican must remain, I believe, a contuing force in the life of the University if we are to sustain what is most central and distinctive in our mission. We can return her love in no better way.
     - John Savant, Emeritus Professor of English
 
I first met her in 1990 as I began my journey as a Dominican trustee, and until last month she was an unfailing source of information and advice on how things were really going on campus. At the same time she always wanted to know more and more about my life and family, and never failed to keep track of who was where, and ask how they were doing, and if I did not disclose enough she would pursue the topic until she knew everything she wanted to know. As an example, when eventually she found out that my wife and I both had been Naval Officers, we were swept away immediately to her secret cache of the papers, photos, and paintings of her father, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, one of the major heroes of World War II. I always found her to be this way- she would answer questions about herself politely, but she really wanted to find out how the other person was doing, and touch their life. Truly she will always stand as a shining example of one who lived not for herself, but for others.
     - Haskell Rhett
 
Sister Aquinas gave us the community that we are at Dominican University. If one found himself on this campus, he met Sister Aquinas. She became his friend. She spoke to us all. She found common ground, with everyone. She made us all feel as if we had just walked into a conversation among intimates. I’ll remember the smart, funny stories told by a scientist who loved literature, who loved the natural world, who could turn a phrase—in Latin. I’ll remember her clear and lived Faith. I’ll remember that perfect bob of a hairdo. Her laughter, which so many of us can still hear, has more than once reminded me to connect to the joyous in life. I am grateful to have known Sister M. Aquinas Nimitz, O.P.
     - Thomas Burke
 
I first met Sister Aquinas when I began my Jr. year at Domminican as a biology major in the Fall of 1964 and we have remained friends ever since. She was also the "floor nun" in Pennafort. She was truly a unique woman who was a role model for me and countless other students. She will be greatly missed by all who had the privelege to know her. I was not aware she was ill and was planning a nice visit with her at our 40th class reunion in April.
     - Patricia (Pat) O'Neill Hartley
 
I had been on the staff at Dominican for only a couple of weeks when I paused in the Guzman lobby to examine the ornaments on the Christmas tree. "Did you see the little deer?" asked a clarion voice at my elbow. "I think it’s so pretty!" That was my introduction to Sister Aquinas, and she continued talking as comfortably as if we had always known one another. I came to love and admire her so much. She was a powerhouse of energy, heading up the Emergency Preparedness Task Force and dealing with the myriad details that went along with that. I got used to picking up the phone and hearing her launch right into, "La -verrrne..." -- she never wasted time saying hello. :) I liked the way she tended to our spirituality, reminding us about saints' days and retreats, and I enjoyed hearing her talk about her father, Admiral Nimitz; it made history come alive for me. Because of her hip problems, the stairs in Guzman were difficult for her, but I never once heard her complain. She was always cheerful and busy. I’d meet her walking through campus with her little red backpack, and from my window I often saw her working in the convent garden, where the real deer dined on her flowers. "It’s hard sometimes to remember that they’re God’s creatures," she sighed. The last time I saw Sister Aquinas was at Lourdes on Feb 16, just before I left for Louisiana. She already knew all about my volunteer trip and was alert and chatty. When I got up to go, I hugged her and said, "You hang in there. We’re not ready to give you up yet." She just smiled and said, "Safe journey!" That was so typical of her kindness. There she was, faced with the hardest journey of all, and she thought of me first. I feel so blessed and honored to have known her. Safe journey, Sister Aquinas!
     - Laverne Mau Dicker
 
Sister is the best friend of our family for more than two decades. When Xiaoxin came to Dominican as the first exchange scholar from China at Dominican, she answered his first phone call from China to the United States and her laugh and humor put his anxiety at complete ease. She was the first to meet him at the San Francisco Airport, the first to be with him for his first meal in the United States, the first to encourage him to advance his education in the United States, and first of many, many memorable experiences that we, as the first generation of immigrants in this country, have had which have made us who we are now. To have Sister in our lives is a blessing and we will treasure her kindness and friendship for life. Rain or shine, she has always been there for us and for everybody. She was too ill to see us when we stopped by Lourdes last Saturday, but passed on the message, "I love you very much." Love is something that she has always shared with us so selflessly. Life will never be the same for us and our family without Sister, and life will never be the same for us and our family because of Sister.
     - Xiaoxin Wu and Jenny Li
 
It was a joy to have known Sister Aquinas for the last 5 years as both a student and a co-worker. I will miss our lovely chats and found hellos as we passed each other by while on campus, the tour you gave me of the convent, all the knowledge you bestowed upon me and your eagerness to learn about others. You may be gone, but will never be forgotten. Know that your spirit will always be a part of the Dominican community.
     - Arian Ahmadi
 
What a wonderful, special person! When I came to Dominican in the fall of 1989, she was always there if I needed help or advice and she always made me laugh. She will be in my prayers. I will miss her very much.
     - Heidi Wolff
 
Sister Aquinas is a truly special individual. Her compassion and friendship has left an ever lasting mark in my heart. Although most of our visits were brief and I was unable to truly get to know her, those brief conversations have made all the difference. Sister Aquinas showed what the true spirit of Dominican is all about. Her smiles and greetings will truly be missed throughout the campus.
     - Chelsea Christopherson
 
Though it has been over 20 years since my graduation from Dominican, Sister Aquinas always seemed to remember me whenever I saw her. She was always so warm and gracious to me during my years at Dominican.
     - Denise Pate
 
On Monday I attended her memorial mass at noon in Pennafort Chapel. Many faculty and students attended. In the chapel Sister Aquinas always had a certain seat she sat in for mass. Someone was kind enough to place a flower on Sister's chair. I'll admit that I teared up during mass but the tears started flowing when I saw that flower on her chair. I didn't know Sister Aquinas on a real personal level, but I always spoke to her a couple of times a week on my way to class. Sister was the type of person who really connected with individuals. For example if Sister Aquinas briefly met an individual for only five minutes, she really took those five minutes and made the conversation truly be honest, genuine, sincere, and down to earth. Even though Sister Aquinas didn't know everything about me I was always compelled to stop by her office to chat with her because I enjoyed talking to her. My favorite moments would be when Sister Aquinas would be teaching us students about disaster preparedness in every way she could. I remember one day while I was walking down Acacia Avenue Sister Aquinas was on the opposite side of the street tending to her garden. I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was making sure her garden was disaster proof...apparently she was using that moment to remind me of a disaster preparedness presentation she was to give while students were registering for classes in line (last year). Jokingly I said "Are you going to be there the whole day?" and she replied "Mo, I will be there as long as the students are there to listen, while they are registering of course. I want a captive audience and what more of a captive audience could I ask for than students with no place to go?" I still smile at the thought. Sister Aquinas...you shall be missed. It is my hope that your spirit of hard work, friendliness, dedication, and generosity still linger on our school campus in only your true style and fashion. God bless you! Respectfully yours, Maureen "Mo" De Nieva
     - Maureen "Mo" De Nieva
 
I met Sister Aquinas the first day when I arrived at Domican to attend graduate school in 1988. I was a student from China and it's my first long trip in to a stange world. When I met her in Guzman Hall, I was in tears of missing home, airplainsick, and all the sad feeling. Her nice face and warm words took away my tears. I couldn't express anyting to her in English at the time. I just nodded and nodded and I felt that I was so lucky that I landed in such a nice school with such a nice principle. In my two years at Dominican, she gave me so much help when I had tough times. I don't think that I could finish school without her and all my professors support. She is the role model of me showing me how to be a person with a spirit of love,kindness, and generosity to others. Now I am writing in my office in Beijing with tears in my eyes, I just want to say to Sister Aquinas one more time that I love you and I will truely miss you!!
     - Han Zhou
 
Sister Aquinas truly defined what it means to be Dominican. I will never forget her laughter and her genuine, deep concern for all that is truly important. I often stopped by her office on my way to staff meetings or to the mailroom for a few moments of cheer. Regardless of what she may have been busy with at the time, she would put it aside and devote her full attention to me. She had a way of making me feel, if only for a moment, that I was the most important person in the world. I learned so much from listening to her stories about the university's history and traditions. She clearly took immense pride in the Dominican Order and in the institution she devoted her life to. While her father was my inspiration to become an officer in the United States Navy, Sister Aquinas is an inspiration to all of us to love life, follow our passions, and stive to make the world a better place.
     - Damien J. Hansen
 
Sr. Aquinas had incredible strength of mind and body, but what was most incredible about her was her unceasing faith in the God to which she dedicated her life. What a gift she was to all of us! I will carry with me always the memory of her tireless dedication to the university. She was a inspiration to everyone who had the honor of knowing her. I am so grateful for our last visit together and I know she is now at peace, free from pain, and looking into the face of Christ!
     - Amy Bjorklund Reeder
 
I will really miss commiserating with her.
     - Noel Robertson
 
Sr. Aquinas will be missed deeply by all on this campus. It has been particularly lonely these past weeks not seeing her scooting around campus with her untiring energy. I especially will miss seeing her with her little red disaster preparedness backpack. She was one of the most amazing women I have ever met and she had a deep and loving spirit that encompassed all that she met. My heart is sad at our loss, but I know that she is in a better place free of pain and the sorrows of this world. God Bless and Keep You Sr. Aquinas, until we meet again.
     - Lisa Juris
 
In Memoriam Mirroring the Glory This week every brick and blade of grass on campus weeps, for they’ve lost their best friend. Sr. Aquinas has died after a very long love affair with Dominican. Twenty-six years ago I picked up a phone in South Bend, Indiana to find Sr. Aquinas on the other end of the line, calling from Dominican to interview me for a faculty position. She put me at ease, and by the end of our conversation, punctuated by her joyous, infectious cackle, she told me the job was mine if I wanted it. Many years later she confessed that I was one of only two sight-unseen hires in Dominican’s history (the other was Jim Boitano) and that she had risked the ire of certain colleagues in doing so. But then with wide grin and sparkling eyes that seemed to announce an imminent high five, she crowed: "I’m 2 for 2!" Thank you, Sister, for believing in me. And we both know that was not the last time you were in my corner! I believe that no one ever has, and I wager no one ever will, work harder on behalf of the life of our University than Sr. Aquinas. You would have to have been around during the eighties and nineties to fully know what I’m talking about. A ten-hour day in her spartan office and nonergonomic chair would be a followed by a four-hour evening spent in same, day after day, week after week, month after month. It was almost scary – until one realized that it was not finally the institution for which she laid down her life. It was God. The Order and the College were but the fields God gave her to till in this life. And till she did – with a self-denying perseverance that were nothing less than saintly. There. The word is out. So now I can tell you my deepest thought: knowing Sr. Aquinas was about as close as I’m likely to come in this life to knowing a saint. Hush now. Do you require miracles? How about selflessness? For a saint is but someone who succeeds to a extraordinary extent in moving from the natural self-centeredness of our human condition to a profound re-centering in God, a move that, if true, unerringly produces its well-known fruits: love, kindness, patience, magnanimity, courage, peace, and humility – virtues that dwelt in our dear Sr. Aquinas not only occasionally and accidentally but, as they say, eminently and abundantly. Just last year Sr. Aquinas wrote a revealing piece about her life and work. At one point she tells of receiving a letter from a student thanking her for the healing kindness Sister showed her during a particularly difficult and vulnerable period of her life. Sister continues: "I was totally unaware that she was suffering in any particular way at the time. Whatever acts of kindness she experienced were simply a part of the consistent effort to be friendly, to speak a kind word, or acknowledge someone’s presence with a smile, to silence destructive gossip, or help meet needs: getting students a light bulb to replace the one that just burned out, helping them develop more effective study techniques, explaining where in the college to resolve a difficulty, or responding to a request to pray with they as they struggled with some issue, known or unknown to me. All such simple human actions but coming from the concern to be Christ-like, compassionate and available. Living simply and in ways considerate of the earth have also been my concerns." You see what I mean? At the end of the piece, Sr. Aquinas quotes one of her favorite passages, a gloss on the Psalm, "Be still and know that I am God." Having first sought and found the place where the glory dwells, it is then necessary, secondly, to gaze long and deeply, obeying the injunction of Psalm 45:11, to be still, and in that stillness gaze, till sight becomes adjusted and the eyes begin truly to discern and so to mirror the glory." Beloved Sr. Aquinas, you must indeed have discerned, because you certainly did mirror, in your perfectly unflashy way, the glory of God. Phil Novak Dept. of Humanities Program in Philosophy and Religion
     - Philip Novak
 
Sr. Aquinas had an unquenchable sense of joy an optimism. I always thought she knew something the rest of us didn't. She seemed to believe that life essentially was to be enjoyed. Soon after coming to Dominican U., I traveled with her to a Dominican colloquium in Miami. She took her Audubon guide and drank up the experience. Years later, as I told her of my plans to move to Miami, she helped me appreciate the joy of the adventure when she asked, with great enthusiasm, "Do you remember that wonderful Caribbean music and those noisy parrots?" Always, the joy.
     - Carol Harbers
 
Sr. Aquinas was a wonderful and compassionate friend and a thoughtful co-worker. There are many fond memories; here's a sampling: her laughter carrying over the halls of Guzman and Bertrand, chatting with her over the garden fence, a lovely picnic lunch she made for us on my last day of working at the college, her convincing my mother that having a female wedding minister was--in fact--pretty cool. Sr. Aquinas was, for me, the Dominican spirit personified. I will miss her very much.
     - Emily Navarre
 
I only knew Sr. Aquinas for a couple of years, but she was simply one of the kindest souls I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. We will miss her.
     - Jackson Ratcliffe