Dennis Brown | November 11, 2019
When Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the University of Notre Dame’s president from 1952 to 1987, decided in 1972 to make the all-male institution co-educational, he knew he needed a strong and steady woman to lead the transition. He turned to Sister John Miriam Jones, S.C., appointing her assistant provost (and later associate provost) and assigning to her the task of integrating the first 400 women in the fall of ’72, and then many more in subsequent years.
It wasn’t easy at first. Sister John once said: “Many men undergraduates found it hard to be welcoming. There was a nightly rating system in the dining hall; catcalls from the windows of the men’s halls; run-throughs in women’s halls; and something akin to non-inclusion in the classrooms.”
In ensuing years, however, the climate changed, thanks in no small part to the guidance of Sister John, so that when she left Notre Dame in 1989 to become the provincial of the Central Province of the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati, Notre Dame had become, in the words of Father Hesburgh, “a much more normal and healthier” university.
It has often been said that “Father Ted opened up Notre Dame to women; Sister John made it happen.”
Sister John Miriam Jones died Sunday (Nov. 3) in Cincinnati. She was 95.
“Sister John Miriam was one of the pivotal figures in Notre Dame’s transition to co-education,” said Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., president emeritus of the University. “She befriended the first generation of Notre Dame undergraduate women and made their transition easier. She was full of wisdom, kindness and enthusiasm. We will miss her deeply.”
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