The daughter of George and Alberta Abell Birkhead, Ernestine was born in Ensor, Kentucky on January 12, 1896. At age eighteen, Ernestine entered the novitiate at Mount St. Joseph in September 1914. She received the Ursuline habit and the name Sister Alberta on December 30, 1914.
In 1915, Sister Alberta spent a few months teaching grades seven and eight at St. Romuald School in Hardinsburg. Her full-time assignments were St. Peter School at Waverly for four years, St. Catherine, New Haven for one year and St. Charles, Lebanon for one year. In 1921, she began teaching high school: two years at St. Bernard Academy in Nebraska City, one year at St. Francis High School and eleven years at. St Joseph High School in Owensboro. In 1935, Sister Alberta began two years of full-time study at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She returned to Kentucky in 1937 to teach business at Mount Saint Junior College until 1950 when the Jr. College relocated in Owensboro and became Brescia College (now Brescia University).
Sister Alberta was a truly dedicated instructor at Brescia College from 1946 until her death in 1969. It is safe to state that she trained a very large portion of the commerce to students in the city. After giving thorough business training, she never ceased her efforts to obtain positions for them until they had successfully achieved them. She was a friend to every student who needed her assistance to obtain part-time employment by which they could complete their college education. She always seemed to have wise counsel and witty words of encouragement to help them over the rough spots of college life.
Another outstanding trait of her charity was to seek out her married students around Christmas time, who were in financial binds, and provided Santa Claus for their children.
As a mark of true appreciation of her dedication to her pupils and friends, her former students launched and completed a Sister Alberta Birkhead Memorial Scholarship Fund to perpetuate her memory at Brescia College, which still helps students to this day.
She is remembered as one of the pioneer Ursuline Sisters of Brescia College, a masterful teacher, whose influence reaches deep into the life of alumni of Brescia’s business department, men and women who contribute significantly to building a just, compassionate society in Owensboro and across the nation.