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Sister Michele Morek honored as Brescia Distinguished Alumna

Sister Michele Morek told the crowd at the Brescia University Distinguished Alumni Banquet on April 9 that among the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, “Ph.D.” once stood for “Poor Home Devil,” because if you had one, you would never leave Brescia.

“Well, I never wanted to (leave),” she said. “If you count the four years I was here as a student, the eight years I taught half-time when I was a Councilor on the Ursuline leadership team, and the six years I served on the Board of Trustees as Ursuline Congregational Leader, I was at Brescia for 43 years … and every one of them has been a treasure.”

Sister Michele, a 1966 graduate of Brescia College, was honored along with 1986 graduate Kevin Carrico and 1969 graduate Shirley Hawkins Raymond. Sister Michele served at Brescia as a professor of biology from 1971-80, as academic dean and vice president of academic affairs from 1980-86, and then professor of biology from 1986-2004. Those last four years she was chairwoman of the Division of Math and Natural Sciences. Sister Michele left Brescia in 2004 when she began serving as the congregational leader for the Ursuline Sisters, a term she concluded in 2010.

Sister Michele delivered her speech to those gathered at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Owensboro in a way no one could have imagined when she started at Brescia – via video from New York City, where she is completing an internship with UNANIMA International that began in January. UNANIMA is a nongovernmental organization that works with the United Nations to shape international policy, particularly those promoting the welfare of women and children. Sister Michele is working on issues concerning global water resources and climate change.

Sister Michele, right, stops for a photo on the floor of the United Nations with a fellow intern from the Brigidines in Australia, Sister Jan O’Neill.

She told the crowd that she was prepared for this adventure by her time at Brescia. “Besides all the things I learned outside of the classroom, from people like you, I knew I had a good biology education under the watchful eye of Sister Casimir,” she said. “But what I did not realize at the time was how important the other parts of my education were going to be: the writing classes and the public speaking classes that helped with my teaching, administrative, and leadership careers; the literature classes that encouraged me to get a public library card as soon as I got here, and the art and music classes that have enriched my life and made my extra-curricular activities here in New York City so enjoyable. But I know I’m preaching to the choir — you don’t need to be sold on the value of a liberal arts education.”

She said it would take too long to name all the faculty, administrators, and students who hold a special place in her heart. “The very best moments of my career were seeing that ‘aha’ moment on a student’s face, or seeing the spark of my love for a subject jump between us and light a fire in their eyes … every teacher knows what I mean,” Sister Michele said. “And what a thrill every year to see my former students come up and receive a Distinguished Alumnus award, or to be happy and successful as human beings and in their professions.”

The award was created to honor those graduates who exemplify the elements that encompass The Brescia Difference: Respect for the Sacred, Devotion to Learning, Commitment to Growth in Virtue, and Promotion of Servant Leadership. Because of the breadth and scope of their life’s work, the magnitude of their impact on the regional, national, and often international scene, and their examples of service and leadership, alumni who receive this esteemed honor have distinguished themselves among their peers and demonstrated that they are true stars of Brescia.

Sister Michele has a doctorate in biology from the University of Notre Dame, and is ministering in her 49th year as an Ursuline Sister. Other Ursuline Sisters to be honored by Brescia in recent years include Sister Joseph Angela Boone, Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan, and Sister Dianna Ortiz.