Sister Sharon Sullivan, OSU: Exploring life inside and out

By then, Sister Sharon had assumed the chair of the Education Department at Brescia, and gotten involved in the state advisory panel for exceptional children, Watershed Watch, and the Girl Scouts. She became chair of the School of Education in 2004.

Though she misses the classroom, her answer to “What is your favorite ministry” is always the same: “Now.”

Sister Sharon contributed the story of her faith journey, “Stick to Your Guns,” in Sister Irene Mahoney’s 1996 book, “A Company of Women: Journeys Through the Feminine Experience of Faith,” which is available through

She’s been at Brescia during her entire ministry, but there’s been change during those years. “I live inside the heart of something here. The world comes to you on a college campus,” she said.

Keeton said she admires Sister Sharon’s sense of fairness and ability to maintain her vocation within her occupation.

“As educators, we should be about bringing the gift of education to those who are not yet quite able to take full advantage of it, as well as to those who are,” Keeton said. “Sister Sharon expects excellence in the classroom, of teachers as well as learners, but I believe she also understands that not every student begins from the same place.This is a basic tenet of the social work profession – beginning where the client is. I believe we must also apply this to the classroom, sometimes reaching out to begin where the student is. I sense in Sister Sharon a willingness to adopt this philosophy as well.

Sister Sharon said the skills she’s learned from special education and the Girl Scouts have played a role in her growth.

“It’s helped me to know one never knows the impact of one’s words or actions,” she said. “The things that are remembered are not what you’d think. It’s the small word, the small touch. It keeps coming up.”

The outdoors sister

In her spare time, Sister Sharon serves on the Girl Scout board, is on Watershed Watch taking water samples in nearby Panther Creek, and she loves science fiction books and movies. She has a drawing from her nephew in her office in homage to “Star Trek, the Next Generation,” called “Search for the Borg.”

Rather than take photos on their annual camping trips, Sisters Sharon, Michele, and Ann Patrice kept journals that Sister Sharon illustrated. Here is her depiction of the three of them in some bushes after overhearing the cough of a large animal.

One of the highlights of her year is the annual camping trip she takes with Sister Michele and Sister Ann Patrice Cecil. “The first time (Sister Michele and I) went camping was in 1993, a graduation present for finishing my doctorate,” Sister Sharon said. “We had such fun, we asked anyone else who wanted to come, and that’s when Ann Patrice said ‘I’d like to go.’”

They went to the Southwest the first year, camping outside Santa Fe and Cloudcroft, N.M., near Arches, Utah, and Canyon de Chelley, Ariz.., Sister Michele recalled. The next year, the three of them went to the Michigan Upper Peninsula.

“Anything on the Great Lakes is just beautiful,” she said. “We went to Alaska, West Virginia, and the Grand Canyon.”

“Sharon is an expert camper and very handy to have around when it’s time to put up a tent or tie a knot,” Sister Michele said. “Very rarely does she err in her judgment about camping details, but Ann Patrice and I have never let her live this one down: one hot morning we were leaving camp for a day of inner tubing on a river, and she insisted we leave the tent ‘rain hat’ off, against our protests. And there was a cloudburst, apparently right over our tent. We spent half the night drying sleeping bags and everything else we owned.”

Sister Sharon’s friendship with Sister Michele began with their love of nature. “Michele seemed tickled to have someone who would help her take care of frogs,” Sister Sharon said.

Sister Julia said describing Sister Sharon is like attempting to take a photo of the Grand Tetons.

“The photographer is present looking at the scene, snaps a shot, brings it home to share and then comes the disclaimer, ‘The photo doesn’t show the whole scene…it’s just too big!’” Sister Julia said. “So it is with describing a woman with numerous qualities and skills.”

By Dan Heckel