Ursuline Sister Sharon Sullivan will become the ninth Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph to be honored as a Distinguished Alumna of Brescia University during a ceremony in October 2017.
“I was quite surprised,” Sister Sharon said. “I didn’t think I’d done anything to deserve it.”
Since the inception of the Distinguished Alumni recognition, Brescia has awarded more than 50 alumni with the title. The award was created to honor 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.
Prior to her association with Brescia, Sister Sharon earned a degree in history from Maryville (Tenn.) College, worked in the private sector and then for the Girls Scouts of America. She developed an interest in teaching special education from Ursuline Sister George Ann Cecil in 1972, who was head of the special education department at Brescia. Sister Sharon earned her teacher certification from Brescia in 1975, and worked in public schools as a special education teacher.
She eventually felt a strong call to religious life and joined the Ursuline Sisters as a postulant in 1981, becoming a sister in 1982. In 1984 she moved to the Brescia campus as director of residential life, and Brescia became her home until 2010, other than the three years she spent earning her doctorate in special education from Purdue University.
Sister Sharon became an associate professor in special education at Brescia, and eventually became chairwoman of the School of Education in 2004. In 2007 she was named academic dean and vice president for Academic Affairs, a position she held until 2010, when she began a six-year term as congregational leader for the Ursuline Sisters.
Among her civic involvement is membership on Kentucky’s State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children, Watershed Watch, the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana Board of Directors, the national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and on Brescia University’s Board of Trustees.
Her time at Brescia helped to crystallize a call to service, Sister Sharon said.
“I was a child of the ‘60s. We were doing good for others,” she said. “Brescia took that to a completely different level. I’m still trying to grow into that. It’s not that you are doing, but you are allowing yourself to be a tool for the love of God. Up until that I thought, ‘I was doing it.’ It’s much, much different. It is said so beautifully in the respect for the sacred.”
Following the completion of her term as congregational leader and a sabbatical, Sister Sharon returned to Brescia in January 2017. She is now an associate professor, coordinator of the special education program and a consultant with the School of Education on a variety of accreditation elements.
Sister Sharon is the ninth Ursuline Sister to receive the honor, joining Ursuline Sisters Mary Matthias Ward, Larraine Lauter, Vivian Bowles, Ruth Gehres, Michele Morek, Joseph Angela Boone, Rose Marita O’Bryan and Dianna Ortiz. Ursuline Associate Mary Danhauer also received the award.
“I’ve known many of the people in the community who’ve received this award,” Sister Sharon said. “But when it’s your sister, you know multiple levels of the story. Now I have to live up to it.”
The 2017 Distinguished Alumni who will be honored at a 6 p.m. banquet Oct. 27 at the new Moore Center on the Brescia campus. The other honorees that evening are Paul Coomes, a 1973 graduate, and brothers Eric (’92) and Jason Kyle (’96).
Coomes is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Louisville, past chair of the economics department at Louisville and past president of the Kentucky Economic Association, in which he was named the 2014 Distinguished Economist. He recently served as executive director of the Office Health Policy for Kentucky state government.
Eric and Jason Kyle are owners of Red Pixel Studios, a marketing design group in Owensboro that develops websites and other materials. Under their leadership, Red Pixel Studios is heavily involved in the community, donating time and talent for several nonprofit organizations. Jason Kyle serves on the boards of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., and the Daniel Pitino Shelter.
The banquet is part of the Brescia “Live Like a Bearcat” homecoming activities Oct. 26-29. Among the first activities is at 7 p.m. Oct. 26, when the “Return to the Arch” Alumni Speaker Series features Ursuline Sister Michele Morek in the Taylor Lecture Hall.
To purchase tickets for select events, contact Jake Davis, director of Alumni Relations, at 270-686-2111 or [email protected].