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Knowing Sister Mary Ann Eckhoff was a privilege and a joy. She was an outstanding leader, an extraordinary visionary, and a wise counselor. She was also a lot of fun.
Sister Mary Ann passed away last week but not without leaving a substantial legacy, especially in education and philanthropy. Originally an elementary and then a high school teacher, she became the first woman to head the state’s largest school district — the Archdiocese of St. Louis schools — from 1981 to 1995.
She was anti-bureaucrat and led the school district with innovative planning and superb networking. The Catholic Church practically invented hierarchy but that top-down style was not for Sister Mary Ann.
Her talents were so much valued by her religious family —the School Sisters of Notre Dame — that they brought her to Rome for nine years to lead them throughout the globe.
Sister Mary Ann returned to St. Louis about five years ago and quickly resumed her community leadership. Her work at the Incarnate Word Foundation and the Washington University Skandalaris Foundation extended her talents so to tens of non-profit organizations.
North St. Louis County’s Archdiocesan high school is called Trinity because its predecessors were three separate schools: Mercy, Thomas Aquinas, and Rosary. One way to honor Sister Mary Ann, herself a former Rosary High principal, would be to name it for her. She was very special and needs to be remembered.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.