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Sister Mary Teresa Noth, Ed.D.: 1923-2018

by Nancy Solomon on 12/18/2018

Sister Mary Teresa Noth, Ed.D., dean of the School of Nursing from 1966-1982, died on Friday, Dec. 14. A member of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary community, Sister Noth was 95.

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SLU School of Nursing celebrated Sister Mary Teresa Noth's 90th birthday with a party in 2013. SLU File Photo

“Sister Noth was small in stature but mighty in thinking and spirit. She was brilliant. And in my experience, she was so humble,” said Teri Murray, Ph.D., dean of SLU’s nursing school who was a nursing student at SLU when Sister Noth was dean.

“Sister Noth was the flame that sparked a wildfire in accelerated learning, and she changed the landscape of nursing education. She was innovative and daring, so far ahead of her time.”

In 1971, Sister Noth created the nation’s first accelerated nursing degree program, which offers students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees a fast-tracked nursing education and quicker entry into the nursing profession. More than 300 accelerated nursing degree programs have since prepared many thousands of nurses for careers, Murray said.

The push for accelerated education came from Sister Noth’s own experience.

Sister Noth received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1945, and taught high school science before deciding to become a nurse. Despite having a deep science background, Sister Noth returned to school to complete the full nursing curriculum at Saint Louis University.

“Once she became dean of SLU’s School of Nursing, she said, ‘I’m going to fix this so students can get credit for their previous experience and education,’” Murray said.

“Some people might think, “If I have to go back to school to complete the full nursing degree, you have to, too.’ Instead Sister Noth decided to make it better for others.”

Sister Noth also was the driving force behind construction of the nursing building in 1978. Under her leadership, SLU received a $3.9 million federal grant for the new building. A plaque to Sister Noth from the faculty and staff of the School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions hangs on a wall of the nursing building, presented “in appreciation for making a dream a reality.”

A display on the School’s Heritage Hall also recognizes Sister Noth’s contribution to the school. “During her tenure, Sr. Mary Teresa created an atmosphere of caring, respect and appreciation, where faculty, staff and students felt free, motivated, supported, and encouraged to perform at their highest potential.”

Mary Ann Lavin, D.Sc., nursing professor emerita, recalled her 1970 introduction to Sister Noth in Cura Personalis, the nursing school’s magazine. Sister Noth was recruiting Lavin to lead the school’s cardiovascular nursing program, and Lavin had doubts that she was up to the task.

“When I walked out of her office, I not only had the job, but I had my first dose of Sister Mary Teresa-induced self-confidence. In some soft, firm, unmistakable way, she inspired confidence not just in me, but in so many of my peers,” Lavin said.

Sister Noth was part of the SLU community as a student, educator and administrator for a quarter of a century. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Saint Mary’s College, her bachelor of nursing and master’s of nursing education from SLU and her doctorate from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Sister Noth’s Memorial Mass will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21 in St. Mary’s Chapel at the Sarah Community, 3393 McKelvey Road in Bridgeton. A Memorial Mass at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church will be celebrated at a later date.