Larger Than Life

Winter 2007

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Larger than Life:
A Tribute to Sister Basil Anthony O'Flynn

“When you talk about the heart of Saint Mary’s, talk always turns to the woman we honor today, Sister Basil Anthony O’Flynn. For generations of Saint Mary’s alumnae, she is Saint Mary’s.”

President Mooney delivered these words at a tribute held for Sister Basil Anthony ’46, on the occasion of her 90th birthday, this past September. Her words echo both a reflection of a life of service to the College and the sentiments of many alumnae, faculty, and staff.

The tribute to Sister “B.A.” included a reception in the Student Center, with remarks from President Carol Ann Mooney and visits from faculty, staff, and alumnae. Also in attendance were her scholarship recipients Jasmine Neelam and Caitlin Claire Buechley. In addition to the reception, the Saint Mary’s community was asked to send a special message, card, or favorite story about Sister B.A. Over 100 alumnae and friends responded and below are just a few excerpts:

"For generations of Saint Mary's alumnae, she is Saint Mary's."
—President Carol Ann Mooney

Happy Birthday from one who remembers you like yesterday, bodily throwing the ND boys down the stairs during the panty raid during my freshman year in Holy Cross. Nonetheless, I did marry one of them, and he is still ok after 40 years of marriage. We are so very blessed to have been able to send our daughter to SMC for her education. She has turned out to be a wonderful person and soon-to-be mother. She is a true credit to SMC having completed her DVM at the University of Illinois and practices medicine in Oklahoma now. . . Much love and fond memories from both of us. George and Kim Cavanaugh Humm, Class of 1967

Congratulations, Sister B.A.! What a lot of memories we all have of you, especially the ones where you stood at the sign-in desk watching over us. Thanks for all the watching. It kept some of us on the straight and narrow, some of the time.
P.S. I never was responsible for painting the water tower. I don’t like heights. But I think I told you this in 1966. Love, Anne Sheehan Garbarino, Class of 1966

My favorite memory of Sister B.A. was in the dining room. We all were assigned in rotation to Sister’s table for dinner, sort of like dining with the Captain on a cruise. I worked at the post office just before dinner so it was a long run to Le Mans Hall from Holy Cross Hall. I usually was the last to enter the dining hall. When I arrived at the table, I was the last one there, so I had to take the seat directly across the table from Sister. I felt awkward as I had never eaten at table with a nun before and I was only a freshman from a NY public school. As the others chattered on, I sat quietly, desperately hoping never to say a word, and then to go away in peace, unnoticed. As it turns out, when I cut my first piece of meat, the fork slipped, propelling the morsel through the air and onto Sister’s plate. The horror! Sister kindly and mercifully (and with her own particular sense of humor) said, “My! The meat is tough tonight.” That’s why I loved her so. Marianne Elliott Morin, Class of 1964

Congratulations from Washington, D.C. on such a memorable occasion! In this town, we would have Congress declare “Sister B.A. Day,” run up the flag, enter a well-deserved resolution in the Congressional Record, and hold a tribute-laden gala! And even with all that, none of it would be enough to tell you how much you are admired, loved, and truly cherished by all you have touched, especially those of us who are part of the Saint Mary’s family. Thank you for always being the true face of our College, for being the front door to all that it stands for, and for all you have done to enrich the lives of so many of us over the years.
Fondly, Beth Lichtenfels Veihmeyer, Class of 1977

… When I think of Saint Mary’s, I think of you. And every day I thank God for my wife. I also thank those of you who helped her become the person she is today. I feel the same way about Kathy, our daughter, who was able to experience many of the same things that we enjoyed and/or suffered through. There are countless thousands of others who share my feelings toward you and Saint Mary’s. I hope you have a wonderful birthday and a good party. You deserve it.
B.J. Smith, husband of Ruth Schnaus Smith, Class of 1963

This is a celebration too wonderful to miss! How happy all of us are for you, especially us old-timers who were in College classes with you. I don’t know which classes you and I enjoyed/endured together because all you novices sat in the back row in class with your heads down and weren’t supposed to talk to us who didn’t wear convent garb. But we have made up for that at reunions after you and we graduated and you were professed. Much love and many good wishes and prayers for you as you reach this landmark birthday. I hope to see you at Reunion 2008 which will be the 60th for my class. Hugs and kisses! Carolyn (Carrie) Powers Powell, Class of 1948

Happy 90th Birthday! Every woman in America wants to know what you use on your skin, as you have the luminosity of a college freshman. (Every nun I’ve ever asked that question always says, “plain soap and water,” which is not the answer we non-nuns want to hear.) When I came to Saint Mary’s, and you were introduced as Sister B.A., I thought it stood for Sister Bachelor of Arts. This will give you some idea how unsophisticated I was when I landed on your doorstep to attend Saint Mary’s. As we say in New York City, you are the real deal, the best of the best, and a straight shooter. May God continue to bless you all the days of your long and healthy and happy and glorious life. xoxoxo Adri Trigiani, Class of 1981

On one awful day I was persuaded to go on a blind date with a TA from ND on a canoeing trip. My blind date did not speak. I guess he disliked me as well as I disliked him. I was navigating, if you can do so in a canoe. Unfortunately we hit a man who was fishing in waders. We knocked him down. I had to get out and lift him onto the shore. At this point my TA decided he would do the navigating and I would do the rowing. We stopped for another wonderful non-speaking picnic with other TAs and their rowers, only to find out that we had to row back. The TA and I and another couple arrived back at the car, only to notice that the car was out of gas. This was Sunday at 8:00 p.m. I’m thinking, “If I come back after curfew, my whole next two weekends are grass.” Needless to say my “friendly” TA and his friend had to walk a long way to a gas station to get gas and then a long way back to the car. They were not happy, the other girl was not happy, and I was downright unhappy. It was now 11:00 p.m. We are now down the driveway to SMC. I am not scared; I am so angry I could spit. I don’t even have to knock. There is Sister Basil Anthony, at her biggest. I don’t care. I look at her and say, “Leave me alone,” and walk up to my room. About ten minutes later, Sister B.A. tapped on my door and came in with hot chocolate and cookies and said, “You’ve had a bad day.” Best ending to an awful day. Thanks, Sister B.A.! Suzanne Sheridan Joyce, Class of 1965

It was my first year at SMC, and I didn’t know many people on campus. One day I was coming out of Moreau when it started raining hard. As I passed the Le Mans door, a very tall imposing woman came down the stairs. Before I knew what was happening, an arm reached out, pulled me under her umbrella, and I was swept along to the dining hall. That was how I met Sister B. A. Marcia Rickard, Saint Mary’s College faculty

… Sister Basil Anthony came to visit Atlanta. My husband, Peter (ND ’69) and I had been invited to a Saint Mary’s dinner and development function and were delighted to attend just because B. A. was going to be there. As we walked in, she spoke to me by name and addressed my husband by name. Afterward, my husband said, “I remember Sister being much taller!” I laughed and said, “Me, too! I think it had to do with that huge white wimple she wore when she was in habit.” And then he shared his own story with me. As a freshman at Notre Dame, he had been a part of the spring ’66 panty raid. He laughed and said, “We had stormed down the Avenue and were excited but winded as we approached Holy Cross Hall (a freshman dorm at the time). As we got to the bottom of the steps and started up, the front door opened and out stepped the biggest nun I had ever seen. She came quietly out of the door, stood on the top step and had a baseball bat lightly tapping her left hand. She then asked us, ‘How can I help you young men?’ You have never seen anything as funny as all of us running for the hills completely forgetting our mission.”
Ronnie Henry Kessenich, Class of 1970,
wife of Peter Green Kessenich, ND 1969
and mother of: Peter Green Kessenich, Jr., ND 1997
Veronica Louise Kessenich, Class of 2001

Sister B.A. came to Saint Mary’s in 1941 when she entered the Congregation of Holy Cross. She has been the dean of students (1961–1968), vice president for fiscal affairs, and vice president for public relations and development. She has been the chair of the College’s Board of Regents, and in 1998, retired as the assistant to the vice president for college relations. She was a consultant to all of the College presidents of her time. In 1994 she was awarded the President’s Medal and in 1998 a scholarship fund was established in her name by Bob and Mary Kelly McLaughlin ’42. Sister B.A. has requested that any gifts made in her honor be designated for the Sister M. Basil Anthony O’Flynn, CSC, Scholarship Fund.

These are just a few of the wonderful stories sent in for Sister B.A. Click here to read all of the letters in their entirety.