An Angel to Others

No amount of pain or discomfort could stop Sister Celestine Schall ’48 from building connections with people to help them uncover their full potential.

Schall, whose leadership and counsel helped many women achieve their dreams, passed away Nov. 21, 2019, at age 92.

Even as the end of her life drew near, “she still went out and started to counsel others,” recalls Sister Bernardin Deutsch ’53, a longtime friend and colleague. “She would take the name and address of people who worked as CNAs at the hospital and tell them what good nurses they would be. And then she’d say, ‘May I give your name to the Alverno admissions office?’”

“It was never said in a self-serving way,” Deutsch continues. “That was the funny part of it. She wasn’t saying, ‘I’ve got this school waiting for you.’ No, no. [Instead, she said] ‘it would be good for you.’ She saw potential for personal development.”

Schall is remembered for her many accomplishments, including 75 years as a School Sister of St. Francis and for helping shape the Alverno we know today. In 1971, she created and led the Off-Campus Experiential Learning (OCEL) program, making Alverno an early adopter of weaving internships into a college education.

She has faithfully served Alverno in many ways, including as a career center director and an assistant dean, as well as by representing the college in the broader community.

A vigil celebrating Schall’s life was held Nov. 27, 2019, at which many remembered her knack for getting to know people for who they are, for what makes them tick and for all they have the potential to achieve. She would do everything she could to make sure they knew it, too.

“She recognized talent in others. It was her great pleasure and joy, and it took her out of the natural pain that she lived with, to be with others and to be able to encourage them in life,” Deutsch says.

One of the many whom Schall encouraged was Toni Gradisnik ’75, who as an Alverno student was an early participant in the OCEL internship program.

“Encouragement is one of the finest words to talk about with Celestine,” Gradisnik says. “She got me into photography and working side-by-side with a professional photographer. I always thank her for that.”

Patricia Jensen ’71, Alverno professor emerita, taught a career development course with Schall for several years. She saw firsthand how Schall identified women’s talents and helped them pursue their career goals.

“There are literally hundreds of women across the city, across the state, across the Midwest, who came to know their strengths, their hearts’ desire, because of the way Celestine taught that class,” she says.

While Schall’s earthly life has ended, Deutsch is confident that Schall’s role as a trusted counselor, friend, supporter, guide and teacher continues.

“She said at some point, ‘I’ll be an angel to others when I can,’” Deutsch says. “So feel free to call on her. I think she’s open to it.”

This article appears in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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