A Strong Woman in Science

Sister Leona Truchan ’53 grew up on Chicago’s north side and learned of the School Sisters of St. Francis while attending Alvernia High School. She was so impressed by their positive interest in society and their desire to create a better world that she entered St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee after graduating from high school. She then came to Alverno College where she majored in biology with minors in mathematics and French.

After graduation in 1953, she taught grades one through four for two years and then was assigned to teach at Alvernia High School for eight years.

Sister Leona (known initially as Sister Etienne) came to Alverno to teach biology in 1961. With the exception of two years away to complete her doctorate degree from Northwestern University, Sister Leona taught Alverno women until her retirement in 2011. She was instrumental in the development of our ability-based curriculum and was a founding faculty member and first chair for the Developing a Global Perspective Ability department, which was originally called “Achieve Understanding of the Relationship of the Individual and the Environment.”

She served in a variety of roles at Alverno, including chair of the Biology and Natural Science and Technology divisions. She also headed science education and served in prominent national roles, including one on the board of the state of Connecticut’s Department of Public Instruction. Most importantly she was a mentor to both faculty and students.

“She was a strong role model for her students and other faculty, by being a strong woman in science when it was not such an easy thing to do. She paid attention to people, got to know her students, their needs, strengths, goals and aspirations,” says Lauralee Guilbault, PhD, professor of Physical Sciences.

Sister Leona was devoted to Franciscan values and to the development of Alverno women. In the spring 2011 issue of Alverno Magazine, she said: “I am most proud of the times when a student can’t learn and we help them make connections. We give them life. We really work to get students to understand that we teach the concepts in our disciplines and the abilities as a unified one. Because of this, our students and our staff both continually reflect on ways we can help each other learn.”

Her commitment to students and her ability to inspire them is evident when speaking with alumnae.

“Sister Leona was a favorite science teacher when I started at Alverno in 1983,” says Kim Muench ’89, alumna and director of alumnae engagement. “She encouraged me and pushed me to do my best! I was inspired to enjoy science. When I taught elementary school, I hope I gave my students the same love for science that she inspired in me.”

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