Photo of Sister M. Madeleva Wolff
Sister M. Madeleva Wolff

SISTER M. MADELEVA WOLFF

(1887-1964)

“Some of the Rules, I Think, Are Rather Foolish.”

Although it may seem that of all people nuns would be the ones most likely to cherish and follow rules, Sister Madeleva’s life clearly demonstrates otherwise. Of her youth, Sister Madeleva said, “I loved to read and always had my nose in a book.” She continued this love throughout her lifetime by publishing numerous books and poems. In order to reach a wider audience, Sister Madeleva deliberately sought to publish in secular publications and with secular presses. At a time when only a few women earned college degrees, Sister Madeleva earned a doctorate from Berkley.

Sister Madeleva accomplished many things in her life, and her contributions to South Bend include the many changes and advancements she brought to Saint Mary’s College. Upon entering her presidency, she observed, “The best qualifications I brought to my office were these: my ability to dream, my capacity to work.”

She believed that “college is a profound part of life, not simply a prelude to it.” She put this belief into action by helping “Beauty find a home” through the building of Moreau Center for the Arts, a building to house all of the fine arts on campus through classroom and public spaces. One of her goals with the building of Moreau was to create a space where students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community could gather together.  To this day, her vision of Moreau continues to live and helps to fulfill her promise of Saint Mary’s providing discovery, “the discovery of yourselves, the discovery of the universe and your place in it.”

  • South Bend Hall of Fame
  • President of Saint Mary’s College, 1934-1961
  • Admitted the first African American student to Saint Mary’s
  • Introduced the Department of Nursing Education
  • Successful capital drive to build the Cushwa-Leighton Library
  • Successful capital drive to build the Moreau Center for the Arts
  • Instituted student and faculty self-rule
  • Author of over 20 books

*Information compiled from Sister Madeleva’s “Addressed to Youth,” memoir “My First Seventy Years,” and the 1994 Madeleva Lecture presented by Gail Porter Mandell