Remembering Sr. Dorothy Beach, SND, Class of 1943 and Head Librarian

Remembering Sr. Dorothy Beach, SND, Class of 1943 and Head Librarian

Sister Dorothy Beach, SND, Class of 1943, Trinity Head Librarian 1972 to 1985

(photo courtesy of the Sisters of Notre Dame)

The loss of many great SNDs across the last year has been a cause of great sorrow for the sisters and also for Trinity, and this month we mourn once again — but also with a sense of joy and gratitude for the 100 years of life that Sr. Dorothy Beach, SND, shared so generously with Trinity and her community.  When she died on October 12 at Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati, Dorothy had just recently celebrated her 75th Anniversary as a Sister of Notre Dame.  Across the long span of her remarkable life, Dorothy responded to the challenges and opportunities of each historic era, and she left every institution so much the better for her stewardship.

Dorothy Beach arrived at Trinity as a freshman in 1939, with the Class of 1943.  The world was heading into another dangerous and awful war, but in 1939 the new students of Trinity were consumed with learning the ropes of class days and well sings and Trinity traditions.  But as the war years unfolded and the United States joined the allies in Europe while also waging war against Japan in the Pacific, the women of Trinity stepped up their participation in the war effort in numerous ways.  The Class History of 1943, recorded on the pages of that year’s Trinilogue of which Dorothy Beach was the editor-in-chief, recounted the activities of Trinity students doing small chores for quarters to raise money for Defense Bonds, or going to perpetual adoration in the Chapel to pray for peace, and numerous other small and large efforts to respond to the national emergency.  The yearbook also recounted the many fun, frivolous and joyful times, and the editor wrote in her Foreward that this tome was not ignoring the world crisis, but a statement of the values that transcended the historic moment and its tragedies:  “…intangible, spiritual values which cannot be studied under a microscope, perhaps, nor expressed in terms of mathematical formulae, but which must be in very truth the aim of all the striving in this world at war if a permanent peace is to be found.  And so we have emphasized on these pages the abiding things which Trinity has given to us to make life beautiful — spiritual knowledge, intellectual aspiration, a sense of justice, and an appreciation of the friendships by which our daily living has been enriched.  Defense interests have played their prominent part in our activities of this past year, and through them we have learned the lessons of selflessness.  It is our aim to carry with us into the larger field of service that we are about to enter the spirit of love, generosity, and justice which alone will give value to our work for others.”  (1943 Trinilogue, Foreward)

Dorothy Beach put her words into action by choosing military life immediately following graduation.   Along with nine other members of her class, she joined the WAVES, the women’s branch of the Naval Reserve in those days.

After the war and her services in the Navy, Dorothy Beach decided to pursue the calling she had felt ever since her college days — she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame.  Her professional experience served her well as she immediately began teaching and preparing for her future work in libraries.  After serving in several SND high schools, she came to Trinity in 1950 to work as one of the librarians.

Sr. Dorothy Beach worked alongside the great Trinity Librarian Sr. Helen Sheehan, SND, Class of 1919, for whom the library is named.  When Sr. Helen retired, Sr. Dorothy became Trinity’s head Librarian and held that position until the early 1980’s.

Sr. Dorothy and Sr. Helen were responsible for building the then-new Trinity Library in 1963; prior to that time, the library was housed in the south end of Main Hall where Admissions is today.  Moving the books from Main Hall to the new library was one of the legendary feats of that era, recounted often by alumnae who were part of the human chain moving books in 1963.

I remember Sr. Dorothy when I was a student in the early 1970’s.  She was always a kind, learned presence in the library, ready and able to answer just about any question, to find any book, or to secure help from other libraries.  “Back in the day” we did not have computers — we actually went to the physical library, took books off the shelves, or spun through the rolls of microfiche on the large machine in the basement.  I remember spending many days in the basement periodical room where a sleepy student could also have a very good nap in the carrels buried deep in the room.  (I never got locked in there, but came close a few times!)

When her years of service as Trinity’s librarian were over, Sr. Dorothy went to Rome where she was a librarian at the North American College.  Upon returning to the United States in the early 1990’s, she was the archivist for the Maryland Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame.  She returned to Trinity to live with the SND community here, and was always an interesting and lively commentator on the day’s news.

Sr. Dorothy moved to Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati in 2010, and she continued her ministry in learning and knowledge throughout her days there.

We remember her fondly, and with gratitude for being such a vital part of Trinity’s life through the latter half of the 20th Century.  When we use Trinity’s library today, let’s offer a prayer of thanks for the wonderful work of Sr. Dorothy Beach who contributed so much to our modern information resources.

Beside and below are photos of Sr. Dorothy as I remember her, smiling and always reading — and in the photo below, with Sr. Ann Julia of the Classics Department who was one of my favorite teachers in my freshman year — we read Ovid together in her office (I was the only Latin student that year).

We remember them with gratitude for laying the foundation for our intellectual lives well beyond our student days.