Tributes to Sr. Margaret Claydon, SNDdeN, ’45
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ’62
Speaker Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi reflected on the passing of Sr. Margaret Claydon, who served as President of Trinity Washington University (then Trinity College) from 1959 to 1975. Sr. Margaret Claydon became president of Trinity College in 1959 when Speaker Pelosi was a student and presided over her graduation in 1962.
February 1, 2020: Today, I was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Sister Margaret Claydon: a beloved pillar of the Trinity community, a revolutionary who transformed women’s education in America and a role model for thousands of young women and me.
Sister Margaret Claydon was an exemplar of the ideal Trinity Woman: a leader of penetrating intellect, firm faith and inquiring mind, whose keen sense of purpose and courage to question the status quo was an inspiration to all who walked through our school’s halls. For the women in my class and me, Sister Margaret – with her youth, sophistication and success – was a symbol of strength and empowerment, whose leadership was a reminder that women could become not only a Secretary or Treasurer, but a President – or the Speaker of the House.
Sister Margaret’s leadership of Trinity was transformational. During an era of great upheaval on campuses and in communities across America, she boldly led Trinity into the future: revitalizing and modernizing the curriculum, leading the conversion of governance to the lay board and securing a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter for Trinity, all while holding firm to Trinity’s proud heritage as an all-women’s Catholic institution. The excellence of her leadership was recognized in her being named to many of the great boards of higher education and her serving as the only woman on a significant delegation of presidents of Catholic colleges to the Vatican in the late 1960s.
Speaking before the National Catholic Educational Association fifty years ago, Sister Margaret declared, “We have to be willing to acquaint our students with controversy and problematic knowledge. The emphasis cannot be only on the assemblage and mastery of facts, but must be on how to make sense of them in relation to the whole human condition… For the times in which we live, rigidity or timidity have no place. These times, these problems cry out for courage, for openness.”
May Sister Margaret’s lifetime of courageous leadership to educate and empower women to seek the truth and pursue progress for all continue to be a blessing to our community. And may it be a comfort to the Trinity community, her family and all who knew and loved Sister Margaret that so many mourn their loss and pray for them during this sad time.
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius ’70
Former Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services; Former Governor of Kansas
I was saddened to learn about the death of Sister Margaret Claydon, who lived a long and remarkable life. And I was once again grateful that she was the President of Trinity College when I came to DC in 1966. It was a time of great national turmoil about civil rights, women’s rights and the Vietnam Nam war, and Sister Margaret was an intellectual and elegant leader who believed that women should be “engaged, involved” and “make a better contribution to American life” as she said in her inaugural Presidential press conference at age 36. She challenged Trinity students to both learn facts and have opinions, to think for ourselves, a view not widely supported at the time. We were blessed to have Sister Margaret as a great role model and leader at Trinity College.
Peggy O’Brien ’69
Director of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library
Former Chair of the Trinity Board of Trustees and former President of the Trinity College Alumnae Association
While I was a student at Trinity, I admired Sister Margaret as my pretty smart college president, my really tough Lit Crit professor, and a scholar with a deep love for Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Victorian Jesuit poet. I had to get older and wiser before I really understood the strength and brilliance of her courageous leadership. In 1969, we graduated believing that yes, we were strong and smart women, and yes, we could succeed at anything we put our minds and backs and hearts to. And very many of us did. It was later too that I came to truly appreciate the bigness of her brain, her warmth, and her fabulously dry sense of humor. The impact of her unwavering vision and high expectations has been and will continue to be immense–on me and on thousands of Trinity alums everywhere.
Barbara Glynn ’64, Trustee Emerita
Sister Margaret – brilliant woman and educator, leader; she was, most importantly, a woman of faith, truth, honor, courage and inspiration. She embodied both majestically and simply the motto of Trinity College Scientia ancilla fidei (knowledge is the handmaiden of faith). The light in her office glowed late into the night as she worked behind her desk in her traditional Notre Dame habit, all quiet along the Marble Corridor…she was a poet and her regular convocations under Notre Dame chapel and in O’Connor Hall were liberally sprinkled with poetry– T.S Eliot, warning that:
” I…have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…”
Or inspirationally, Gerard Manley Hopkins:
“ No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.”
We studied Shakespeare…we studied DNA and RNA seven years after their discovery in Cambridge…
We were to live lives of meaning and contribution; she, her Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and lay faculty gave us an innovative liberal arts education with which to do it. I was and will always be in sheer awe of her magnificence and ever grateful for her devoted presence at Trinity, which suffuses and inspires my life to this day.
Jurate Kazickas ’64
Sister Margaret was extraordinary. A woman of great character, faith, wisdom, intelligence and gentility. She inspired us to work harder, dream bigger. She knew what we all were capable of achieving.
My first job after graduation was at LOOK magazine as a researcher. I found out that one of our top writers, a rather arrogant man, had interviewed her in her unique position as a female college president. He came back dazzled by her incredible intellect – he had met his match – but I also got the feeling she had totally charmed him.
She carried herself with dignity and grace throughout her life. She was a nun but a woman first and a role model for all of us.
Katherine Esdohr Dillon ’45
Sister was a friend and classmate and a role model for all of us. We will miss her.
Irene Horstmann Hannan ’68
I have always thought of Trinity and Sister Margaret as one spirit with a common purpose to lift young women to their highest potential. While her loss will be felt by all she touched, her indomitable spirit will continue to inspire generations of Trinity women to come.
Meghan Dahlen Freeland ’94
I was the third generation in my family to have the honor of attending Trinity College and learning from Sister Margaret Claydon. She was, by far, the greatest teacher I have ever known. I fully credit her for my love and appreciation for Shakespeare, which was completely unexpected when I hesitantly signed up for my first class with the indomitable Sr. Margaret. I’d been hearing stories of this formidable educator since childhood. But my greatest memory of Sr. Margaret is also my dearest treasure. In October of my freshman year, my father became very ill. He passed away 4 short months later. Sr. Margaret helped my dive back in to my studies; the first assignment was to write a descriptive essay. I wrote about my father’s funeral. It was a brutal day, saying goodbye to the greatest man I’ve ever known, but writing was cathartic. And 29 years later, I still pull out that paper from time to time to relive that precious moment and re-read Sr. Margaret’s kind remarks (after correcting the obvious errors!). The memories of the funeral quickly blurred and without this paper I would have lost the treasury of that day. Sr. Margaret had many gifts, but this was the greatest one she gave to me. I’m forever grateful for this gift, the lasting education she provided, and her calm no nonsense presence that helped me thrive in my darkest days.
Mary Frann Somers Heidhues ’58
An anecdote about her no-nonsense devotion to learning and serious scholarship. Sister Margaret was guiding some sisters from another Catholic women´s college through the (old) library and the visitors noticed that the Summa of St Thomas of Aquinas was readily available at the “Reserved Reading” desk. ”
What?” said one, “You have your girls read the Summa?”
“Of course,” came the reply from Sister Margaret, “It´s not on the Index!”
In memory of her introductory course in world literature, I re-read Dante´s Divine Comedy recently and greatly enjoyed revisiting the experience. A pleasure to revisit the experience
Catherine Schulz Mattingly ’62
Years ago, when the Cosmos Club’s book group asked me to present the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, I wisely turned to Sr. Margaret and asked her to be a co-presenter. At that time, there were roughly 30 in the book group–and 25 were male. Well, Sister began with the “Wreck of the Deutschland”–and 90 minutes later was still deftly fielding questions that addressed the historical background, poetic features, influences and meaning. She was erudite and charming, two qualities not often found together. Even years later, my fellow readers asked me about her–and asked to be remembered to her. She was unique.
Christina Kielich ’73
How many times does a President of your college know you by name and stop to talk to you whenever she sees you? That was Sr. Margaret Claydon. Under her watch, Trinity had top professors who challenged you every day. (Graduate school was a breeze after Trinity). Under her watch, Trinity wooed me with the Pilot Program, a select number of women who had no class requirements other than a mentor and a dissertation to graduate. Under her watch, Trinity had a Sophomore Year at Oxford University, England, program, again open to a small select group of women who had to apply to be accepted. My Oxford year was an amazing opportunity and experience, and my Oxford classmates remain best friends to this day.
Sr. Margaret Claydon was the best of the best. We, her Trinity community, will miss her greatly.
Marianne Horstmann English ’75
My family had a wonderful relationship with Sr Margaret even before I arrived on campus. My Mother and her sisters attended Trinity beginning in the 1930’s , my cousin and sister in the 1960’s and then finally with my arrival in the 1970’s. I was a member of her last class at Trinity as it’s President. At that time she had such a large presence on campus, that the name Trinity and Sr. Margaret seemed one and the same. She was a strong leader with a very compassionate soul. My prayers at this very sad time are for her family and care givers in Ohio who took such wonderful care of her and her fellow SND’s. Thank you for your kindness, your wit, your brilliance and your friendship. God bless you Sr. Margaret.
Sheila Waltz Albertson ’95
There are a handful of teachers and professors that I continue to connect with on and off over the years. Sr. Margaret was by far my most challenging and intimidating professor I had during my college years. Some days, I would just pray for her not to call on me during class, and she always did, pushing me out of my comfort zone and I’d always walk out with my head just a little higher. Despite, her tough classes, I had the utmost respect and love for her. She encouraged me and who knows how many thousands of women to think for themselves, be physically active, be strong, be independent, and always have faith. I remember introducing her to my kids, and the smile and softness she gave them gave me a full perspective of who she was: strong willed, independent, poised, classy, difficult and soft hearted. You will be greatly missed.
Father John Geaney, CSP
Former Trinity Chaplain
Sister Margaret was what so many of us hope to be. When I was part time chaplain at Trinity in the late 60’s and early 70’s she was a woman whom we admired because she was who she was: a Christian woman. Margaret lived the WAY and, dedicated to her vocation of educating, held the women for whom she was responsible to a never to be diminished standard with an unerring charm. And a delightful laugh and smile.
I think Sister Margaret would forgive that I would quote the American poet, Mary Oliver, in her memory:
“Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and
each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure. ”
Devotions, Mary Oliver, p.87
Marie Angela Corigliano Murphy ’59
I remember Sister Margaret as the best English teacher I ever had. I enjoyed talking to her as a student and meeting her at Alumnae meetings. I cheered the changes she made at Trinity, which led to the place it enjoys today. She will be missed.
Kenyetta C. Luck ’89
Sister Margaret Claydon was a wonderful English teacher, and a wonderful person. She taught with fervor and truly loved literature. I admired her no nonsense way, yet she was friendly if you talked with her one on one. May she Rest In Peace eternally as her light shines on in the hearts of those whom she touched.
Kara Keenan Sweeney ’00
I’m so grateful I was lucky enough to have been taught by Sr. Margaret. Her classic approach to Shakespeare, poetry, and British literature stays with me today, as does her dignity and grace. Thank you, Sr. Margaret, for all you have done for Trinity and for her graduates.
Patricia Hussey ’76
I will never forget how Sister Margaret welcomed us to Trinity in September of 1972 and also her leadership along with Dean Coleman who greeted every one of us by name as we came into the well of Main Building into the auditorium. Sister Margaret was an inspiration and role model and a person of dignity, strength, and compassion. May she Rest In Peace with God and the Angels
Margaret Pimentel ’90
Somehow, I managed to avoid Sister Margaret’s English class. I always had a feeling whenever we passed each other in the Marble Corridor or Founder’s Hall, that she knew who I was and that I was not among her students. Many years later, I was at Trinity for Sister Elizabeth Henry Bellmer’s funeral mass. Afterwards, Sister Joan Hill introduced me to Sister Margaret. Sister Margaret looked me straight in the eye and said “Yes, I remember you. You’re one of the few students who never took my class”. Never let it be said she did not know all of us. She did. Requiescat in pace.
Cristina Duran Benitez ’03
I am honored to share this tribute of an intellectual leader and devoted teacher whose work in higher education has impacted so much of my own scholarship and professional ideals and goals. Sister Margaret Claydon was my Freshman Honors Seminar Professor. Her passion for literature and her steadfast belief in our high potential as scholars provided much inspiration to reach higher in my academic work. She encouraged us to dive deep for meaning into the classics and draw inspiration for our own journeys of self-discovery and learning. She was a tough grader and I recall feeling a bit nervous to turn in my papers; I felt honored to be a Trinity Presidential Scholar and I was aware she was the former President. I still have papers from her class with her handwritten and eloquent feedback. I became a better writer through my work with Sister Margaret. I will always be thankful for the faith and trust she had in my potential as a scholar. She modeled how genuine critique demands love, compassion and devotion. What I learned and nurtured, huddled in that first seminar circle led by Sister Margaret, along with inspiration from my other Trinity professors and my Trinity sisters, unfolded and blossomed into inspiration for a career in higher education. I am now pursuing graduate studies in learning, design and technology at Georgetown University and aiming to devote my career to advancing social justice through equity and inclusion in higher education. May Sister Margaret rest in peace. The inspiration she shared will shine on and transcend through her impactful legacy of dedicated leadership and devotion to scholarship.
Jeanne A. Barsanti ’69
She was the President and I was an ordinary student. Yet, she seemed to know and care about me. She was warm and friendly and a lead who was so easy to follow. During the unrest at Catholic University, she stood with Trinity students as we supported students at CU. As I grew into leadership positions, her example was one I tried to follow. She was a great lady.
Charlotte Carter ’03
Sr. Claydon was shock and awe when she taught me. Her grading was fair, but we were shocked if we got an “A”. She demanded the best in our thinking and writing. We would joke that ” this was the best “B” or “C” we ever received. Lastly, I was in awe of her teaching because she was an orator. I felt I had been to the theater rather than class. Thank you Sr. Claydon for making Trinity a place where I received the best education. RIH
Dr. Loretta Shpunt ’69
Professor of English Emerita
Sister Margaret was such an important influence in my life, and I knew her in so many different roles. I first knew her when I was a student, and she was the esteemed college president. But then, when a faculty member unexpectedly left during my last year, she stepped in to teach our Senior Seminar in English. I think we were all a little terrified at first, but she turned out to be a wonderful instructor – warm, engaging, and tough.
In 1973, I returned to Trinity as an instructor in English. My final interview for the position was with Sister Margaret. I remember worrying that she might only see me as the former student who argued with her in class about Robert Creeley. But, of course, I was wrong. She was truly a gifted administrator. She sat in on one of my classes that first year and offered both praise and solid advice. Later, after stepping down from the role of president, she joined the English department and we worked together for years as colleagues.
I learned so much from Sister Margaret, but I also just enjoyed talking with her about literature, about our students and their needs, about popular music and poetry, about a soap opera we both watched. Her life has made the world a better place. I will miss her.
Marie M. Collins ’56
Professor Emerita, Rutgers University – Newark, NJ
Too late now to edit and finish a five year old letter (rough draft) of praise to Sister Margaret, about her and Trinity College. Lamentations!
Her death diminishes us all. Her life enriched us and her extraordinary legacy is already part of the great history of higher education in the U. S.
I mourn with all of you.
Mary Jane Malone ’56
Sister Margaret and I started our career/studies at the same time, in September l952. Several SND’s had a small convent at one end of the old Cuvilly, while l2 freshman students lived in the section bordering the hockey field. There was also a small conservatory on the first floor where freshmen and piano students attended a compulsory class/lesson each week. Each evening one of the SND’s manned the desk at the front door till all the students returned from the library or game or such. The Cuvilly residents got a chance to visit for a minute or so with the sisters before we went up to our own rooms, and that is how I got to know Sister Margaret. The small convent included Ann Gormley, Sr. Joan, Sr. Frances the librarian, the music teacher, and one or two other SND’s. Cathy Claydon’53 was also on campus, though we didn’t mingle much with seniors.
In any event, Sr. Margaret taught English to my classmates and many others over the years I was a student and became quite friendly with Dorothy Barker ’57 and her crowd, but my class didn’t mingle with the nuns as a rule. I became friendly after graduation when I served on the Alumnae Board and then was elected President. I hired Anne Marie McGovern and then participated in Trinity’s affairs by sitting on boards, etc. In all my many encounters with Sister Margaret I found her gracious and “classy”, a woman who enhanced Trinity’s reputation with everyone whom she encountered. I always enjoyed her company, and I’m sorry she has left us.
Lorette Lavine ’69
My class just celebrated its 50th Anniversary and we remembered Sr. Margaret fondly during our time at Trinity. As I recall her door on the first floor of Main was always open. I always felt that she was accessible to any student. It was a tumultuous time in Washington, D.C., in the Church and in the country as a whole. Sr. Margaret was a woman ahead of her time. I feel fortunate for having been at Trinity to her time there as President. RIP Sister Margaret.
Sheila M. Phelan ’78
I adored Sister Margaret and certainly did not tell what she meant to me as often as I should have. She was an amazing teacher — not only as an inspiring English professor but as the kind of mentor who would drop a well placed, encouraging comment that stuck. You almost didn’t see it, and maybe that’s why it stuck. At least, that’s how I remember her. She was also really wry. I was in the class that was lucky enough to have her back teaching the year after we got back from the Oxford program. She was good friends with my other beloved mentor, Annmarie McGovern. Now and again I’d visit Rio (as we called her in my family) and I’d get to see Sr. Margaret as well. Such a joy. She was a great, courageous leader without — as far as I could discern — an ounce of ego. I was delighted to see Speaker Pelosi elevate her tribute yesterday. A loss to the community, yes; but how many of us will have the quiet impact on so many people’s lives? We should be so lucky. Sister Margaret earned our love, respect, and shared laughter.
Cynthia Russell ’81
There are many more famous and eloquent than I who will memorialize Sister Margaret Claydon in these days of loss and remembrance.
She possessed a giant intellect, and was an unparalleled teacher, both in and outside the classroom, within and beyond the walls of Trinity. She was warm and engaging, commanded respect and inspired deep admiration and affection, especially from those she initially intimidated. She was kind, a woman of deep faith and as humble as she was powerful in the lives of generations of girls who became women in their four years as undergraduates in the institution to which she dedicated herself completely.
How incredibly fortunate I feel to have been one of those girls so many years ago. Returning many years later to my 35th reunion, having Sister Margaret join my class’s table at lunch, she delighted as all of these grown women, with careers and families and wonderful lives showered her with their admissions that they couldn’t remember the names of the nine Greek muses she had made them memorize as freshmen.
In truth, it was she who was our muse, our inspiration, our guide to higher realms. And her name is one we will forever remember.
Paula Gizzarelli Lettice ’71
As a Trinity graduate who also had the honor of serving as a Trustee from 2007 to 2013, I am so saddened to learn of Sister Margaret’s passing. She was visionary in so many ways. Trinity shone as an educational beacon where students were challenged through academics, leadership, growth, and maturation. Her leadership at Trinity for so many years, including my four there in the late 60s/early 70s (at the time of so many local, national, and international issues) helped strengthen and challenge me and my classmates then and to this day. She was an angel of excellence who now joins the angels above.
Mary Frances Dimartino Trepanier ’64
It was an honor to be a student at Trinity College during Sr Margaret’s Presidency. Her warm smile and open minded attitude were some of the reasons that my 4 years at TC was such a memorable time for me.
Ellen Lee Kennedy ’68
Who can describe what Sr. Margaret meant to Trinity? And to the Catholic world? She was strong and loving at the same time. Disciplined & caring at the same time. Her door was always open to the student who — like me in my first weeks at TC — was uncertain and homesick. Sr. Margaret’s door was open to students like me: far away from home; uncertain why I’d left a familiar place; but with an older sister who sent chocolate sour cream cakes every week. Sr. Margaret showed me how to make friends (for life!) and how to face the future. It was she who made me a person who could live in Britain & earn a PhD at the London School of Economics, and go on to a life as Professor, teaching in Britain and in Germany. Simply put: she was a wonderful woman. Never to be forgotten.
Sarah Jane Harrs ’59
Sister Margaret gave me a gift that has been in my life since my freshmen years at Trinity when I was dazzled with Sister Margaret’s introduction of world history. A world without a hero was inconceivable to Sister. We learned from Ancient Greek literature that the choices of heroes determine greatness. The more challenging the choice the grander the hero. We live in times devoid of heroes; however, Sister Margaret’s ideal sustains me. Heroes may be hidden in the quagmire of the times. Sister believed that faith in the Trinity empowered us to make the choices that build heroism.
Margaret Shane Cusack ’64
Sister Margaret Clayton was a shining presence during my years at Trinity that both inspired me and frightened me. Was she the model we were supposed to follow, and if so, how in the world would I ever measure up? Looking back I remember her gentility, her love of words, her unwavering faith in the future. Trinity with Sister Margaret at the helm gave us all so much to enrich our lives. I am eternally grateful.
Judith Ann Newton
Trinity Faculty, 1972-85
A true visionary, great leader and motivator whose skills made us want to be better at what we did and to become better people. I was fortunate to know her, to work with her, and to play tennis with her. A person in my life that I will always remember with gratitude and love.
Sara Ellen Kitchen ’71
As a small town girl from Massachusetts on a full scholarship, I was initially awed and inspired by President Sr. Margaret Claydon. During my undergraduate years, I came to know her more personally and was the recipient of affirmation on social justice issues and of wisdom for traveling abroad as one of the initial Watson Fellows. My Trinity education has been one of life’s greatest blessings. Sr. Margaret served as a role model for my further education in law and a career as a professor at a small liberal arts college so very similar to Trinity. Her influence is truly global as Trinity women are everywhere in service to the “le bon Dieu” but also intellectual and spiritual in our family lives and all those whose lives are transformed because of our Trinity education.
Laureen Campbell ’04
Condolences to Sr. Margaret Claydon’s family. I have never met her or was taught by her. I read the article about her and she was a Soldier for Education, she went into the Trenches for all women, including my daughter ’14 and myself ’04. Without her love, strong leadership, many times being the only Woman in meetings with Men when it was not the norm back in the day let you know she had Courage, Confidence and Determination to paved the way for all Catholic Women Colleges and Universities. Thank you Sr. Margaret Claydon.
Krista Merker Reilly ’90
Sr. Margaret Claydon was a wonderful person! As a freshman, hearing from upper classmen, I was fearful. She was tough, intimidating and challenging. Even so I signed up for her class. She encouraged me to work hard and learn to enjoy Lit/Classics. She was a wonderful, friendly teacher and I have fond memories. I’ll remember her warm smile. RIP Sr. Margaret.
Dr. Katherine Meyer ’64
Professor and Associate Provost Emerita,The Ohio State University; Deputy Division Director and Expert, National Science Foundation
It is hard to imagine Sr. Margaret without thinking of Trinity and vice versa. Trinity’s growth, development and excellence were her mission. She embodied qualities that are essential to the robustness of an institution and to the vitality of its graduates. As president, Sr. Margaret advanced the excellence of a Trinity education. A well-educated woman herself, she was also steeped in the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who had founded Trinity to educate women at a time when that was rare. It was important to her that we were not simply “educated” but that we were well-versed and erudite. At every weekly assembly, poetry and philosophy were integrated into her presentations on what was happening at Trinity at the time. To this day, my classmates can complete verses of poetry if someone gives us a few words from the start of the verse.
The 1960s were a challenging time to preside over a Catholic institution. The Second Vatican Council unleashed a sea of changes: celebrating Mass in English, debates regarding birth control, and the development of pastoral theology. Sister Margaret made sure that Trinity’s theology classes and liturgical celebrations reflected Vatican II and the Liturgical Movement (e.g., Rev. Gerard Sloyan, Rev. Eugene Burke). When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas while Trinity students were in classes, Sr. Margaret brought us together immediately in Main Auditorium. Henceforth, she made herself available to students for time to talk and mourn. Sr. Margaret modeled how to both change with the times and support one another amid unexpected tragedy.
Over the years, as Sr. Margaret’s skill as a college president garnered more and more notice from audiences outside of Trinity, she made it clear that she had learned and continued to learn much from her family, her mentors at Trinity and elsewhere. She appreciated those who guided and helped her. Looking toward the future after retiring from the presidency, she found purpose in mentoring the outstanding administrators and exceptional teachers who followed her at Trinity.
Throughout her life, Sr. Margaret lived what she envisioned for us: being educated, Catholic women who appreciated blessings, and lived a life full of purpose.
Kathryn Stahl Harsh ’88
Sister Margaret Claydon was my teacher and friend. She was such an amazing woman! My mother and aunts knew her as the President of Trinity but I knew her as my teacher and advisor. She had a true zest for living. I remember when she attended our Derby Party in Alumni Hall in 1984. She bet on the only female horse and got to take home all the winnings. We all had a chuckle when she left. She said, “You know of course the only female horse would win! “ More recently with her move to Cincinnati we had many lunches, happy hours and visits. This photo is from her birthday in July 2019, with me and Louise Hallahan Stakelin ’76. We all had hats on to celebrate her special day. Some of my favorite memories are her 95th birthday at our club or introducing her to my daughter Maggie also know as Margaret and having her recite poetry to her at the convent. I am so blessed to have had her as a role model in my life. I will always remember her in her navy track suit circling the field in front of Cuvilly or reciting beautiful poetry in Main Hall. May we all be inspired to live life to the fullest with a smile and spring in our step as Sister Margaret so graciously did in her life. I was honored to be a part of her service today at the convent and to say good bye to her today. She touched so many of the Sister’s that lived there. We all laughed how she could drive her wheelchair at a record speed around the convent too. She never stopped moving! God Rest Sister Margaret may we all learn something on how you lived your beautiful life always thinking of others. You are so loved! I am so glad you are headed back to Trinity for your funeral. We all know you wanted to be there! It was truly your happy place and home.
Here is the poem she recited to my daughter:
Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! As the hearts grow older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Katalina Quander Masembwa ’61
I was a Sophomore at Trinity when Sister Margaret became one of the youngest college president in history. I remember her kind, unassuming ways and her sense of humor. I always looked up to her – she was Trinity to me!
Lois O’Connor Vaughan ’56
Sister Margaret (as she was known then) and I came to Trinity College at the same time, in the fall of 1952. It was her first year at Trinity and she was the Freshman class advisor to our Red class of ’56. So, I have never known a day at Trinity when Sister Margaret wasn’t part of it. In addition, I was an English major, so was fortunate enough to have her as a peerless teacher for all four years and to this day remember vividly our Senior Shakespeare seminar – top of my list!
Sister Margaret was the epitome of what Trinity hoped its graduates to be: intelligent, compassionate, independent, courageous, faithful, principled and committed. We were always made to feel not only that we could be anything we wanted, but that we should – and Sister Margaret showed the way.She was also wise, witty and good company – a class act, except it wasn’t an act. A true Trinity woman- we will all miss her, always. God bless, Sister Margaret Claydon.
Janet Francis Filling ’56
I was a member of her first English class! As she stood there before us – young and in awe of those before her! And we watched as she grew in wisdom, and beauty and all that was in her world. A sense of humor began to be a part of her life which many of us were fortunate to see! Thank you, Sister Margaret, for being the person you were!
Antoinette Sgarlata Wiseman ’61
The passing of Sister Margaret reminds the Class of ’61 that we had dedicated our yearbook to her in 1961. The words are just as meaningful now as they were then.
Dedication to Sr. Margaret, 1961 Trinilogue Yearbook
Midway in our Trinity years we saw a college teacher bring her vibrancy and love to a new work The change from English Room C to the President’s office must have been an immense one, but the standard of excellence remained the same. It has been “the achieve of, the mastery of the thing”—a vision all-encompassing. Hers, the wisdom of honest grappling with truth; ours, the fullness of her dedication.
As President, she walks down the Marble Corridor among her students. The stride is vigorous and firm, leading the way to the promise of tomorrow. With unshakable courage, with the balance of humor, she pursues an Ideal.
We, the Blue Class of today, are proud to share the heritage of her own Blue Class yesterday. We witness her rare singlemindedness, and we are more than awed: we are grateful. As we go out to fulfill her dreams, our hopes rooted in her trust, we know that she will ever remain ours, “Devotedly in the Trinity,” Sister Margaret.
Louise Hallahan Stakelin ’76
Sister Margaret Claydon came to Cincinnati almost five years ago. While she was not excited about her move, the many Trinity alums in the Cincinnati area were simply elated! To make her adjustment a little easier, area alums joined me (particularly Susan Smith Tew ’62 and Kathryn Stahl Harsh ’88) in welcoming her to the Queen City. We had St. Patrick Day gatherings, a shopping spree, lunches in fun restaurants, an SND fundraiser at Xavier University, and four birthday parties including a grand one at our Cincinnati Country Club. The last year of her life I increased my visits to once a week, and how I looked forward to them. She had two favorite treats – either a glass of Merlot or a thick coffee ice cream shake. Each visit I would bring one of those treats, and if it were a wine visit, cheese and crackers were always included. We’d enjoy a little party, reminiscing about the wine and cheese socials in the Rose Parlor and remembering good times and old friends. On a lovely days in the warmer weather, we’d sit outside and breath in the fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the grounds at MND which might even include a visit to their exquisite grotto. Sister Margaret had a Rock Star presence at the Mount Notre Dame Health Center. The other sisters felt they were in the presence of a true celebrity when Sister Margaret moved in. During her last year I made it a part of our visits to call a family member on my phone so she could connect, since she was no longer answering her own phone. Because of her weekly calls to either her sister Kathleen C. Lightfoot ’54 or niece Kathleen Keefe ’78, I too got to know her beloved family and was on hand for several of their visits. It’s hard for me to describe how you can revere and admire someone for so many years and much later on have the enormous blessing of becoming a close friend. While she was president, she developed a “trinity” of friends in Winnie Coleman and Anne Marie Condon McGovern ’50. As I left her the week before she “went home” I told her I’d be back, and she said, “I hope so!” I know she is resting in the loving embrace of our Lord and is having a reunion with her own trinity of dear friends along with many, many family members.
Dr. Constance Urciolo Battle ’63
Since the news, I happened upon a poem of Hopkins, not particularly apt, but it brought to the fore for me wafts of the essence of Sister Margaret: deep thought and reflection, compassion, and sharing gently ever so articulate. Oh my, what beginnings: my freshman year at Trinity and our new college president, the youngest in the nation, on the cover of Time Magazine. The youth, the beginnings of us both — I found these energizing, throughout that first year and especially on the Thursday noon round-up meetings when she spoke to us all. May she rest in peace.
Jean Gossman ’92
As a Weekend College student, I was unfortunately unable to take a class from Sister Margaret, but I did take a short alumnae class from her on Gerard Manley Hopkins in 2002. I felt *so* lucky! I did not actually meet her on campus until around the time of my graduation in 1992. She had been a TELL reviewer and told me she remembered my portfolio, which pleased me very much. I am so grateful for the foundation she laid that enabled me to finish my bachelor’s degree. Hers was a life well lived indeed.