From the Archives: Sister Mary Clare, in her own words

Sister Mary Clare Metz

The Archives contains a transcript of Sister Mary Clare’s oral history, dictated in about 1977 and transcribed in 1999. Her comments lend context and background to the items contained in her archive file.  Together, these items build a story of the work Sister Mary Clare did here. Though her work culminated in a ten-year term as academic dean of OLLU, Sister Mary Clare’s academic career began with the study of zoology and botany decades earlier.

Evidence of her dedicated scientific study is found in a 1934 copy of her doctoral dissertation, A Flora of Bexar County, Texas.

Sister Mary Clare spoke about her studies in her oral history. She left Texas for the Catholic University of America to study biological sciences in 1930.

“The following June I returned home to pronounce my final vows and to begin research for my doctoral dissertation. Since my major emphasis was in systematic botany I had chosen for my problem the preparation of a flora of Bexar County, Texas. The University had allowed me to do this research away from the University in Texas and my superiors had approved. Needless to say, this research involved much field work. I was allowed to do this field work with Peter Leguchick, the convent chauffeur as driver, and Sister Maurice, usually as my companion three mornings each week.”

Sister Mary Clare collected more than 1,000 plant samples, and dried them in warming ovens in the OLL kitchen. After a year of collection, she returned to Catholic University with her samples.

“Before the year had progressed very far, a fire broke out due to faulty wiring in the herbarium in McMahon Hall at Catholic University. My plant materials were stored in a wooden cabinet next to the spot where the fire began, and among other things the cabinet and all of its contents were burned.”

 

Her study, she said, was saved by the speedy shipment of duplicate samples from OLL. This “catastrophe” was followed by the relocation of her major professor, the one person at Catholic University qualified to mentor her research. Bad luck turned to good luck when he suggested she seek assistance from the National Herbarium in the Smithsonian Institute: “What started out as a catastrophe proved to be the most fruitful period of my experience in higher studies.”

These excerpts represent but one small bit of Sister Mary Clare’s 17-page transcribed oral history, covering nearly 50 years of her experience at OLL.

(We are celebrating enduring treasures from Our Lady of the Lake University’s past throughout American Archives Month this October. Visit the Archives in Providence Hall, 6A, for a peak into history, to relive events, or to learn about the fascinating characters in OLLU’s life story. The Archives are open 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, or by appointment. Call Anna Beyer, x2338, for information.)

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