By Teri Tynes, Communications Associate

The following is from the Autumn 2021 issue of Vision.

Sister Kathleen Tracey’s decades-long career in scientific research and teaching exemplifies the Sisters of Charity’s commitment to education at all levels, not just the early years. While many sisters are known for their service to primary and secondary education, Sr. Kathleen nurtured the hopes and dreams of students pursuing advanced degrees, especially in the sciences.

Her life in advanced science teaching demonstrates that excellent teaching and inspiration do not require worldwide travel but may be found close to home. In her case, the inspiration flowed from her alma mater, the College of Mount Saint Vincent (CMSV). Here, she encouraged generations of students to pursue graduate studies in biology, genetics, medicine, and biochemistry.

Sr. Kathleen joined the Sisters of Charity of New York shortly after graduation from the Mount in 1948. She earned her Ph.D. in biology from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral programs at the Universities of Chicago, Tennessee and Illinois. She returned to the Mount’s science department, where she became its chair in 1976. She held the post for three independent terms: from 1976 to 1984, in 2006, and from 2008 to 2010. She also held a position at Manhattan College.

A deft administrator, she served at the Mount as the Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Public Relations for more than two decades. Her work helped advance the college’s fundraising efforts. In 2017, the college presented the first Kathleen Tracey, S.C. Medal for Service and Leadership to a graduating senior in the natural sciences.

A teacher to the core, Sr. Kathleen found novel ways to engage her students. Charles L. Flynn, Jr., President Emeritus at CMSV, recalls the stories she told about her teaching methods: 

“As Sr. Kathleen and I traveled the country, her favorite stories were from teaching. When some students were more interested in horse racing than biology, she researched the genetics of the gait of horses to engage them. In the Bahamas, she hung her habit on a bush as she taught students how to scuba dive. She and a good friend created the marine biology program in the Bahamas—among the first in the country. With another friend, Fr. James Griffin, she created what may have well been the first undergraduate bioethics course in the country. I didn’t know anything about it,” she said, ‘but it was certainly very interesting.’

What came through all the stories was the immense size of her vocation, her capacious intellect, her wide-ranging curiosity, and her love for her students and colleagues.”

Sr. Kathleen now lives in retirement at Cabrini of Westchester, comfortable in a long life of inspiration, humor, knowledge and grace.