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June 9, 2020, West Palm Beach, Florida – Sister Donna Baker, OP, long-time teacher and administrator at Rosarian Academy, received the prestigious Rose and Torch Award from the school during its virtual graduation ceremony.
The Rose and Torch Award is presented to an individual who has contributed exemplary service to Rosarian Academy. Through faith and commitment to the common good, the recipient rises above daily challenges and perseveres for the good of others.
In presenting the award, Linda Trethewey, Head of School, described Sister Donna as one who “dedicated her life to the Dominican tradition of preaching through prayer, study, common life, and ministry” and who strove to live out the Adrian Dominican Vision: “Seek truth; make peace; reverence life.”
Sister Donna ministered for 16 years at Rosarian Academy: first as English and religion teacher in grades 6 to 8; as coordinator of the school’s chapter of the National Junior Honor Society; committee chair for the school’s accreditation process; and facilitator for religious education and mission development. She then served in administration, as assistant principal, director of the middle school, and as principal of the middle school. It was a surprise diagnosis of bone cancer that abruptly ended her career at Rosarian Academy.
Sister Donna said she learned about receiving the award only a few minutes before it was presented, as she and Sister Mary Ann Caulfield, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter, sat with her for the Zoom presentation. “She kept telling me I might want to look nice,” Sister Donna recalled, and finally told her about the award.
“I think my first reaction was shock,” Sister Donna said. “I never thought about it. I was speechless. It still hasn’t settled with me.” She added that the Rose and Torch Award is the most prestigious award granted by Rosarian Academy.
“I looked forward to every day” at Rosarian, Sister Donna said. “I looked forward to meeting the students in the morning, their activities, the camaraderie.” As an administrator, she said, she worked as part of a team with the other administrators.
Sister Donna said she especially loved watching the students’ participation in liturgies, plays, and other activities. She particularly enjoyed Field Day, when the students were divided into teams. “I enjoyed the competition and loved cheering for my team.”
But Sister Donna said she also faced challenges. “As a teacher, you want to do the best for each of the students, to meet each child where they were, and it was difficult,” she said. “I often felt there was more I could do.”
Along with classwork, Sister Donna focused on the kinds of people her students would become. “I often told them, ‘You are our future. Do your best and accomplish what you can,’” she said. “I also often told them to keep God in their lives – don’t ever stray too far away from God.”
Sister Donna was inspired to become an Adrian Dominican Sister and a teacher by Sister Rose Patrick Conroy, OP, her first-grade teacher at St. Agatha in Redford, Michigan. “She was a great influence on my life – in my vocation and my career,” Sister Donna said. “All I ever wanted to do was teach and become an Adrian Dominican Sister because of the influence of Sister Rose Patrick.”
Sister Donna has had a positive influence on her students, who were constantly reminded of Rosarian Academy’s mission statement to live the Gospel values.
Watch this video of Rosarian Academy’s virtual graduation. The Rose and Torch Award presentation can be found at about 15 minutes into the video.
The Rosarian Academy Class of 2020 stands six feet apart on the Oakley Gage Debbs Memorial Field in honor of their late classmate. Photo by David Scarola Photography
March 10, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Carleen Maly, OP, Director of Adrian Rea Literacy Center for 11 years, received the Amelia Earhart Award March 5, 2020, for her pioneering work in empowering both women and men through her literacy work.
The award was bestowed by the Zonta Club of Lenawee County, one of more than 1,200 Zonta clubs in 60 countries. Founded in 1919, Zonta International works to “advance the status of women through advocacy and service,” according to Liliane Haddad, a member of Zonta of Lenawee County.
The Amelia Earhart Award is presented each year to a woman with the same pioneering spirit as the aviator, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart (1897-1937) was also a member of the Zonta Club of Boston.
“I share this honor tonight with the generous women and men who give their time each week to go home and prepare lessons for their learners, to meet their individual needs,” Sister Carleen said. “I share this also with the courageous learners” in their efforts to meet their personal goals, she added. These might include reading to their children and helping them with homework, understanding what doctors tell them in a medical appointment, earning a GED, or becoming a U.S. citizen.
Sister Carleen also paid tribute to the Adrian Dominican Congregation and to the “pioneering spirit of our Sisters in Detroit,” who in 1989 established the Dominican Literacy Center, the first of seven literacy centers founded and sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“Amelia Earhart was an amazing woman,” said Janis Montalvo, Vice President of the Zonta Club of Lenawee County, in presenting the award. “Not only did she not accept the norm [for women]; she challenged it through her aviation and as an author.”
Addressing Sister Carleen directly, Janis said, “You exemplify the pioneering spirit and excellence [of Amelia Earhart]. You empower and increase the status of women (and men) as they achieve and seek independence that is often not available with language barriers.”
Mary Poore, President of the Board of Adrian Rea Literacy Center, said Adrian Rea has served 1,394 adult learners with the assistance of 1,117 trained tutors. Adrian Rea works with both native English speakers and people for whom English is not their first language to help them improve their reading; writing; and skills in math, conversation, and everyday life activities.
Mary attributed much of Adrian Rea’s success to the leadership of Sister Carleen and to her creation of an “environment of fun, safe learning where everyone feels welcome. She has enriched hundreds of lives and made it possible for each of these people to improve their lot in family life, employment, and personal self-esteem.”
During the evening, Sister Carleen also received a proclamation from State Rep. Bronna Kahle, also signed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist.
Sister Carleen exhibited a pioneering spirit long before serving as Director of Adrian Rea Literacy Center. After teaching at the junior high school level at two schools in Michigan, she was among a number of Adrian Dominican Sisters who established a school in the Dominican Republic, in a remote area north of the capital, Santo Domingo, to teach the children of employees of a manufacturing plant brought into that country.
“We established an incredible bi-lingual, bi-cultural program with an English track and a Spanish track,” the innovation of her long-time mentor, the late Sister Marie Damian Schoenlein, Sister Carleen said in an interview with Adrian Dominican Sister Joanne “Jodie” Screes, OP.
Sister Carleen also helped to coordinate the pastoral ministry programs of two parishes in the Diocese of Orlando; was elected Chapter Prioress (Superior) of the Congregation’s Florida Mission Chapter; and served as Vocations Director for the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Read further coverage of Sister Carleen’s acceptance of the Amelia Earhart Award in the Daily Telegram.
Feature photo at top: Sister Carleen Maly, OP, holds a bouquet of flowers and the Amelia Earhart Award she received from Zonta of Lenawee.