Sister Barbara Ann Mayer interviews Mary Ann Schwab

'Mountie' returns for 75th class reunion

Not very many college graduates make it to their 75th class reunion. Mary Ann Wallerstedt Schwab is an exception in more ways than one. She not only came to the Mount St. Scholastica College reunion on June 11-12, but she came all the way from San Francisco without cane or walker and spoke at the Mount about her memories of her college days and teachers.

In those days, women attended Mount St. Scholastica College. They were known as “Mounties.” Men attended St. Benedict’s College and were known as “Bennies.” The two institutions have since merged to form Benedictine College.

Mary Ann recalls chairing a conference of Students for International Peace in 1941 at the Mount. “We came up with all kinds of plans for peace,” she said. “Six months later Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.”

“One time I was on a quiz show sponsored by a local radio station,” she remembers. “There were three Mounties and three Bennies and we were tied in the last round. To break the tie, they asked a question about a famous Greek landmark; I said ‘Parthenon’ and our team won. The Holy Spirit just inspired me with the right answer.”

In an interview, Mary Ann told of how Sister Mildred Knoebber helped her get a scholarship and a work study position at St. Louis University after her graduation. “She was a kind and fearless woman,” she said.  “And Sister Jerome Keeler, the dean at the Mount, was a real dynamo, driven and practical. She would have made a great CEO.” 

She had great admiration for Sisters Alfred Schroll and Marcella Siela. “It was amazing that such a small college in Kansas had such brilliant teachers.” She also remembers Sister Thecla Schecher who was head of housekeeping. “Sister Thecla did a lot of unofficial counseling – the girls loved her,” Mary Ann said.

In addition, she had two remarkable classmates who entered the Mount community, Sisters Regina Hansen and Virginia Minton

When her former professor at St. Louis University moved to San Francisco to work for Catholic Charities, Mary Ann got an offer to use her MA in social work at the same place. She worked for two and a half years and then married her husband, Frank, and had five children. She continued to do some part-time social work when she was needed at Catholic Charities while raising her children.  

-- Barbara Ann Mayer, OSB