Terre Haute is mourning the loss this week of an accomplished and beloved community activist and leader whose life’s work is an inspiration to all who strive to serve.
Sister Jeanne Knoerle, former longtime president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, died early Monday at the Woods, where she had lived since she retired from her administrative post in 1983. She was 85.
Sister Jeanne spent most of her life at the Woods, having earned her bachelor’s degree at the college she would later lead as president. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in 1949. Meanwhile, she earned several advanced academic degrees from Indiana University.
She became president at SMWC in 1968. Her leadership at the college was nothing short of visionary. She led the college during a difficult period, and among her remarkable achievements was creation of the distance-learning program known at the time as the Women’s External Degree program, one of only two of its kind at the time in the United States. It later became a co-ed program and is now known as Woods Online.
What’s more, Sister Jeanne brought SMWC closer to the community by becoming heavily involved in a number of local projects and initiatives. After her retirement, she remained active in a number of endeavors and was instrumental in the formation of Our Green Valley, an environmental and sustainability initiative.
Her energy seemingly never waned, and she was selected in the first class of the Wabash Valley Women of Influence program. To the end, she approached life and work with grace and passion. staying active until the day before her death. She made a lasting mark at the Woods, and in the community.
You can say that again
“Sister Jeanne’s passing is a profound loss, not only for the entire college community, but also in the Wabash Valley community, where she was highly respected. Her work was always groundbreaking. I, as others, found her to be energetic, visionary and positive — always positive.”
— Dottie King, current president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College