Saturday, March 1, 2003

Memoriam: Sister Bernetta Quinn

Seal of College of Saint Teresa (Winona, MN)
Author and educator Sister Bernetta Quinn (1915-2003), a Franciscan Sister of the Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes, died February 24 at Assisi Heights.

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Roselyn Viola Quinn entered the Franciscan Congregation in 1934, and received degrees from the College of St. Teresa (BA, 1942), Catholic University of America (MA, 1944) and the University of Wisconsin (Ph.D., 1952). A teacher and poet, Sister Bernetta's two primary areas of scholarship are the Catholic Church and modernist poetry, especially the life and work of Ezra Pound and Randall Jarrell.

She taught at various colleges, including the College of Saint Teresa, Winona, from 1954-67; during her time as the head of the English department she would have worked with instructor John Bellairs. It was during his two-year stint of teaching (1963-65) that he found inspiration for chapter 7 of Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies (Easter Address to the Faculty By the President of a Catholic Women's College).

Quinn studied abroad and wrote hundreds of poems, published six books, and wrote many reviews of famous authors before retiring to Assisi Heights in 1983. The Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Library on the University of North Carolina campus, where many of her manuscripts are stored, includes a draft of her prose adaption for children of Dante's Divine Comedy. We like to think John might have gotten a kick out of that.

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